EXAMINER -- Two inches of newsprint above the front page fold of the Irish Examiner makes simple reading for people today. Just read the headline: "Last week, Michael McDowell gave the CIA the power to interrogate you in secret and see your bank details--and you may not have even broken Irish law". This front page article is the only public discussion of the bilateral instrument between Ireland and the United States. It raises questions about protections for the rights of individuals.
You might not appreciate the long reach of US law unless you have been held inside a wooden box, given sleeping accommodation that amounts to no more than a horse blanket on concrete, or been flown across the ocean in an unheated windowless plane. These are common ways used by those who transport detainees for the CIA today. Goverments receive transport requests in channels (police-to-police) and may not know they are acting in the interest of intelligence specialists. Little details like joint interrogation and landing rights normally get sorted in channels--that means police-to-police or embassy-to-host government. Those processing the requests don't know the real players who are asking for permissions. I can speak from first-hand experience as a transport co-ordinator and as an aircraft commander who spirited people from the sovereign territory of several nations. These movements fall outside the civilised methods used by the Irish government to repatriate asylum seekers. The Irish government is now complicit in executing these movements. It all happened without debate. Michael McDowell certainly doesn't agree with this, as he explains during an interview with RTE. I don't see things the same way and that's because I was on the inside looking out. Any formal process that lubricates the detention and investigation of citizens is one step removed from judicial restraint. The treaty lacks clarity and transparency. It is endorsed by the minister without debate. It removes restraints and philosophically leads down a path of eroded personal liberties.
According to front page coverage in the Irish Examiner, Minister of Justice Michael McDowell has formalised instruments of agreement that permit US investigators to "interrogate Irish citizens on Irish soil in total secrecy.... Suspects will also have to give testimony and allow property to be searched and seized even if what the suspect is accused of is not a crime in Ireland".
The Irish government has graciously extended the long arm of the State beyond even what has been agreed between EU countries.
You have more civil rights if you torch a neighbour's car, sell child porn on the internet, or smack down a drunk after a match than you do if you end up as part of a Homeland Security Watch List. You can be pulled out of bed and even flown away to an outsourced interrogation centre if Minister McDowell initials the briefing file. And as we know from previous stories, the time-pressed minister often pencil whips approvals without reading the case files in front of him.
As an American who willingly lives in Ireland, I can go with the flow of things. But I am very surprised by the lack of debate on this issue and the willing derogation of the democratic process. This erosion of civil liberties smacks of the same attitude shown by slave traders who were out to strike the best deal for their load of human cargo. I cannot believe an appointed minister can give over citizen rights with this closed door maneuver. It is unjustified and unprecedented. The entire process lacks the scrutiny expected in a modern democracy.
Dan Buckley -- "Last week, Michael McDowell gave the CIA the power to interrogate you in secret and see your bank details--and you may not have even broken Irish law" on the front page of the Irish Examiner, July 21, 2005.
Dick O'Brien -- "Spooks on Irish Soil"
Pretty Cunning -- "What’s left if our freedom is sold?"
Harry McGee -- "McDowell refutes CIA interrogation claims"
RTE -- McDowell interviewed on News at One.