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CIA Secret Jails: Part 7

by soj Wed Nov 23rd, 2005 at 06:07:22 AM EST

Ok time for an update on the investigation into the CIA's network of secret jails. Links to earlier parts of this series can be found my blog (right-hand column).

I am going to translate an article from Romanian paper Evenimentul Zilei which I actually read last weekend but didn't have time to get to. It's a long one but a good one. As the translation is done by me, all errors are mine:

Romania CIA Stopover

The secret detention scandal makes us look like accomplices

The scandal about secret CIA detention centers in countries allied with the United States has intensified despite Washington's efforts to keep quiet on the subject. Even categoric denials by the countries alleged to be hosting these kinds of detention centers for alleged terrorists have been unable to ease suspicions, and the ongoing investigation could even result in sanctions for violating the Geneva Conventions on treating prisoners. Not only that, until the guilty parties are identified, there are several countries whose public perception has been injured in this scandal, including Romania, which was named by Human Rights Watch as a transfer station for CIA planes transporting prisoners.

A risky alliance

A request by the CIA to install a secret detention center was difficult for the former Communist countries to refuse, said Hungarian analyst Sebestyen Gorka, quoted by BBC News Online. Sebestyan Gorka, an expert in international security and terrorism, did not rule out the possibility that secret detention centers exist, saying that although there is no hard evidence of these kinds of jails on Hungarian or other E. European territory, the idea that the CIA would have wanted to take these kinds of steps is plausible.

"We know with certainty that the CIA and Pentagon have these kinds of centers in different parts of the world, especially in the Near East", said Sebastyen Gorka. "At the same time, the Czech government has admitted it was contacted by the CIA asking for permission to open one of these kinds of centers in its territory and it denied the request", said the expert. "Keeping in mind they do exist in other parts of the world, it's very probably that these kinds of secret jails exist also in our region, in states like Romania or Poland" said the analyst.

"If we keep in mind the attitude of the Romanian government from 2001 to now, as well as the attitude of former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski, we see that Romania and Poland, alongside Great Britain, are the two countries who have been offering solid support to America in the war against terrorism", said the analyst. "The governments of those countries have balanced helping the greatest power in the world, America, and the risks that come with that and they made their choice. This attitude brings a lot of risks," said the analyst. "Poland and Hungary were already mentioned as possible targets of a terrorist attack in an Al-Qaeda communique sent by the second highest ranking man in Osama bin Laden's network, Ayman al-Zawahiri" stated the Hungarian expert.

"The problem is if countries like ours, who were just 15 years ago under dictatorships, are prepared to commit fundamentally undemocratic acts, such as hosting secret detentions centers," said Gorka.

Romania and Poland loyal allies of the USA

A similar opinion was expressed by Arielle Thedrel in the pages of the French daily "Le Figaro" in an article entitled "Bucharest and Warsaw close collaborators with Washington". As much as Poland and Romania have denied the fact that secret CIA jails were located on their territory, the close military alliance between the United States and these two countries leads people to believe that the statements by the newspaper "The Washington Post" and Human Rights Watch are not unfounded.

Kerosene for the CIA

Former [Romanian] Defense Minister, Ioan Mircea Pascu, hints at the existance of "CIA centers" in Romania although he says it was for "stopovers or something else".

The shocking revelation of the existance of "secret CIA jails" in Romania has recently prompted repeated denials from the authorities in Bucharest. The hypothesis that these planes were staying over in Romania still has legs. Romanian officials have not given many details.

"We don't have bases", repeats Basescu

"We don't have those kind of bases for the CIA in Romania and we don't want anyone saying something like that. When people talk they should know what they're talking about", said President Traian Basescu in an interview with Euro News. Basescu reiterated his earlier statement - the Romanian authorities are willing to let journalists visit the bases at Mihail Kogalniceanu and Timisoara to clear up the situation.

The accusations by Human Rights Watch started in 2003. That's when there was the first report of a stopover by a CIA plane in Romania, coming from Afghanistan.

Interviewed by Evenimentul Zilei (EvZ), the Defense Minister at that time, Ioan Mircea Pascu, stated that there were not CIA detention centers in our country. At the [Romanian Pentagon] there was no indication that the Americans had requested one, stated the former minister.

"When an airplane of that type makes a stop over to refuel... that's something else. If there were stopovers, what's the problem? Onboard such a plane it would be American territory and if something happened, it was in violation of American law" said Pascu.

"Should they walk?!"

The former Minister said that it was normal if American planes made a stopover when they were transporting prisoners. "What are we upset about? What is the problem? That they didn't walk to Guantanamo?!"

Pascu reminded us that between the Romanian and American intelligence agencies there was an intense collaboration on a variety of issues. The former Defense Minister said that he was not too familiar with that because he only dealt with the Pentagon.

Amnesty International wants an independent investigation in Romania

Amnesty International has asked the Romanian authorities to permit an independent investigation into the alleged CIA detention centers in our country, reported Radio Romania News. The secretary of the organization [AI], Irene Kahn, affirmed that as of now the only evidence they have is about airplanes with prisoners on board who landed in different sites in Romania. "The existance of those kinds of jails is not compatible with Romania's obligation to respect international standards on human rights nor that of a country with aspirations to become a member of the EU. Because of this, it is important that Romania close any such center and permit an independent investigation to determine if such a center ever existed or no longer exists" said Irene Kahn. She also stated that the investigation will continue concerning the secret jails run by the United States around the world and Romania will be part of that investigation. Amnesty has asked the European Commission to open an investigation into the possibility of the existance of secret CIA detention centers in European [Union] countries.

Joint SRI-CIA actions

Those most familiar with the problems of working with the American intelligence organization is the SRI. The head of this organization, Radu Timofte, was decorated by the director of the CIA, George Tenet, in 2003. The head of the anti-terrorism branch, Ion Stefanut, was also given a medal. The decorations were based on the support given to America in the war against terrorism. The majority of work between these two organizations was "top secret". The organization run by Timofte has denied the existance of CIA jails in our countries. Just like the SIE, which has stated that it has no information about "the basing of any detention center on Romanian territory".

The SRI and SIE are two Romanian intelligence organizations. In the comments section (by readers) under the above article, someone wrote "yeah and I just ate garlic and my breath doesn't stink".

You can read an English-language news article on EvZ's interview here. Interestingly, on Monday Pascu went on to add that "parts of the base" were off-limits to Romanians. If you remember my speculation from earlier parts, that's exactly how such a secret detention center would've operated.

EvZ had something of a follow-up on their interview with Pascu which I will now translate:

I've got no reason not to believe the authorities"

"I want to add clarify that, since my statements were published in the article "Kerosene for the CIA" on Saturday, that concerning other authorities, I have no reason to not believe the statements made by the civil commander at Mihail Kogalniceanu airport, who spoke about the landing of airplanes as described by that airport. That being said, I have no reason to doubt the statements made by the two [Romanian] intelligence agencies, who have denied the existance of American detention centers on Romanian territory" said the former Defense Minister, Ioan Mircea Pascu.

Meanwhile the papers in Malta have put together another piece of the puzzle. I had a super hard time getting the Maltese paper's archives to load, so the Google cache is here:

The Malta Independent on Sunday can report that two of the planes known to be implicated in the practice have made stopovers in Malta.

Flights records and photographs obtained by this newspaper place two suspected CIA planes at Malta International Airport on two separate occasions – one in December 2003 and another in December 2004.

A Boeing 737, with tail number N313P, was the first to stop over in Malta, between 6 and 10 December 2003. The plane had arrived from Northolt, an RAF airfield 10 kilometres from Heathrow Airport, on 6 December 2003 and left four days later on 10 December bound for Tripoli.

A year later a second plane, a Gulfstream jet with tail number N227SV, arrived in Malta on 17 December 2004 and left later that day for Iceland, from where it flew to Washington DC. Other information, still unconfirmed, alleges the plane had arrived in Malta from Cairo.

Photos taken by Maltese plane spotters also confirm the planes’ presence in Malta. The reason behind the stopovers are, however, still unknown.

So now we've got this N313P plane in particular racking up some serious frequent flier miles. What makes this whole story odd is the tactical blunder of the CIA using civilian aircraft, because all of those landings and takeoffs were recorded in the public registers that airports keep. So once you know which registration numbers to look for, the plane's movements can be easily deduced.

The above is the BBC's map although you can see that several destinations, including Malta, are not listed.

Meanwhile a Swiss Senator named Dick Marty is heading up a European Union investigation into the matter:

"I think all Europeans agree with Americans that we must fight terrorism.... but this fight has to be fought by legal means," the Associated Press quoted him as saying.

"Wrongdoing only gives ammunition to both the terrorists and their sympathisers."

The UK Foreign Office has confirmed that Britain will be writing to the US, on behalf the EU, to clarify the reports of secret prisons, which were reportedly set up after the 11 September 2001 attacks.

Of course what's adding fuel to the fire is that the United States has still refused to deny that such jails exist or ever existed.

Tomorrow the Spanish Foreign Minister will testify to his Congress about what the government knows or knew about the possibility that Spanish airports were used by the CIA to transport prisoners.

Meanwhile The Guardian is reporting that British MP's are turning up the heat domestically:

MPs stepped up pressure on ministers yesterday to disclose details of CIA aircraft using British airfields amid reports that they have transported individuals to foreign countries where they are likely to be tortured.

Ministers are refusing to reveal any information about the "extraordinary rendition" flights despite evidence, including details of the flights, revealed in September by the Guardian. Extraordinary rendition is the practice of transferring individuals to a foreign country where they are more likely to be subjected to torture or inhumane treatment.

Ministers have shed no further light on the issue, despite a series of questions tabled by MPs, notably the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, Sir Menzies Campbell. There is evidence that a CIA Gulfstream and Boeing 737 aircraft have landed at military airfields, including RAF Northolt, west London.

Adam Ingram, the defence minister, has told Sir Menzies: "Where passengers do not leave the airfield, the MoD ... does not record details of passengers."

But he adds that the MoD maintains a record of all civil registered aircraft - such as the CIA planes - landing at military airfields.

"The British government appears to be adopting a hear no evil, see no evil policy towards this issue," Sir Menzies said yesterday.

I tried finding the record of this Parliamentary discussion, some of which is here.

There's also an unconfirmed report that a CIA plane landed in Finland on May 16, 2003 via a local paper although the current Finnish Foreign Minister, Erkki Tuomioja said they weren't aware of any CIA flights in their airspace.

Ok now let's review the U.S. State Department briefings. Here's Tuesday:

QUESTION: I have another question on a subject you don't like, the secret prison of CIA in -- with this information. You -- we were told from this podium several times that this question didn't have any impact on the transatlantic relations, but yesterday the foreign ministers of the EU met in Brussels and they decided to ask for official explanations from Washington. So don't you think it's starting to weigh on your relationship?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we -- if there are -- if there are any official requests coming from the leadership of the EU, we'll certainly take a look at those. To my knowledge, we haven't received any specific requests in that regard. In the case that we do, we'll certainly take a look at that request.

Also from Tuesday:

QUESTION: Mr. McCormack, anything to say about U.S. secret detention facilities in Europe since Human Rights Watch last Friday with an extensive statement is claiming also that U.S. planes transferred prisoners, have repeatedly landed at airports in Greece and Cyprus, too?

MR. MCCORMACK: Don't have anything for you on that.

So more "no information" statements. I'm starting to wonder what the point is of having a spokesperson who doesn't have anything to say about the official actions of the U.S. State Department!

There was nothing relevant to this subject in Monday's or Friday's briefing.

And so the investigation continues...


Reports of CIA related planes have been denied by the Finnish Civil Aviation Authority today. The quoted media instance of a US Hercules landing on 16th May 2003 was refuted as:

a) It was manifested as carrying freight
b) It does not belong to the list of planes seen elsewhere

I would also add a personal observation that it is a huge plane - hardly the thing for flying around a handful of prisoners (though that's what they may want us to think!)

news report in Finnish for yr files:

http://www.iltasanomat.fi/uutiset/sahkeet/Ilmailulaitos%3A+CIA%3An+Suomen%2Dlennoista+ei+ole+n%E4ytt %F6%E4/1087358

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Nov 23rd, 2005 at 07:28:20 AM EST
Thanks Sven... Wayne Madsen tends to be of the tinfoil brigade much of the time but it was a report worth chasing down.

Looks like we've got GB, Spain, Italy, Poland, Greece, Malta, Sweden, Romania, Czech Republic, Hungary and Macedonia on the list of countries with potential CIA w/prisoner landings.

I'm still waiting for someone to leak the countries where people were detained on the ground.  


Night and day you can find me Flogging the Simian

by soj on Wed Nov 23rd, 2005 at 09:47:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Add the Netherlands to that list: Dutch plain spotters report CIA planes at Amsterdam Schiphol airport. The Dutch foreign minister has said he's looking into it, but can't confirm or deny.
by Indrah on Wed Nov 23rd, 2005 at 01:07:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks Indrah.. I also forgot Portugal from the above list (at least two confirmed landings).


Night and day you can find me Flogging the Simian

by soj on Wed Nov 23rd, 2005 at 02:08:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Update: it's not over yet. Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja not happy with answers. Says Civil Aviation Authority doesn't have info to state that the Hercules not part of rendition. Says it is a very serious matter and will be wanting answers from US. Finnish secret police SUPO is on the case.

The Hercules, while not on the list of plane registrations that have visited other countries, has visited Finland several times and plane spotters have the photo evidence. Hercules logoed as Prescott (a suspected CIA front company) and owned by another company whose only address is a lawyers office in the States.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Nov 24th, 2005 at 07:29:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the wake of the Afghan war, it has become a (bad) habit to get some captives in a container sort of cell. Then you move the container around the world if you want... No heavily armed guards, just a few "contractors" looking after the precious container in a hangar designed just for that, containers!

So big planes (cargo) should be what those "experts" would rely on !

Just a guess... Meaning that small planes are less discreet then big ones and  the "cargo" side of airports is usually not public...!

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Wed Nov 23rd, 2005 at 05:24:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A request by the CIA to install a secret detention center was difficult for the former Communist countries to refuse, said Hungarian analyst Sebestyen Gorka, quoted by BBC News Online. Sebestyan Gorka, an expert in international security and terrorism,

Oh, a faint warning, Sebestyén Gorka is more a nut than an expert. (Not that that changes anything about what he said, he just states the obvious.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Nov 23rd, 2005 at 05:02:57 PM EST

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