Thursday, February 26, 2009

Our Ms. Brooks: A Legacy

Rosa Brooks provided a startling revelation in her latest column: she is the daughter of Barbara Ehrenreich, one of the three authors who published the satirical article "How to Build Your Own Home H-Bomb" some thirty years ago.

The article, published in Seven Days magazine, was chock-full of helpful tips for would-be nuclear bomb makers. For instance, it advised those struggling to enrich uranium to make "a simple home centrifuge. Fill a standard-size bucket one-quarter full of liquid uranium hexafluoride. Attach a six-foot rope to the bucket handle. Now swing the [bucket] around your head as fast as possible. Keep this up for about 45 minutes."

That spoof re-entered the news recently, and not in a nice way. An admission that he had read the article was one of the key pieces of evidence used to justify the rendition, torture, and detention of Binyam Mohamed at Guantanamo Bay. Mr. Mohamed has finally been released, enabling him to return to Great Britain, but not without what have to be some horrendous scars.

Mohamed, an Ethiopian refugee, moved to Britain with his father in 1994. In June 2001, Mohamed -- then 22 -- traveled to Afghanistan. When the war began there in October 2001, he fled to Pakistan. In April 2002, he tried to fly back to Britain, but his papers weren't in order and he was detained by Pakistani authorities.

According to his lawyers, he was then subjected to brutal interrogation by Pakistani and U.S. agents, who seemed convinced that he was a top Al Qaeda figure in possession of nuclear secrets. They say he was beaten and threatened with death, then "rendered"-- apparently with CIA cooperation -- in July 2002 to Morocco, where interrogators repeatedly slashed his genitals with a scalpel. ...

At some point, they say, Mohamed began to confess to an impressive range of sins. Pressed for details about his purported nuclear know-how, for instance, Mohamed admitted that he had, indeed, once read my mother's article on the Web, but said it was just a spoof.

They didn't get the joke. According to Mohamed's attorneys, who have had access to classified records, the article seems to have been deemed a crucial piece of "evidence" against their client. An intelligence-community game of Telephone ensued, in which Mohamed's "confession" that he'd read up on the manufacture of nuclear weapons was passed along from interrogator to interrogator, until U.S. authorities convinced themselves that Mohamed was part of a dangerous nuclear plot against the United States.

Now, that is bad enough, but there's more. Whether to avoid "political embarrassment" at the sheer dogged stupidity of our obviously misnamed "intelligence" system or whether to keep the details of the shameful practices involved in extraordinary rendition secret, the Bush administration agreed to release Mr. Mohamed only on the condition that none of these facts be revealed. That condition was coupled with some nasty vague threats to withhold further US intelligence from the British if it was not met.

That is despicable, but certainly within keeping with the gang of thugs who ran this country for eight years. What is dismaying is that President Obama apparently has signed off on keeping the details secret. That is not exactly the transparency and the change that we were promised.

I suspect the only way we are going to get the full story of the horrendouse abuses which took place in our name is for 111th Congress to get its investigation into these matter in full gear.

"Political embarrassment."


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