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

CIA Secret Jails: Part 8

by soj Fri Nov 25th, 2005 at 03:53:22 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 at my blog (right-hand column).

We'll start with some translated articles. Yesterday the Spanish Foreign Minister testified in front of Congress on the issue.

Article comes from El Pais. As always, since the translation is mine, all errors are entirely mine:

The Government Announces It Will Investigate Suspected CIA Flights

Moratinos seems convinced that no crimes were committed on Spanish territory

Yesterday the Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, seemed convinced that the airplanes supposedly used by the CIA to transfer prisoners did not do anything of a criminal nature on Spanish territory, but he announced that, "in an immediate fashion", the "investigation, follow-up and vigilance" will be redoubled concerning this issue. The minister gave the Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs a list of suspected flights that included the landing in the Canary Islands of a Gulfstream IV that came from Guantanamo (Cuba) with a destination of Bucharest (Romania) in April 2004.

"The government is convinced, based on the results of the investigation, that all of the flights under the aegis of the Cooperation Covenant for Defense between Spain and the United States were done in accordance with the law", stated the minister.

He expressed the same conviction concerning the landing of American civilian planes that "were not just refueling landings", effectively referring to nearly all of the flights that landed in Son Sant Joan (Palma de Mallorca) and one in Los Rodeos (Santa Cruz de Tenerife).

In contrast, that leaves 46 flights to Tenerife by two Gulfstreams between June 2003 and September 2004. "The prosecutor's office has opened an investigation to dissipate any doubts, including in relation to those refueling stops which lasted less than two hours", he added.

As Luis Mardones has remarked on behalf of the PP to the government, the most suspicious flight was made by a plane coming from the base in Guantanamo (Cuba), where the United States keeps some 500 alleged members of Al-Qaeda in illegal detainment, before flying to Bucharest on April 12, 2004. "This is not a route offered by travel agencies," warned the representative of the Canary Coalition.

Moratinos stated that "the government has requested and obtained the guarantee of the authorities in the United States, a friend and allied country, in that, as far as they know, there has not been any breach of Spanish laws by airplanes operated by them".

When the spokesperson of the IU [party], Gaspar Llamazares, reminded him that the airplane which presumably kidnapped a German citizen in Skopje (Macedonia) in January 2004 left the day before from Mallorca, he [Moratinos] said he was unable to determine if the crew of that plane had committed a crime in another country and added furthermore that if that were the case, it would be up to the authorities in that country to press charges.

Although the suspected airplanes are registered to private companies, Moratinos indicated during his testimony that they were actually used by the government of the United States; probably the CIA.

Thus he included "the flights which landed in the Balearic Islands and some of those which landed in the Canary Islands" in the category of "flights contracted by public powers whose objective were not to carry out public acts". Those flights he explained fell under the Chicago Convention of 1944 and thus had free access to Spanish airports without needing prior authorization. But this covenant, he added, gives member states the right to control and inspect flights.

"In an immediate fashion, the government will adopt the decision to reinforce control over civilian flights that overfly or land on Spanish territory with the objective of guaranteeing the civilian nature of those flights and to put into place the most exhaustive verification procedures concerning the interior of those airplanes", he said.

The spokesperson of the PP [party], Gustavo de Aristegui, emphasized the different tone of statements issued by the ministers of the Interior and Defense, Jose Antonio Alonso and Jose Bono. However Moratinos stated that he was speaking "on behalf of the entire government and with all the information the government has available".

Not withstanding that, repeated efforts by the MP's for him [Moratinos] to explain the information that the intelligence agency CNI had and what they did with regard to their counterparts at the CIA ended with the same response. "The CNI has not detected any type of irregular activity in the transit of airplanes", he read over and over, without hiding the fact that he was reading from a paper they wrote.

Moratinos proclaimed that "terrorism will only be defeated by the most scrupulous respect of the law and human rights, strictly obeying the law", a statement which every political group was in agreement with. Moratinos explained that the problem has become a European one, to the point where the European Union Council of Minister had decided on November 21 to have the British presidency formally petition the [American] State Department.

"Because of the wider implications, we must all ask our colleague and American friend for the most transparency and information so that there can be no criminal acts committed on our territory," he stated.

The minister rejected accusations of passivity, explaining that the government had asked the American Embassy last March for explanations, when the first reports were appearing in the press, and that Spain was the only country with an open judicial investigation into the flights, and that the open cases in Germany and Italy are concerning kidnapping.

"It is not helpful to say that no crime has been committed. It is that very issue that is being investigated," Llamazares told him. "What I am saying is that we do not consider that any criminal acts have occurred based on the information we have today", he responded.

In summation, it looks like the political parties in Spain are holding the government's feet to the fire, which is a good thing. As a reminder, the CNI is an intelligence agency that's part of the Department of Defense.

It definitely looks like there will be follow-ups in this case in Spain.

You can read about Spain and the USA's mutual defense pact here (PDF). The Chicago Convention refers to civilian flights and I provided a link above.

Oh and I am the one who bolded the line above about the illegality of Guantanamo Bay. El Pais is a centrist paper and that goes a long way to show the attitude in Spain towards that facility.

Switching gears, today's Jurnalul National has an interview with the feisty former Romanian Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu.

As always, all errors in translation are entirely mine:

Ioan Mircea Pascu - Political Stakes in the CIA Scandal

The former Defense Minister, Ioan Mircea Pascu, categorically denies, in an interview with Jurnalul National, the existance of any CIA detention center on Romanian territory. He said us a lot of information which has appeared concerning this issue illustrates the internal political fighting going on in the USA.

JN: Mr. Ioan Mircea Pascu, as former Defense Minister, please clarify your position to us concerning the CIA flights with detainees on board, about which you've spoken so much.

IMP: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to state my real position. In the last few days, my name was mentioned in connection with this subject. I have said from the beginning that this issue was never discussed in CSAT [Romanian Pentagon]. As the two intelligence agencies have stated, some kind of detention center has not existed and does not exist on Romanian territory. I am not calling into question the statement of the commander of the Mihail Kogalcineanu Airport, who stated that no airplane with the registration numbers mentioned in the press ever landed there. Furthermore the Defense Department has confirmed the statement. Also, the European Parliament has been involved, denying the reports which have been circulating in the international press.

JN: Some have said that your earlier statements undermined the denials by the Romanian authorities. What's really going on?

IMP: Unfortunately, my ability to speak in detail on the subject was exploited. My statements were used in a selective manner, giving the false impression that I have doubts about the denials given by the Romanian authorities. My support for the official Romanian position was never mentioned because the journalist in question considered them... irrelevant. In another case it was stated that I visited the Kolganiceanu airport after the American troops left and that a certain zone of the airport was completely off-limits to Romanian authorities. This was taken to mean that my statement, saying at the airport there was no other kinds of activities besides military ones, has no value, concerning when I was there after the Americans left. And my statement that at the airport there was an area with restrictive access meant that... it was impossible for Romanian authorities to enter there. It's not true!

JN: Have you done anything to correct these distortions?

IMP: Yes, although when you are alone and don't receive any support from some institutions it is difficult to swim against the current. And when you're not in the country it's even harder. Nontheless I have successfully to publish a reply, in which I state in black in white that I associate myself with the official Romanian statements. In the other case however, I am afraid I have not had the same success. Some foreign journalists have asked for my real opinion about these things and I have been able to dissipate the fog created about my statements which have, it seems, caused quite a stir.

JN: What do you think is behind this whole story?

IMP: Personally, I think that this whole thing can be put in the context that in the USA there is a divisive internal political struggle, exactly because on this issue, Poland has not yet consolidated its position in the EU, Romania is on track to becoming a member will full rights, and also, that there are signs that the Kolganiceanu Airport will be included in the infrastructure used by the USA in the war against terrorism.

So basically Pascu is mostly denying the characterization of his interview with EvZ last weekend, which you can find in earlier parts of this series.

Pascu's statement about political infighting in the USA actually reads "fighting at bayonet point", meaning an extremely sharp and divisive struggle. So Pascu is attributing the CIA story to propaganda. What's interesting is that the main CIA flight under suspicion landed in Bucharest, not Kogalniceanu (which is near Constanta).

Pascu is currently a Senator in the Romanian parliament and my guess is that at least part of his "correction" interview with JN is to close ranks with his party. Romania desperately wants to join the EU and all the parties hate the fact that Romania has been named by Human Rights Watch as probably hosting one of these secret CIA bases.

Meanwhile it looks like Austria is getting involved as well:

A CIA plane allegedly carrying suspected terrorist captives flew through Austria's airspace in 2003, the air force said yesterday as the country joined a flurry of investigations stretching from Scandinavia to Spain.

Bulgarian officials yesterday denied media reports that CIA aircraft allegedly landed at the Sarafovo airport near the Black Sea port of Burgas, and Portugal's Communist Party renewed its demand for the government to clarify similar reports.

Denmark said it would ask US authorities for details about the alleged transport of detainees on planes said to be used by the CIA over Danish territory.

The Pentagon will not disclose what countries the US military might fly over ''or make brief refueling stops in during detainee movements . . . [because] doing so would constitute a safety risk to both the detainees and our troops," said a spokesman, Navy Lieutenant Commander Joe Carpenter.

In Austria, air force commander Major General Erich Wolf told state radio that the flight in question -- a C-130 Hercules transport plane that took off from Frankfurt, Germany, and headed to Azerbaijan -- crossed Austrian airspace on Jan. 21, 2003.

Austria's army scrambled fighter jets to make contact with the plane's pilot but did not suspect anything wrong at the time, and the government lodged no diplomatic protests, Wolf said.

Since then, however, Austrian authorities have found reason to believe the flight was transporting captives, Wolf added.

He did not elaborate.

Peter Pilz, an official in charge of security issues for Austria's Green Party, criticized the military's handling of the incident, contending that sending up the jets and taking no further action amounted to providing an ''honor escort" for the CIA plane.

Pilz accused the government and the Defense Ministry of ''tolerating and playing down the illegal actions of the United States."

Josef Cap, floor leader in parliament for the opposition Social Democratic Party, called for a meeting of Austria's national Security Council to determine whether the politically neutral nation's airspace was violated by CIA overflights.

So we've got Sweden and Norway possibly opening a full investigation and politicians in Portugal and Austria demanding one. And Iceland and Denmark are "asking" the USA if anything happened.

Looks like Poland's new government is getting involved too:

Polish prime minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz today said that reports of the CIA using his country’s airports to transfer terror suspects were worth investigating.

Marcinkiewicz said he had no information from Polish authorities that “any unnecessary episodes” had taken place in Poland.

“I have no information from the Polish services which would lead to the belief that there were any unnecessary episodes in Poland,” said Marcinkiewicz, after talks in London with Prime Minister Tony Blair.

“Any rumour should of course be checked and this is of course worth checking,” he said.

Considering Poland is one of the countries named by HRW, and that Poland is a full member of the EU, they must be under a lot of pressure to either clear or confirm this. However it looks like most of that pressure is coming from outside the country.

The Council of Europe is opening a "formal inquiry" but it has until February 21, 2006 to finish the investigation.

What's interesting about the Austria case is that it involves a Hercules cargo plane, which matches the report about a plane landing in Vantaa, Finland. However so far as I can tell, the Finns are saying that the plane which landed in that country was unconnected to the CIA.

Because of Thanksgiving, there haven't been any State Department briefings since November 22, so nothing new there.

The Portuguese press is all abuzz over this as well. It looks like some politicians there want Paulo Portas, the former Defense Minister, to clarify what may have happened. My Portuguese language skills are quite abysmal but here is a partial translation of a Correio de Manha article:

Jorge Machado, of the PP party, identified via the internet a Boeing 737-7ET, with registration number N4476S, photographed in the airport at Santa Maria on April 14, 2005, as well as a Learjet plane (registration number N221SG), also photographed at the same airport on August 12.

Focus magazine's report recorded a "Gulfstream IV with registration N227SV" in Tires. Freitas and Amado have denied the existance of secret flights in Portugal.

And another Correio de Manha article:

An airplane used by the American intelligence agency (CIA) to transport terrorism suspects landed last April in the Francisco Sa Carneiro airport, in Porto, which if proven would be in contradiction to the denials given by the government concerning the landing of these types of flights in Portugal.

According to a report in Thursday's "Jornal de Noticias", there are photographs which prove the existance of CIA planes in our country to transport suspected terrorists to illegal detention centers in Europe and Asia. As proof, the newspaper printed a photograph of a Boeing 737-7ET BBJ, registration number N4476S, landing at Sa Carneiro airport on April 17, 2005.

This report by the JN appears one day after Focus magazine reported on CIA planes transporting suspected terrorists to Portuguese airports before the current government, on March 12, contradicted the statements given by the Foreign Minister, Freitas do Amaral, who denied the reports.

This follows an earlier statement by the Foreign Ministry that no CIA planes had landed in Portugal "with the authorization or knowledge of the Portuguese government".

Focus magazine also had a photograph of a Hercules C-130 (see Austria and Finland above) with registration N2189M landing in the Lajes airport at the end of March, a CASA CN235 "of Spanish manufacture" with registration N187D landing in Santa Maria and an identical plane with reg. N219D landing in Terceira the next day.

The CASA plane is interesting because it now means that four types of planes were allegedly used - two huge C-130 cargo planes, two CASA propeller planes, two Boeing 737's and two Gulfstream IV's.

Focus is also saying that the C-130 which landed in Finland (May 16, 2003) had registration number N8213G.

It looks like I need to make a chart of which planes with which registration numbers allegedly landed where, just to keep track of all of this.

The investigation continues...


Dutch Minister Bot Needs Proper Answers from U.S. State Dep't

THE HAGUE Nov. 24 -- When CIA-prisons and detainee abuse in Europe is proven to be true, the Dutch will reconsider their participation in Enduring Freedom by its special forces in Afghanistan.

FM Bernhard Bot made this statement in parliament Thursday morning. The State of the Netherlands has formally requested a clarification from the chargé d'affaires of the U.S. Embassy in The Hague earlier this week. A possible use of Schiphol Airport for the spook transport of prisoners by the CIA has been put forward for answers.

The 'consequences' FM Bot referred to, is possible suspension of Dutch Special Forces operation under U.S. Command in Afghanistan. Participation of an extension within NATO to the Afghan province of Uruzgan within the ISAF contingent, may also be at stake.

The Dutch right-wing partner in the coalition, VVD Liberal Conservatives, already criticized the suggestion by VP Dick Cheney to make an exception for torture by the CIA in Iraq or Afghanistan.

For the new ISAF-mission in Uruzgan, the United Kingdom and Canada have committed forces and Dutch troops are following special training assignments in preparation, and Minister of Defense Kamp has been an advocate for Dutch participation.

Minister Bernhard Bot as Foreign Minister has the possibility to veto the commitment when the U.S. cannot provide adequate information and when the peace and security mission of the Dutch forces under ISAF interferes with the military operation Enduring Freedom.

The Dutch cabinet has requested written promises of the Afghan government, that prisoners handed over by the Dutch will be treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, will not be tortured during interrogation and cannot receive a death sentence.

LEAVE Iraq to the Iraqis

"Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason?
For if it prosper, none dare call it treason."

▼ ▼ ▼ MY DIARY

'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Fri Nov 25th, 2005 at 04:49:34 AM EST
Le Monde has a picture (in yesterday's edition) of a C-130 on the Romanian airport of Kogalniceanu. The number on the tail (not sure if it's the registration) is RS 271 (with AF70 is smaller letters).

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Nov 25th, 2005 at 07:01:10 AM EST

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