A Symbol of “Extraordinary Rendition” Returns to the U.S.
Tomorrow, a German man arrives at John F. Kennedy international airport. This seemingly unremarkable event is in fact a moment of personal bravery that ought to spur national contrition.
Khaled El-Masri, the arriving German national, tried to come to the United States once before. When he arrived, he was hauled aside, imprisoned, and then promptly deported back to his home in Germany.
His crime? Being a danger to the United States? On one of the federal government famous (and multitudinous) watch lists? Hardly. Khaled El-Masri was declined entry because he had been mistakenly kidnapped by the United States in 2003, taken to a U.S. base in Afghanistan, brutally interrogated, and detained long after the government — at its highest levels — knew him to be wholly innocent of any wrongdoing, or even tangential connection to terrorism. Khaled El-Masri was refused entry because he was an embarrassment: A public symbol, renowned across the world outside American borders, of the wretched consequences of America’s “extraordinary rendition” policy.
Despite Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s promise that intelligence errors would be addressed, and when necessary remedied through the federal courts, Mr. El-Masri has been denied any meaningful acknowledgment of his ordeal. While declining to comment on the El-Masri case in particular, the American ambassador to Germany has offered regrets for any mistakes that “may have been made.” And the German government reports that American officials tried to buy Mr. El-Masri’s silence, rather than acknowledging their terrible incompetence.
The Bush Administration’s approach to national security is one of “take no prisoners, have no regrets.” Claims of unfettered executive power, after all, fit ill with the mounting evidence of incompetence and sloppiness that the El-Masri case too acutely illustrates.
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