Civil Liberties

The Death Ship

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There's a species of libertarian who dreams of finding liberty at sea. There are other Americans who may have more authoritarian designs for the oceans:

The United States is operating "floating prisons" to house those arrested in its war on terror, according to human rights lawyers, who claim there has been an attempt to conceal the numbers and whereabouts of detainees.

Details of ships where detainees have been held and sites allegedly being used in countries across the world have been compiled as the debate over detention without trial intensifies on both sides of the Atlantic. The US government was yesterday urged to list the names and whereabouts of all those detained.

Information about the operation of prison ships has emerged through a number of sources, including statements from the US military, the Council of Europe and related parliamentary bodies, and the testimonies of prisoners.

The analysis, due to be published this year by the human rights organisation Reprieve, also claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition since 2006, when President George Bush declared that the practice had stopped.

Reprieve has more here.

NEXT: Bardot's Illegal Contempt

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  1. Wasn’t this the plot of an episode of The Unit

  2. Two words: War Crimes

  3. There are no floating prisons unless Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have approved funding for them.

  4. no history buff here, so I’m not sure, but weren’t imperial prison ships and the horrible conditions thereon a big deal in the revolutionary war?

  5. Don’t worry Drawnasunder,

    Luke will save the Princess from the Imperial Death Star.

  6. Much as I have issues with Reid and Pelosi, the military budget has never been a terribly transparent thing. The blame for this belongs not so much with accomodationist Congressional leadership as it does with the general bloat of and opacity of the military budget that has been going on for decades.

    We cannot expect them to reverse a decades-long trend in 2 years. We can, however, expect them to at least start somewhere. And there’s been little enough in terms of starts for, well, anything.

  7. This is as surprising to me as the NYT story about the Pentagon using “expert military consultants” to direct and control coverage of illegally disseminate propaganda supporting Operation Tarbaby.

    As I have said before, I would be absolutely, and without reservation, delighted at the sight of GWB, shackled and manacled in an orange jumpsuit emblazoned with the designation “PRISONER” being loaded onto a plane bound for the International War Crimes Tribunal.

  8. estimates of as many as 8000 men died on the British Prison ships in NY Harbor.

    How we dishonor their memory.

  9. Remember when it was Vietnam that had secret prisons holding an unknown number of unidentified POWs?

  10. We cannot expect them to reverse a decades-long trend in 2 years. We can, however, expect them to at least start somewhere. And there’s been little enough in terms of starts for, well, anything.

    *cough*BS*cough*

    Congress does this all the time, except it’s usually some unncessary reform like SOX or the “fix” for the “crisis” du jour.

  11. Donderoooooooooooo?

  12. http://youtube.com/watch?v=Pjrj6rUlI8w

    That’s because sometimes your title may be a reference to something in… The Twilight Zone.

  13. You guys just don’t get it.

    These are prison ships. We’re locking up bad guys. Right?

  14. I don’t know if Congress could “reform” this or not.

    The legislation providing the funds to acquire, man, and maintain the Navy’s vessels and support vessels generally doesn’t specify the use of those vessels, does it?

    If you vote the funds for an aircraft carrier, does the legislation say, “No using this ship as a secret prison ship, guys,” somewhere in it? I’d have to doubt it.

    Bush’s position would no doubt be, “Hey, you gave me the ships, I can do whatever the fuck I want with them.”

    They could try to add generic legislation forbidding the use of armed forces facilities for detention except as authorized specifically by Congress – but they did that for propaganda and publicity, and the Bush administration just ignored it, broke the law, and did whatever the fuck they wanted.

  15. WTF is happening to my country?

  16. Hi, Joe! | June 3, 2008, 12:17pm | #

    There are no floating prisons unless Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have approved funding for them.

    Wow, is that an ignorant statement.

    Seeing that others have beat me to the punch, all I can add is “ha ha!”

  17. I don’t know if Congress could “reform” this or not.

    Perhaps they couldn’t directly stop it, but they could start investigations, use their free media time to draw attention to it, and generally be a pain in the administration’s side about it.

    The reason they aren’t is b/c the number of their voters among the prisoners is rather small, and the idea that they might do something based on principle is ludicrous.

  18. I don’t understand. Since no one is paying attention until well after the fact, why doesn’t Bush just kill all these folks in prison? Why keep them around at all?

  19. It’s almost brilliant, in a way.

    “How long can you tread water, Mr. Red Cross?”

  20. One of my ancestors died on a fucking British prison hulk. Left a wife and kids in poverty too, if I recall.

    If I had the time I would love to go through the Declaration of Independence and check off all the grievances that both appear in that document and are part of U.S. Federal or, in most states, State policy.

    If the founders could have foreseen this day and age, I think Jefferson and his friends would have resisted Hamilton and his faction much more firmly when they first proposed uniting the states via a centralized government with the power to levy taxes.

  21. That’s because sometimes your title may be a reference to something in… The Twilight Zone.

    Actually, I had this in mind.

  22. Perhaps they couldn’t directly stop it, but they could start investigations, use their free media time to draw attention to it, and generally be a pain in the administration’s side about it.

    I suspect they will, now that they are aware it is happening.

    Congress isn’t generally informed about covert operations.

  23. I love irony. The one ship named in the article is the U.S.S. Bataan.

  24. What, no Esmirelda?

    Do we have a Navy Mechanics School in this country?

  25. These are prison ships. We’re locking up bad guys. Right?

    Sorta. The value of a prison ship in this day and age is that different rules go into effect about one mile off the coast, in international waters.

    That is, Bush can do a lot more “not-really torture” on the boats, and it isn’t was easy to get a photojournalist on board.

  26. I saw this on drum’s website (among others) yesterday so I’m going to repost the same comment I made there:

    I have no comment on the practices described at the links.

    I would like to point out that every site that has posted on this story has echoed the rhetoric of ‘prison ship’

    Now to me, that sounds like they have the Astral Queen out there.

    But what they seem to have is an amphib or two where they (may or may not) have made temporary use of the brig on those ships.

    There is a bit of unnecessary rhetorical excess here that I think will cause the story to be marginalized. The dry facts should speak for themselves.

  27. Legally, isn’t a prison ship a lot worse? It’s hard to argue that a US military ship in open water isn’t operating under some version of US law or military justice.

  28. At least they’re not using a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier.

  29. The only reason we would want to confine Al Qaeda terrorists on a ship is for transporting them to the Marianas Trench where they will be fitted with cement shoes, a scuba mask, and then dropped in. The scuba mask will ensure that drowning will not kill them; it will be the crushing pressures that will kill them.

    Any other use for these floating prisons is inappropriate.

  30. Autonomy on the ocean is already being used for evil. Let’s start using it for good!

  31. I agree, Patri.

    Giving Al Qaeda terrorists a free trip to the bottom of the Marianas Trench would be good.

  32. So, how do anarchists feel about wardens side stepping the law?

  33. Michael, I agree, but the government has taught me they can’t be trusted. So why would I think they would be honest about who is a terrorist or not.

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