Within the heavily guarded perimeters of the Defense Department's much-discussed Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, the CIA has maintained a detention facility for valuable al Qaeda captives that has never been mentioned in public, according to military officials and several current and former intelligence officers.
But to the military's credit, they required the CIA to follow some of the most basic treaty obligations:
The U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay thus provided the CIA with an isolated venue devoid of the sensitive international politics. But it came with strings attached.
The U.S. military, which controls the base, required the agency to register all detainees, abide by military detention standards and permit the ICRC some level of access.
“If you're going to be in my back yard, you're going to have to abide by my rules” is how one defense official explained it.
Normally, as I've noted before, the evidence is that the CIA doesn't bother with the Geneva conventions, and indulges in “ghost detainees” and who knows what sort of physical and psychological pressure:
CIA detainees, by contrast, are held under separate rules and far greater secrecy. Under a presidential directive and authorities approved by administration lawyers, the CIA is allowed to capture and hold certain classes of suspects without accounting for them in any public way and without revealing the rules for their treatment.
You still have to wonder why exactly the CIA couldn't just lock these guys up at Langley? Is there any risk at all that they could get to a lawyer, or that if it did it would do them any good? Why does the CIA have to hold these guys abroad? Can there be any legitimate reason other than the desire to do things that our law would not allow? And if that is the reason, then I firmly believe it is an illegal motive. Our federal government is created by the Constitution. It has only those powers the constitution grants it. The power to act lawlessly abroad is not one of those powers. The Constitution constrains the CIA abroad just as it does domestically; if it's wrong for our agents to torture people here, it's equally wrong anywhere. And remember, they are formally our agents, We the People are formally their masters; what they do, my fellow citizens, they do in our names, more's the pity.