Is It a Gulag Yet?

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The Washington Post‘s report about the CIA’s “covert prison system” around the world—including old Soviet-era prisons in Eastern Europe—is worth reading in full, but this paragraph gets right to the heart of the problem here:

[A]s the volume of leads pouring into the CTC from abroad increased, and the capacity of its paramilitary group to seize suspects grew, the CIA began apprehending more people whose intelligence value and links to terrorism were less certain, according to four current and former officials. The original standard for consigning suspects to the invisible universe was lowered or ignored, they said. “They’ve got many, many more who don’t reach any threshold,” one intelligence official said.

Right. The torture debate tends to focus on whether it’s appropriate to hold without trial or even administer a dose of waterboarding to cartoonish villains like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, but that misses the point. Mostly, it’s just impossible to know who is being captured and thrown into some repainted gulag somewhere in the ex-USSR, and as the “war on terror” drags on without end, more and more very innocent people are going to fall into the net. It’s inevitable—and as the intelligence official quoted above notes, that’s what’s happening.

That far-flung prison system, by the way, explains why Dick Cheney and his aides—including Scooter Libby’s replacement, David Addington—are pushing to create a CIA exemption for the McCain anti-torture amendment. (Read the piece for a description of how Addison “ate for lunch” a Pentagon aide who meekly brought up the Geneva Conventions. How adorable.) If the Senate passes that exemption, they’ll be offering a blanket endorsement of the “covert prison system” the Post has

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

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It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

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