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The CIA's Rendition Flights to Secret Prisons;

By Lila Rajiva  Posted by Rob Kall (about the submitter)     Permalink
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Dana Priest's recent Washington Post article, "Anatomy of a CIA 'rendition' gone wrong"(1) only confirms what those who have watched the torture scandal closely already know. Abu Ghraib was no anomaly but the most visible tip of a widespread but clandestine policy. Priest reveals details about a case in which the CIA used German, Macedonian, Albanian and Afghan authorities and European air space and terminals to "render" a German citizen snatched up abroad for interrogation and torture, without any material cause.

Here's the case that's now causing a furor in Europe:

Khaled al-Masri, a German citizen resident in Ulm, Germany, went on a trip to Macedonia, was arrested by local authorities on New Year's Eve, 2003 and held for over 3 weeks in a motel. Then, he was handcuffed, blindfolded, stripped by masked men, drugged, diapered and flown to Afghanistan, on the basis of a "hunch" by a counter-terrorist chief in the CIA. The hunch was no more than the fact that Masri's name resembled that of an associate of one of the 9-11 hijackers

Masri was imprisoned for five months by Afghans and possibly Americans and claims he was tortured. A bus driver confirms that Masri was snatched up by border guards on the date he alleges; forensic analysis of his hair shows malnutrition during the time he claims he was imprisoned; flight logs confirm that a CIA front company flew a plane out of Macedonia on the day he says he was abducted.

Back in the US, Masri's passport and story held up and in May 2004, around the time when the Abu Ghraib scandal first burst into public view in America, the White House sent U.S. ambassador in Germany, Daniel R. Coats, on a special mission to German Interior Minister Schily, an ardent Bush supporter, to inform him of the error and tell him to keep the details secret should Masri go public.

Later in May, Masri claims he was visited in prison by a man he says was German, who told him that he was going to be released without documents that might confirm his story because the Americans would never admit to a mistake. He was released, flown out to Albania - Macedonia wouldn't admit him - and dumped onto a narrow country road at dusk. From there he was escorted to the international airport at Tirana by armed men and rejoined his family in Lebanon where they'd gone.

Masri's attorneys say they intend to file a lawsuit in U.S. courts this week. Neither the CIA nor the German ministry which was told about the case, is talking.

Masri's story is given support by other news pouring in from all over Europe in the last week:
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December 1: The British Guardian reports that over 300 CIA flights have landed at European airports and that CIA planes visited Germany and Britain over 200 times, if chartered flights are included. According to the NY Times, there were 94 flights in Germany, 76 in Britain, 33 in Ireland, 16 in Portugal, 15 in Spain and Czechoslovakia each and two chartered flights that made stopovers in France. French officials say they had no knowledge of the clandestine flights. If so, the flights certainly violated French sovereignty.(2)

December 2: Le Figaro in France adds that the first flight was made on March 31, 2002 by a Lear jet that stopped in Brest en route from Iceland to Turkey, via Rome. The crew was reportedly alone. The second flight, which stopped over near Paris on July 20, 2005, from Norway, was a Gulfstream III jet that landed six times at Guantanamo.(3)

December 3: Berliner Zeitung in Germany reports that CIA aircraft used European airports minimally 15 times this past year and says that America's Ramstein Air Base (Germany) was a hub for the flights between 2002 and 2004. (4)

December 4: The Council of Europe, the foremost human rights watchdog in Europe, headed by Swiss senator Dick Marty and using satellite imagery, makes its first closed door report in Paris on "black sites" in eastern Europe and the flights in Europe. Marty also cites the illegal abduction in February 2003 of accused terrorist and Egyptian cleric Abu Omar from Milan to Germany and then Egypt, where he was reportedly tortured. (5)

Human Rights Watch identifies the Kogalniceanu military airfield in Romania and Poland's Szczytno-Szymany airport as probable sites based on flight logs of the CIA aircraft between 2001 to 2004. Other airports possibly used were Palma de Majorca in Spain's Balearic Islands, Larnaca in Cyprus, and Shannon in Ireland. The CIA flight logs were analyzed by Mark Galasco, a senior military analyst with the organization who was formerly a civilian intelligence office with the Defense Intelligence Agency. Not someone who can be easily dismissed as anti-American. (6)
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Meanwhile, Poland and Romania as well as another ten nations deny having CIA facilities in their territory while Austria and Denmark are investigating US violations of their air space. There are over six investigations into flights in various countries.

To all this the White House has tried outright denial. Stephen Hadley, the National Security Advisor, told Fox News Sunday on December 4,

"... we comply with U.S. law. We respect the sovereignty of the countries with which we deal. And we do not move people around the world so that they can be tortured."

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