American intelligence agents captured the wrong man, held him in a ‘black’ prison in Afghanistan, continued to hold him after they realized their error, and eventually dumped him without apology or recompense.
To make matters worse, those responsible for this illegal and egregious miscarriage of justice didn’t get pink slips.
Instead, they were promoted.
By January of 2004, when German citizen Khaleed al Masri arrived at the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret prison in Afghanistan, agency officials were pretty sure he wasn’t a terrorist. They also knew he didn’t know any terrorists, or much about anything in the world of international terror.
In short, they suspected they’d nabbed the wrong man.
Still, the agency continued to imprison and interrogate him, according to a recently released internal CIA report on Masri’s arrest. The report claims that Masri suffered no physical abuse during his wrongful imprisonment, though it acknowledges that for months he was kept in a “small cell with some clothing, bedding and a bucket for his waste.” Masri says he was tortured, specifically that a medical examination against his will constituted sodomy.
The embarrassing, and horrifying, case of Masri is hardly new. It has been known for a decade as a colossal example of CIA error in the agency’s pursuit of terrorists during the administration of President George W. Bush.
But the recently released internal report makes it clear that the CIA’s failures in the Masri case were even more outrageous than previous accounts have suggested.
Even though the agency realized early on that Masri was the wrong man, it couldn’t figure out how to release him without having to acknowledge its mistake. The agency eventually dumped him unceremoniously in Albania and essentially pretended his arrest and detention had never happened.
None of the Americans involved in Masri’s detention has been held to account, notes Masri’s attorney, Jamil Dakwar, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human Rights Program. Indeed, the two men most responsible for the errors were promoted. Meanwhile, Dakwar said, Masri is haunted to this day by the psychological torture inflicted by his detention in the CIA’s secret Afghan holding center and by the stigma of having been snatched in a CIA anti-terror investigation.