Kafka moment 'o the day: The case of Shaker Aamer

Kafka moment 'o the day

by digby

From Chris Bertram:

The position of the last British detainee at Guantanamo, Shaker Aamer, is in the UK news today. He’s never been charged with anything and was “cleared for release” under the Bush administration. He is in failing health. For protesting about his own treatment and that of others, he is confined to the punishment block. It seems the reason the Aamer can’t be released today is that the US Congress has imposed absurd certification requirements on the US Secretary of Defense, such that Panetta would be personally reponsible for any future criminal actions by the released inmate. One of the reasons why the US Congress has put these obstacles up is because of claims made by the US military about “recidivism”, claims that also get some scrutiny in the report. It would seem that subsequent protests about conditions in the camp, writing a book about it or making a film, are counted as instances of “recidivism”. Astonishing. You can listen to a BBC radio report here (start at 7’ 40”)

This is yet another one of those Catch-22s like the indefinite detention procedures in the recently passed NDAA, in which everyone claims that just because these laws exist it doesn't mean the executive will have to abide by them. The problem is that the political implications of them not doing so (and in this case legal liability) ensure that virtually any president will abide by it anyway.

This man is innocent.The government has already admitted it. But he's been tortured and wrongfully imprisoned for years. One can hardly blame him if he harbors some hostility now, even if he didn't before. It is The Count of Monte Cristo effect: when you do this to someone, there is a possibility they will seek revenge. After all, their lives have been ruined. Therefore, they must never be released lest they go on to commit the crime they were wrongfully accused of committing in the first place.

Now, the tales of "recidivism" are hugely overstated. Thew worst thing most released prisoners have done is express some unhappiness with their incarceration and torture. As Bertram said, that's considered "recidivism" as well.But the possibility that one released prisoner might actually seek revenge for their mistreatment is always going to be too much for Secretary of Defense or the executive branch to risk personally signing off on going forward. I can't imagine it happening, frankly. They know what's been done to these people.

This is the true, practical problem with the president signing the NDAA. (The legal and moral problem has been well established.) Even if one were to assume that all of our leaders going forward will be moral people who would never in a million years abuse their authority or wrongfully imprison someone, you cannot escape the fact that the politics will always mitigate against setting someone free once they've been put through this extra-judicial wringer.

Unless the entire "terrorist" legal edifice that was born out of the overreaction to 9/11 is torn down and a humane and transparent system is put in its place, there will remain a very good chance that we will continue to turn otherwise innocent people into enemies by our treatment of them or keep innocent people imprisoned forever. Kafka couldn't have designed a more byzantine hell.