Where does he go to get his years back?

By Megan McArdle

[Jon Henke]

Mistakes happen, particularly in war, but this was not a mistake. It was policy. Or the lack of policy.

At the age of 19, Murat Kurnaz vanished into America's shadow prison system in the war on terror. He was from Germany, traveling in Pakistan, and was picked up three months after 9/11. But there seemed to be ample evidence that Kurnaz was an innocent man with no connection to terrorism. The FBI thought so, U.S. intelligence thought so, and German intelligence agreed. But once he was picked up, Kurnaz found himself in a prison system that required no evidence and answered to no one.
[...]
[Kurnaz' lawyer, Baher Azmy] dug into the case and found that the military seemed to have invented some of the charges. Military prosecutors said one of Kurnaz’s friends was a suicide bomber, but the friend turned up alive and well in Germany. [...] But far worse than the false charges was the secret government file that Azmy uncovered.

Six months after Kurnaz reached Guantanamo, U.S. military intelligence had written, "criminal investigation task force has no definite link [or] evidence of detainee having an association with al Qaeda or making any specific threat toward the U.S."

At the same time, German intelligence agents wrote their government, saying, "USA considers Murat Kurnaz’s innocence to be proven. He is to be released in approximately six to eight weeks." But Azmy says Kurnaz was kept at Guantanamo Bay for three and a half years after this memo was written in 2002.

They kept him, Kurnaz says, by inventing new charges. In a makeshift courthouse, Kurnaz claims that a military judge charged that Kurnaz had been picked up near Osama bin Laden's hideout in Afghanistan while fighting for the Taliban. Ironic, since it was the U.S. that flew him to Afghanistan to begin with.



If charges won't be filed against him, when will charges be filed against the person or people who caused or allowed this to occur? As Alex Knapp writes, this was "a citizen of one of our most valued allies [who] was tortured, denied counsel for three years, and kept in inhumane conditions, this despite the fact that shortly after he was detained his innocence was already determined. Not that it would have been justified to treat a guilty man this way, either. Due process is one of the cornerstones of America’s founding principles — one that is degrading every year."

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2008/03/where-does-he-go-to-get-his-years-back/3158/