Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Secret CIA Bases In Europe: Part 3

by soj Tue Nov 15th, 2005 at 12:28:13 PM EST

As part of the ongoing revelations about possible CIA secret prisons all over Europe, I will now translate a few things, this time from Spanish. As luck would have it, the CIA happens to have used countries who speak the same languages I do!

The first one, from the peerless El Pais. Again, all translations done by me, therefore all errors are mine. Image says "route of alleged CIA flights":

Alonso Warns of Cnsequences with the Relationship with the USA Because of Alleged CIA Flights

The Interior Minister, Jose Antonio Alonso, has stated today that judges must investigate the possible existance of American flights with terrorists onboard heading to jails in other countries which originated in Spain, in reference to the report published today in El Pais. Alonso has clarified that Spain's security forces, specifically the Guardia Civil, have done their jobs and that the case is now "in the hands of the judge". In any event, he did confirm that the issue consists of "grave and untolerable incidents" which may break relationships between countries and may have violated Spanish law.

That is what the minister said during an interview on Telecinco when he was asked about the alleged existance of several American CIA flights to jails in other countries, which may have originated in Spain, specifically in Palma de Mallorca. The Defense Minister, Jose Bono, also spoke about this on Cadena SER. Bono confirmed that the government has "no evidence" of any "criminal act" and denied that the CNI [the military's intelligence division] had asked the CIA to not use Spanish airports for the transfer of illegally detained people, as El Pais has reported today.

These flights, 10 in total, came to light in a report submitted by the Guardia Civil last June to the Superior Court in Balearas as part of a lawsuit headed up by the Mallorca lawyer Ignasi Ribas. This lawsuit states that the CIA had used the airport of Son San Joan [in Palma de Mallorca] as a base to transfer those suspected of Islamic terrorism, and is based on press reports.

The Guardia Civil, besides confirming the existance of these flights, the first of which landed in Palma [de Mallorca] on January 22, 2004, stated that the four airplanes used were registered in the United States, under the shell company named Stevens Express Leasing, a company listed in the New York Times as being a front for the CIA to transport alleged terrorists.

Besides this, the Guardia Civil concluded that there were no concrete evidence of criminal activity and that they "do not know what the occupants [of the planes] were doing". The court in Baleares closed the case soon after the lawsuit, but the judge Antonio Garcia Sansaloni decided last October to submit the case to the AudienciaNacional for jurisdictional reasons.

Couple of technical notes because the Spanish law enforcement and judicial system is different than in America. The Guardia Civil is something akin to the FBI, in terms of the fact that it is a national police and also does anti-terrorism work. The "court in Baleares" refers to the prosecutor's office specifically.

The Audiencia Nacional is a special court that is nationwide (as opposed to having just jurisdiction over a particular territory) and handles the "bigger issue" crimes such as terrorism and genocide, even outside Spain itself. For more information on the kinds of cases it handles, including Pinochet's, see here.

Here's a second article on the subject appearing in today's El Pais:

The Investigation Discovers That On the CIA Flights Were Dozens of Occupants with Diplomatic Status

On June 10, 2005, the Guardia Civil submitted to the Superior Court in Baleares its investigation into 10 flights, allegedly used by CIA agents, which were based in the airport of Palma de Mallorca. The investigation identified the airplanes used. One of them was the same one that the United States used to transport alleged terrorist prisoners from Libya to Guantanamo (Cuba), and another landed in Baghdad (Iraq) the same day of Saddam Hussein's capture. The Guardia Civil also identified the occupants, the majority of whom had "diplomatic status".

Several months ago, a group of citizens, headed up by the Mallorca lawyer Ignasi Ribas, filed a lawsuit for the alleged crimes of illegal detention, kidnapping and torture related to the planes which were based in the airport of Son Sant Joan (Palma de Mallorca). The lawsuit stated that the CIA had used this airport as a base of operation for planes that were used as flying prisons to kidnap and transfer suspected Islamic terrorists to countries where torture is used in interrogation.

The court gave the Guardia Civil a report about the said flights based on reports published in the Diario de Mallorca [newspaper]. The lawsuit, filed on March 14, 2005, was given to the Colonel [highest-ranking officer] of the Guardia Civil in Baleares to open an investigation.

The report listed four airplanes, two Boeing 747's with registration numbers N313P and N4476S, and two Gulfstreams with registration numbers N8068 and N85VM. Between January 22, 2004 an January 17, 2005, these four airplanes flew in and out of Palma de Mallorca on at least 10 occasions.

These operations, according to the Guardia Civil's report, were "verified by the general aviation terminal as being private flights".

The first flight analyzed corresponded to a Boeing 747 which left Algiers on January 22, 2004. A day later, it left Palma de Mallorca with the destination of Macedonia. There it allegedly picked up the German Khaled el Masri [note: click on link for my story on him] and transferred him to a secret jail in Kabul. The Munich prosecutor's office has investigated the incident.

The Guardia Civil also analyzed the ownership of the airplanes and discovered that one of the Boeing's was registered in the United States and was owned by Keeler and Tate Management. All of the services used at the airport [in Mallorca] by this airplane were done in the name of a company called Jeppesen Dataplan, registered in California as a company specializing in "handling services, airport and overflight rights".

The Guardia Civil also discovered that the "front company" of three of the four airplanes was Stevens Express Leasing, one of the companies that according to the New York Times was used by the CIA for kidnapping alleged terrorists of Islamic origin.

Another fact discovered by the Guardia Civil has to do with the company that asked the "handling" company Assistair to clean the airplane with registration number N85VM. This was Air Routing International, based in Houston. This plane was then used by the American company Richmon Aviation.

The Guardia Civil's investigation also managed to identify the occupants of the planes, at least by determining who was registered in the Gran Melia Victoria and Son Antem Llucmajor Marriot hotels. Up to 50 American citizens boarded the said planes and were registered at those hotels. The majority of them, according to the Guardia Civil's report, had a passport number "beginning with 900". The investigators then deduced that this referred to people with "diplomatic status".

No Criminal Activity

The Guardia Civil's report concluded that there was no evidence of criminal activity conducted by the persons who arrived in the alleged CIA planes during their stay in Palma de Mallorca. As for the private flights, they "know nothing about what the occupants did onboard". The Guardia Civil, in their report, stated that the workers for the handling companies at the Son Sant Joan airport who entered the airplanes "did not notice any structural changes in the airplanes" or anything amiss.

The prosecutor's office left the lawsuit open because, although the Guardia Civil's investigation established the presence of the airplanes, they could not connect them to the CIA or any illegal acts.

The judge Antonio Garcia Sansaloni decided last October to move the case up to the Audiencia Nacional so there would be no jurisdictional issues.

Right now there are open cases ongoing in Italy and Germany about the alleged participation of CIA agents in illegal kidnappings of various citizens. The list of CIA agents which participated in those illegal kidnappings does not match the names of the occupants of the flights which flew in and out of Palma de Mallorca.

Then there's a graph listing all the known flights that took off or landed in Palma de Mallorca. I note that at least one flight to Mallorca came in from Bucharest, Romania.

Via the EU Observer:

The European Commission rejected MEPs' calls for a formal and in-depth investigation into alleged CIA prisons on EU territory, claiming it has no competency for such a move.

Speaking before the European Parliament on Monday (14 November), justice commissioner Franco Frattini said the commission had seen "no evidence" for allegations that the US intelligence branch, the CIA, has detained top Al Qaeda suspects somewhere in eastern Europe.

But commissioner Frattini shrugged off MEPs' calls for a thorough investigation into the matter, after several parliamentarians had called for more action from the EU executive.

Mr Frattini said the only thing the commission could do was to continue its "ongoing dialogue" with member states, NGOs, and the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, which started its own investigation last week.

A formal commission enquiry into the matter is "not authorised by the [EU] treaty," the commissioner said, explaining that the commission could not be compared to a national prosecutor that could seek information.

"We are in a position to put questions, but can we seize classified files of the CIA? No, sorry, that is not possible," he said.

However, the commissioner used strong language to say that if the reports were proved true, the European states concerned would face grave consequences.

"Were these events to have occurred, then clearly this would constitute a grave infringement of the values and rules of the European Union," he stated.

"Such a serious breach…may lead to serious political sanctions to be taken against a member state of the European Union," the commissioner added.

Via The Local, an English daily paper in Sweden:

At least two planes used by America's CIA have landed at Swedish airports, according to research by news agency TT. Arlanda, Örebro, Sturup and Bromma airports have all hosted the intelligence organisation's aircraft.

One of them has been at the prison base in Guantanamo.

Similar reports have come from Iceland, Norway, Denmark and the Baltic states. It is not known in what capacity the planes were in Sweden but they were mentioned in a news report which revealed how the CIA organises transport of prisoners.

On 9th September this year a Raytheon Hawker 800XP, a mid-size business jet which normally takes 6-8 passengers, with the registration number N168BF, landed at Sturup.

It is unclear how long it stayed at the Malmö airport, but it is known that the plane entered Danish airspace at 10.47am on the same day and that the destination was Farnborough airport in the UK.

It is also unclear where the plane came from. It was not previously linked with the CIA but it is owned by a company which has other planes used by the intelligence organisation.

In June 2002 another plane, with the registration number N50BH, landed at Arlanda, then touched down at Örebro airport for two days before continuing to Keflavik in Iceland with thirteen passengers. The details came from a source with access to the airport's traffic logs.

The same plane showed up in Norwegian airspace as recently as a month ago, according to Norway's media. And according to American reports, the plane has landed at least seven times at the Guantanamo base in Cuba.

Icelandic-language report here. Swedish-language report here.

And finally another report from El Pais. Again, the CNI is analogous to America's DIA:

The CNI Asked Spanish Territory Not To Be Used

Before last summer, authorities of the CNI asked their counterparts in the CIA to not use Spanish territory to transfer illegal detainees, according to what government sources told El Pais.

This request was made before last March when the public reports were issued about airplanes used by the American spy agency took off from Son Sant Joan (Palma de Mallorca), flights which there are similar reports about taking off in the Canary Islands.

According to the sources, the CIA never officially recognized its connection to these flights although the Spanish intelligence agencies had no doubt about it. The CIA's mediators, said the same sources, took note of the Spanish position against these flights and the warning of any incident related to them (such as a health emergency or death of an irregular passenger), which could lead to a diplomatic incident between the two countries.

Izquiera Unida [the ruling political party in Spain] has requested the testimony in Congress of the Defense and Interior Ministers, Jose Bono and Jose Antonio Alonso, to explain why the CIA's airplanes used the airport at Son San Joan (Palma de Mallorca) and two other airfields.

The Interior Minister, in a parliamentary response, stated that the reports about the CIA using airplanes to move kidnapped people were "unaccredited acts and that still" there was "no certainty" [that they took place].

Well that's enough for now. Italy and Germany are conducting their own reports and so I'm sure this story won't die soon, contrary to my earlier expectations.

Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.


I noticed on the BBC an article:
Spain probes 'secret CIA flights'

I found a list of the planes in a forum at airliners.net

The list is in a JPEG format and I'll list it below:

"now this is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." W. Churchill

by Thor Heyerdahl (thor.heyerdahl@NOSPAMgmail.com) on Tue Nov 15th, 2005 at 03:35:07 PM EST
Izquiera Unida [the ruling political party in Spain]
The ruling party is the Socialist Party (PSOE). United Left is a small coalition to the left of the Socialists, whose only major member is the Communist Party.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 15th, 2005 at 03:59:28 PM EST
Gosh.. I'm hanging my head in shame.  I KNEW that! Sheesh.. thanks!


Night and day you can find me Flogging the Simian

by soj on Wed Nov 16th, 2005 at 01:26:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You could edit your diary too...

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Nov 16th, 2005 at 05:39:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]