The continued political appetite for a global war on terror has led to a commodification of “actionable intelligence,” which is a product, chiefly, of human prisoners like Aafia Siddiqui. Because this war, by definition, has no physical or temporal boundaries, the demand for such intelligence has no limit. But the world contains a relatively small number of terrorists and an even smaller number of terrorist plots. Our demand for intelligence far outstrips the supply of prisoners. Where the United States itself has been unable to meet that demand, therefore, it has embraced a solution that is the essence of globalization. We outsource the work to countries, like Pakistan, whose political circumstances allow them to produce prisoners with far greater efficiency.
What the CIA and the FBI understand as an acquisition solution, however, others see as a human-rights debacle. Just as thousands of political dissidents, suspected criminals, and enemies of the state were “disappeared” from Latin America over the course of several decades of CIA-funded dirty wars, so too have hundreds of “persons of interest” around the world begun to disappear as a consequence of the global war on terror, which in many ways has become a globalized version of those earlier, regional failures of democracy.
One of the chief conveniences of outsourcing is that certain costs are externalized. Pollution, for instance, is expensive. Manufacturers that pollute in the United States are required to bear its cost by paying a fine. If they outsource to a country where the cost of the pollution is borne directly by the people, they make more money. Such a transfer is obviously desirable from the point of view of the manufacturer, but it often generates political unrest in the host country, for reasons that are equally obvious. This phenomenon applies as well when the external cost of manufacturing intelligence is paid in freedom. The governments that did the outsourced work of U.S. intelligence agencies in previous dirty wars—in Argentina and Chile, Guatemala and Uruguay—eventually were toppled by popular protest, in large part because the people became aware that their leaders had profited from their suffering. Pakistanis today appear no less aware that this type of transaction is occurring in their country. Indeed, a recent poll found that the only nation they find more threatening than India, whose nuclear missiles point directly at them, is the United States. And they have begun to hold their leaders accountable for the association.
More on Siddiqui, follow her farcical fake trial here (ht2 Earwicga) and keep asking, where are her two children? Where was she for five years? And…for every one prisoner we know about, what of the disappeared we never hear of?