[Marxism] Fwd: The Assad Files - The New Yorker

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Apr 11 06:47:04 MDT 2016

The investigator in Syria had made the drive perhaps a hundred times, 
always in the same battered truck, never with any cargo. It was forty 
miles to the border, through eleven rebel checkpoints, where the 
soldiers had come to think of him as a local, a lawyer whose wartime 
misfortunes included a commute on their section of the road. Sometimes 
he brought them snacks or water, and he made sure to thank them for 
protecting civilians like himself. Now, on a summer afternoon, he loaded 
the truck with more than a hundred thousand captured Syrian government 
documents, which had been buried in pits and hidden in caves and 
abandoned homes.

He set out at sunset. To the fighters manning the checkpoints, it was as 
if he were invisible. Three reconnaissance vehicles had driven ahead, 
and one confirmed by radio what the investigator hoped to hear: no new 
checkpoints. Typically, the border was sealed, but soldiers from the 
neighboring country waved him through. He drove until he reached a 
Western embassy, where he dropped off the cargo for secure transfer to 
Chris Engels, an American lawyer. Engels expected the papers to include 
evidence linking high-level Syrian officials to mass atrocities. After a 
decade spent training international criminal-justice practitioners in 
the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Cambodia, Engels now leads the 
regime-crimes unit of the Commission for International Justice and 
Accountability, an independent investigative body founded in 2012, in 
response to the Syrian war.

In the past four years, people working for the organization have 
smuggled more than six hundred thousand government documents out of 
Syria, many of them from top-secret intelligence facilities. The 
documents are brought to the group’s headquarters, in a nondescript 
office building in Western Europe, sometimes under diplomatic cover. 
There, each page is scanned, assigned a bar code and a number, and 
stored underground. A dehumidifier hums inside the evidence room; just 
outside, a small box dispenses rat poison.


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