December 28, 2005

Mistaken Identity

Laura Rozen finds an AP article reporting that the CIA watchdog is investigating cases where people have been "rendered" to a foreign country to squeeze out intelligence for the ubiquitous war on terror yet were innocent of the charges of terrorism.

The CIA’s inspector general, John Helgerson, is looking into fewer than 10 cases of potentially “erroneous renditions,” according to a current intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigations are classified. Others in the agency believe it to be much fewer, the official added.

For instance, someone may be grabbed wrongly or, after further investigation, may not be as directly linked to terrorism as initially believed.

Human rights groups consider the practice of rendition an end run around the judicial processes that the United States has long championed. Experts with those groups and congressional committees familiar with intelligence programs say errors should be extremely rare because one vivid anecdote can do significant damage.

“I am glad the CIA is investigating the cases that they are aware of,” said Tom Malinowski, Washington office director of Human Rights Watch. “But by definition, you are not going to be aware of all such cases, when you have a process designed to avoid judicial safeguards.”

One of the most flawed aspects of Bush's policy in regards to "enemy combatants" is the lack of oversight that is needed to make sure that people mistakenly picked up as terrorists can be identified and released when it is discovered they are being held by mistake. Somehow the belief by the Bush crew is that Bush is infallible in his judgement of who is actually a terrorist as he obviously doesn't needs some type of process that weeds out the innocent before they are tortured, rendered to another country, or in any form locked up as a suspected terrorist with no legal recourse.

Of course, it is exactly this flaw that is causing so much distress on whether the death penalty should continue. According to the Innocents Project, the most common reason that someone innocent is condemned to death is because of a mistaken identity. If we have that kind of failure rate for something like the death penalty where we have centuries of experience in, how many innocent people are being trapped by the hunt for terrorists where we have less than 5 years of experience at getting right?

Another point that reinforces this concern is how often do we find that somehow a mistake was made in official records? When a mistake is made in your credit report, once you realize that there is a problem, you can correct the record by adding your statement to the record. However, how do you ever correct the record if you are never to find out what is in the record or even that there is a record with an error?

This, of course, is one of the greatest dangers of the government enmassing information about countless citizens without recourse to reviewing and cleansing the record. Bush's wiretaps are illegal because literally all Americans are subject to being included in the fishing expedition and having data collected that could be completely wrong without any way to correct for mistakes. How many people, including Conservatives, believe that the government bureaucracy never makes a mistake? Oversight and review are required if we are to ever have a system that works fairly and isn't dependent on the capricious whim of a single individual.

How many people are locked up in George Bush's legal system and of them, now many are innocent of the accusations? How long will it take to find out?

Posted by Mary at December 28, 2005 02:30 AM | Law/Justice | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

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Posted by: melissa at December 28, 2005 12:54 PM