December 17, 2007

I've been neglecting things around here recently mostly in part because I have been working when sitting at the computer rather than just ranting about things or finding the best footage of Mexican musicians on youtube (it is a 60-40 split of my time).

I am researching a book and am in a mad scramble to get some work done so I can spend more time not getting some work done soon, if that makes sense.

Right now I am concentrating on US abduction abroad (called extraterritorial abduction). Did you know it is legal? Not just that the US does it, but that it is considered entirely lawful?

Nowadays, official US kidnapping is
back in the news since the US claims this right and is asserting it against a British national.

"Extraordinary rendition" is a form of this type of kidnapping, of course, but that has a secret taint, and those people who are grabbed and not actually brought here, they are flown to CIA secret torture sites around the world. They aren't brought here because the whole thing is a bit illegal, no? Besides, if the kidpnapped hit US soil they might get rights (harder to hook car batteries to genitals in this case).

But official kidpnapping is something US attorneys defend and the Supreme Court has firmly supported since Alvarez-Machain, a case that ok'd the kidnapping of a Mexican national who supposedly torturned a DEA agent (he was acquitted).

What interests me is back when the Supreme Court first declared that it was legal for agents to kidnap someone abroad and bring them to the US for trial. It was originally legalized in a case called Ker v. Illinois when Ker was snatched from Peru (which, at war with Chile at the time, temporarily was not really a functioning country) and brought to trial in the US.

This misadventure happened back in December, 1886, which is the time period I am concentrating on. It happens that at the same year there was a huge diplomatic crisis that led some to call for a US war with Mexico over the kidnapping of an American in Texas, who was jailed in Mexico. The irony is just too good, is it not?

Here is the whole cinematic story of the capture of Ker, told by George Hunt, the Illinois Attorney General in 1886. It is a bit long, but a good story. How to beat the overly friendly, French speaking Pinkerton with money to burn who befriends Ker and hits the fandangos with him?

[I put some paragraph breaks in to make it more readable]

"Having passed upon the law questions raised by this hearing, the court may have interest enough in the man and the crime which these questions are put forward to shield, to read another page concerning them. In the month of January, 1883, Frederick M. Ker, having been for many years the confidential clerk for Preston, Kean & Co., bankers of Chicago, asked permission to go to New Orleans for a rest from his labors. When the time for his vacation expired, the bankers instead of receiving their clerk, received a letter from him, postmarked at Chicago, in which he generously informed them that there were deficits in his accounts, and the amount of the embezzlement would be found to be about $21,000 of the moneys of the bank, and $35,000 of United States bonds belonging to its patrons. The letter contained an intimation that if allowed to take his journey unmolested, the bank would be let alone, but if pursued and brought back, a run would be organized and the bank ruined; and concluded with the cool remark that if successful in future life, he would endeavor to refund the money to those entitled to receive it.

Preston, Kean & Co. were not alarmed by the threats, and inaugurated such measures that by the next steamer there went to Aspinwall one of Pinkerton's men, who at Panama found a Chicago overcoat which had been shed and given to a porter. Precaution had been taken to cut the tailor's name from the neck of the coat, but the name of Ker in one of the lappels [sic] of the side pocket remained untouched. Learning from the porter that the owner of the overcoat had sailed for Callao, the detective armed with photograph alone, followed by the next steamer.

Arriving there, he went to Lima, and in a few days thereafter, while in a public square, recognized Ker sitting under the shade of a tropical tree, regaling himself with a cigar. An acquaintance followed. Ker could speak French and so could the detective. Becoming interested in each other, a friendship arose. Together they did the city, the theatre and the fandango. Investments were discussed; Ker had money, the detective had more, and thus dreaming and scheming, days passed into weeks and time wore happily away.

In the meantime, at Chicago, the victimized bankers obtained the proper demand from the federal Secretary of State, which came by the next steamer to the friend in Lima. At this time, a state of things existed in Peru which rendered the treaty between the United States and that government inoperative. There was no Peru, The government had a nominal existence at Ariquipa, back in the mountains, eighty-five miles from Lima, but General Lynch, of the Chilian forces, was in military occupation of the capital. Pinkerton's man had no passport to go through the lines to present our demand at the mountain camp of the Peruvian government, but did what was perhaps the next best thing, applied to General Lynch. This officer, doubtless thinking that security to criminals was no part of his mission in Peru, dispatched an officer to aid the detective in putting Ker on his way back to the United States.

On board the man-of-war, Essex, then in the harbor at Callao, on her way to China, he was conducted to a state-room and transported to Honolulu, where it was expected to intercept the departure of a vessel to San Francisco. It happened, however, that this vessel had sailed when the Essex arrived outside the harbor, and Ker enjoyed the sea breezes on board his country's man-of-war for nearly a month, when the next steamer took him aboard for San Francisco. Having been brought to Chicago, Ker, in the course of time, was placed upon his trial. He interposed no denial of the charges of theft and embezzlement, but relied upon his ability to persuade the United States to take him back to Peru. The court below was not susceptible to these persuasions, and gave him ten years tuition in Joliet to improve his notions of business integrity.

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