Anj — CIA's secret jails open up new transatlantic rift

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Compliments of Multitudes List:
CIA’s secret jails open up new transatlantic rift
· Hundreds of flights landed in Germany over 2 years
· Seizure of innocent people likely to embarrass Rice
Luke Harding in Berlin
Monday December 5, 2005
The Guardian
The US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s meeting with Germany’s
new chancellor Angela Merkel tomorrow is likely to be a tricky affair.
What should have been a chance to repair the damaging rift between the
countries over Iraq is fast being eclipsed by something else – a new
transatlantic row between the US and the European Union over the CIA.
During the weekend there were further revelations about the role of
the CIA in kidnapping suspects. According to yesterday’s Washington
Post, the agency carried out a number of “erroneous renditions” –
grabbing suspects off the street who later turned out to be innocent.
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In total, “about three dozen” people may have been wrongly seized, the
paper said. One of them was Khaled Masri – a German national who
shared the same name as a top al-Qaida terrorist.
The CIA kidnapped him in Macedonia on Dec 31 2003, and flew him to
Afghanistan, where he spent five months in appalling conditions. After
realising its mistake, the administration debated whether to inform
“the Germans” of the blunder, eventually dispatching the US ambassador
to Germany, Daniel Coats, to tell the government, the paper said.
“They picked up the wrong people, who had no information. In many
cases there was only some vague association with terrorism,” one CIA
officer told the Post. The embarrassing details are likely to increase
pressure on Ms Rice to give a forthright account of the CIA’s
behaviour during her visit to Europe this week.
Yesterday the magazine Der Spiegel also gave further details that
suggest that Europe was used as a major transit hub. It revealed that
after September 11 2001, the CIA flew to Germany 437 times. Two CIA
aircraft landed 132 and 146 times in 2002 and 2003 respectively, the
magazine said, citing German government figures.
Ms Rice is not the only person with difficult questions to answer,
however. European governments – who have so far been reluctant to
confront Washington over the flights – now face awkward inquiries
about how much they knew.
“If [EU] member or candidate states actively contributed to, or
connived in, illegal transports and torture, or illegal prisons on
their territory, that must be investigated and the necessary
consequences drawn,” Martin Schulz, head of the Socialist Group in the
European Parliament, said yesterday. He added: ‘There’s active
acceptance, and there’s acquiescence. Neither of those are acceptable.’
According to the Post, the CIA operated a network of secret prisons or
“black sites” in eight countries at various times, including several
in eastern Europe. Since 9/11, the agency, often working with foreign
partners, had captured an estimated 3,000 people, including several
key al-Qaida leaders. Members of the rendition group would blindfold
suspects, cut off their clothes, and administer an enema and sleeping
drugs. They would transfer prisoners to one of the CIA’s covert sites
or to a detention facility in a friendly country – in Afghanistan,
Central Asia or the Middle East. Things did not always go to plan,
however. Mr Masri was kidnapped while the CIA’s station chief in
Macedonia was away on holiday. The American Civil Liberties Union is
expected to announce tomorrow that it is suing the CIA in connection
with his case. Others detained included an innocent college professor
who had given an al-Qaida suspect a bad grade. “It was the Camelot of
counter-terrorism. We didn’t have to mess with others, and it was
fun,” an official working in the CIA’s counter-terrorism centre told
the Post.
Ms Merkel, who meets Condoleeza Rice in Berlin tomorrow, has said she
wants a fresh start with the Bush administration, describing the row
over Iraq as a “past battle”. Ms Merkel’s government played down
expectations of revelations from the US. “We’re not rushing things,” a
spokesman said. But the issue seems unlikely to go away. “If the US
doesn’t create any clarity … then they feed suspicion and encourage
speculation,” said Mr Schulz. “If Ms Rice gives no clarification, we
in parliament will further insist that the governments of the EU
provide this clarification themselves.”
The American policy of moving suspects from one country to another
without any court hearing or extradition process is thought to have
begun in the Reagan era. In those days, joint CIA and FBI teams would
bring drug traffickers and terrorism suspects to the United States.
They would be read their rights, given lawyers and then put on trial.
In the wake of the 1993 bomb attack on the World Trade Centre, these
detentions, known as “renditions”, were largely replaced by the
“extraordinary rendition” policy of taking suspects to a third
country. CIA officers combating Islamist terrorism decided they should
keep some suspects out of the US courts for fear of jeopardising their
sources and to protect intelligence officials from other countries who
did not wish to be called as witnesses. Michael Scheuer, a former CIA
counter-terrorism expert, has explained how he approached Clinton
administration officials for permission. “They said, ‘Do it’.” While
it is against US law to take anyone to a country where there are
“substantial grounds” for believing they will be tortured, those
officials are said to have relied upon a very precise reading of that
term, arguing that they could not be sure whether suspects would be
tortured or not. At least four suspected Islamists were subsequently
abducted in the Balkans in the late 1990s and taken to Egypt. One
disappeared, two are reported to have been executed and one later
alleged that he was tortured. An Islamist organisation threatened
retaliation for these abductions and two days later, the US embassies
in Tanzania and Kenya were blown up, killing 224 people. The Bush
administration reviewed and renewed the presidential directive which
authorises the rendition programme, and after the terrorist attacks of
9/11, the number of abductions rocketed. According to Scott Horton, an
international law specialist who helped prepare a report on renditions
published by the New York University School of Law and the New York
City Bar Association, as many as 150 people have been “rendered” over
the past four years. Most of these people have not been charged with
any crime.
They are denied lawyers, their families do not know their whereabouts
and their detention is concealed from the international committee of
the Red Cross.