Contemporary tyranny

A report issued by the Open Society Justice Initiative revealed that more than 50 countries have participated in a program where the CIA sends suspected terrorist subjects to other countries to be interrogated and sometimes tortured. Some of these suspects reportedly ended up at CIA “black sites,” which are secret prisons operated by the CIA in foreign countries. There’s even an account of a suspected terrorist being held aboard a Navy ship for over two months. In total more than 130 specific suspects have been interrogated through this process known as “rendition.”

I’m torn between the principle of the matter and my gut reaction. The utilitarian in me can appreciate the pressing need to obtain information to prevent another terrorist attack. Torturing one to save hundreds is easy math. However, after considering the implications of these actions, I conclude that abducting/exporting suspected terrorists to far away countries like Kazakhstan, Romania or Zimbabwe to torture them is not a good thing for our country or our world.

The United States government has declared that it has the power to arbitrate whose lives are worthwhile and whose are not. Through a secret, murky process government agents can abduct someone and ship them off to a secret prison to be tortured until they divulge information. There is no oversight in the process, and no room for appeal or remediation. The potential for abuse of this power is far too great to ignore. It also sets a frightening precedent for future diplomatic engagements.

Who the handshake impacts is never thought of. Image from Creative Commons.
Who the handshake impacts is never thought of. Image from Creative Commons.

If members of government are confident enough that they will send a seal team to abduct and transport a suspected terrorist at great expense, then why not go one step further and put them on trial and prove it in court? The intelligence on the suspect is murky or from a dubious source and would not hold up under any sort of fair trial? Then they probably shouldn’t be taken to a far away country and tortured.

Gaining intelligence on terrorist organizations is vitally important, and I don’t intend to argue against that point. What I am getting at is that the principle at stake is perhaps more encompassing than people recognize. A global assortment of more than 50 countries that don’t respect individual sovereignty and are willing to subject people to heinous treatment in the pursuit of a goal loosely labeled “the greater good” is a cause for concern. If the interests truly are for the betterment of society then bring them to the light and let us critique the process. I grow weary when an elected group has the privilege of making decisions about the rights of others. Self-interest tends to overrule personal freedom.

Coming from a nation that proudly protects the concept of inalienable individual rights and personal sovereignty, it surprises me that our elected leaders are so comfortable with taking these rights from other people. It is antithetical to so egregiously violate someone’s rights in the name of “protecting freedom.”