No Comment — September 8, 2010, 4:38 pm

The Torturer’s Reward

So what has become of those whose involvement in torture was so troubling that even a government inspector general recommended a criminal investigation? While investigations proceed apace overseas, Special Prosecutor John Durham is apparently still considering whether the facts warrant a real one in the United States. Durham has now spent more than a year trying to make this “threshold” determination, something that prosecutors frequently do in an afternoon. In the meantime, the Obama Administration’s position seems to be that the accused should be rewarded for their dubious services with lucrative training contracts. Adam Goldman of the Associated Press reports:

A former CIA officer accused of revving an electric drill near the head of an imprisoned terror suspect has returned to U.S. intelligence as a contractor, training CIA operatives after leaving the agency, The Associated Press has learned.
The CIA officer wielded the bitless drill and an unloaded handgun – unauthorized interrogation techniques – to menace suspected USS Cole bombing plotter Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri inside a secret CIA prison in Poland in late 2002 and early 2003, according to several former intelligence officials and a review by the CIA’s inspector general. Adding details to the public portions of the review, the former officials identified the officer as Albert, 60, a former FBI agent of Egyptian descent who worked as a bureau translator in New York before joining the CIA. The former officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because many details of the incident remain classified.

The desire to conceal the identities of the CIA agents has more to do with the fact that they face prosecution–not in the United States, but in Poland, on whose soil the crimes were committed. Indeed, the Polish National Prosecutor’s office would very much like to know the exact identity and whereabouts of “Albert,” his supervisor “Mike,” and other CIA personnel involved. The CIA black site where the torture incidents occurred is located at Stare Kiejkuty, in northeastern Poland, and information secured by Polish investigators suggests that at least 20 persons were flown on extraordinary rendition flights into Szymansy Airport to be transferred there. While the U.S. Justice Department equivocates on the criminality of the conduct involved (no doubt largely because much of it was explicitly blessed by senior Justice Department officials who would be implicated in any criminal case brought), Polish prosecutors show no hesitation in calling the activities at the prison serious crimes. Polish authorities say they are receiving no cooperation from the United States in their probe.

The Wall Street Journal cites reports in Gazeta Wyborcza that Polish prosecutors are now focusing their case on a theory that former President Aleksander Kwa?niewski, Prime Minister Leszek Miller, and interior ministers Zbigniew Siemi?tkowski and Krzysztof Janik knew of and authorized the CIA operations and thus assumed legal responsibility for the crimes. A story to the same effect appeared in the Polish national daily Rzeczpospolita (an English summary is here). Charges of this sort could only be brought in Poland’s State Tribunal, a special court created to handle cases of a political nature, and it would require authorization of a special vote of the Sejm, Poland’s parliament, where the center-left faction that backed Kwa?niewski and Miller could be expected to attempt to block the effort. The prosecution of the CIA operatives involved in the underlying crimes would not require such special approvals, but the Polish prosecutors would have to take custody of those against whom the charges are brought. The cooperation of American officials is essential here and not forthcoming.

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Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.

Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”

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