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CIA Secret Flights: Part 16

by soj Thu Dec 15th, 2005 at 05:11:29 AM EST

Ok folks, time for Part 16 of my Secret CIA Jails series. Links to earlier parts can be found on the right-hand column of ye olde blog.

First up, an article from Tuesday's El Pais newspaper. As always, the translation is mine and therefore all errors are mine:

Moratinos Says When He Testified To Congress, He Was Unaware of the CIA Flight in Barcelona

Yesterday [Monday], Miguel Angel Moratinos said the government was unaware of the landing in Barcelona, at the end of October, of a CIA flight that left for Azerbaijan via Istanbul (Turkey). The minister explained the government's absence of information concerning this during his testimony to Parliament on November 24. "I gave all the information the Government had at the time," said the chief of Spanish diplomacy [i.e. the Foreign Minister] during his arrival at Brussels to attend a meeting with his counterparts in the EU. "We had no information at the time, that's why I did not speak of it", he said.

The plane, a DHC-8 with registration number N-505LL, arrived in Barcelona in the early hours of October 29 coming from Punta Delgada (Azores Islands, Portugal). It was parked in the cargo zone of the airport El Prat de Llobregat [Barcelona] until the early afternoon hours of October 31, when it left for Istanbul. During its stay in Barcelona, the airplane and its crew were taken care of by the handling firm Euroservice, which took care of its arrival and take-off papers and the hosting of the crew, reports Gloria Ayuso.

Moratinos testified in November before the Committee on Foreign Affairs in Congress about the dozens of suspected flights that landed in the Balearic and Canary Islands, and did not speak of the flight which landed in El Prat because, according to what he said yesterday, he was unaware of it. Moratinos said that the 1944 Chicago Convention on civilian air flights states that civilian flights "can land if there is no suspicion or indication of illegal activity".

Before now there were not, according to what the Justice Minister, Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar said yesterday. He alluded to the United States, saying "Spain has no reason to not trust the testimony of a friendly nation". Moratinos said however that he has "reinforced the controls and inspections on these types of aircraft".

He is applying Article 10 of the Chicago Convention, which states that "all aircraft which enter a member State, if the rules of the State so say, and land on an airport in the said State may be examined by the customs department and other authorities".

Committee for Secrets

For his part, the Secretary General of the Equerra Catalan Republic (ERC), Joan Puigcercos, yesterday asked that the Congressional Commitee on Official Secrets meet to receive information about the CIA flight which landed in Barcelona on its way to Baku (Azerbaijan). "We cannot tolerate these kinds of trips, if that is what's happened", he said.

For his part, the coordinator of the United Left, Gaspar Llamazares, requested that the cases underway in the Baleares be immediately transferred to the Audiencia Nacional and requested that the United States be called on to provide information about the identity of the passengers and the objective of the flights.

So there you go... and it does seem like Llamazares is doing his utmost best to make some political hay out of this, which is keeping the heat on in Madrid. Definitely good in terms of we, the public, learning about what might have happened in or via Spanish territory.

Yesterday Britain's The Guardian had a bombshell article on its front page:

CIA prisoners in Europe were apparently abducted and moved between countries illegally, possibly with the aid of national secret services who did not tell their governments, according to the first official report on the so-called "renditions" scandal. Dick Marty, a Swiss senator investigating allegations of secret CIA prisons for the Council of Europe, said that he did not think the US was still holding prisoners in Europe, but had probably moved them to north Africa last month.

Mr Marty said in a statement after a Paris meeting of the council that his information so far "reinforces the credibility of the allegations concerning the transfer and temporary detention of individuals, without any judicial involvement, in European countries". The council has set its 46 members a three-month deadline to reveal what they know about the transfers. Mr Marty said that if it was proved that European governments knew the renditions process, involving flying terrorist suspects to secret interrogation centres, was going on, they "would stand accused of having seriously breached their human rights obligations to the Council of Europe".

Yesterday in his interim report the Swiss senator criticised the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, for refusing to confirm or deny allegations, first published in the Washington Post last month, that the CIA maintained secret prisons in Europe, "The rapporteur ... deplores the fact that no information or explanation had been provided on this point by Ms Rice during her visit to Europe," he said.

The US state department said Ms Rice had no specific response to Mr Marty. A spokesman, Justin Higgins, said: "The secretary has made numerous statements on this issue and on these allegations starting when she departed for Europe on December 5 and on her various stops in Ukraine, Romania, Germany and Belgium, and she's said all she wants to say on this subject for the time being."

The senator said he believed European secret services had collaborated over the flights well beyond exchanges of information. "I think it would have been difficult for these actions to have taken place without a degree of collaboration," he said. "But it is possible that secret services did not inform their governments."

I saw Mr. Marty on television the other day and although he speaks in French, even I could tell that the guy is on fire. The Council of Europe has no ability to impose penalties or sanctions on any EU member state which may have participated in the secret jails network, but it can put the media spotlight on any culprits it finds.

Marty's entire statement can be found here (in English). I'm telling you, this guy is on the freaking case, there's no doubt about it.

Meanwhile the British government continues to deny any knowledge (or "evidence") that any rendition flights took place via the UK.

Switching over to Germany, yesterday the Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, testified in front of the Bundestag (Parliament):

During Bundestag hearings on Wednesday, the German government denied any involvement in the alleged CIA abductions of suspected terrorists, but not all parliamentarians were convinced.

The German authorities played no role in the alleged abduction of Khaled el Masri, a German man of Lebanese descent seized in Macedonia and held for five months in Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Wednesday.

"The German government, the Federal Intelligence Agency, the Federal Criminal Police Office and the Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution provided no assistance in the abduction of the German citizen Masri," Steinmeier said in a speech addressing the Bundestag.

The German parliament was seeking to establish how much the German government knew about a suspected CIA policy of abducting and illegally transporting terror suspects across Europe.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries were questioned by lawmakers behind closed doors before the parliamentary debate.

During the debate, Schäuble confirmed for the first time that his predecessor, Otto Schily, had been informed about the kidnapping by then US Ambassador to Germany Dan Coats in summer 2004. Coats said the US had apologized to el Masri and paid him some money, according to Schäuble.

Numerous German newspapers quoted el Masri's lawyer as saying that his client had not received any payment.

Zypries said the German justice ministry first learned about the Masri case in June 2004. According to the justice ministry, the German attorney general's office later decided against an investigation, because evidence of a politically motivated crime was insufficient.

"We did everything that was needed for a process governed by the rule of law," Zypries said.

The public prosecutor's office in Munich is currently investigating the case.

Since it was behind closed doors, we'll never know exactly what the government told the parliament, but it seems like the FDP party is not convinced that they got the whole truth. And poor old Masri, that guy's story is looking ever more credible. For my full story on his ordeal, see here. I was on that story back in January, nearly a year ago, but of course it takes a while for the mainstream press to catch up to FTS.

Meanwhile Germany's Stern magazine has reported that it is increasingly likely one of the secret prisons was located in Poland:

In its edition to be published Thursday, the magazine reports that a closed off "inner zone" had been set up within the Polish military training centre at Stare Kiejkuty in northeastern Mazuria.

Not even the regular Polish secret service staff had access to this area, which was reserved for the U.S..

The report cited a high-ranking Polish secret service officer from Kiejkuty as saying that U.S. personnel had been stationed at the base for about five or six years, with staff remaining for several months each.

The 100-metre-long and 50-metre-wide inner zone was fenced off the remaining camp by barbed wire and a wall three metres high. The camp itself was about three kilometres long and 1.5 kilometres wide, the report said.

Both the human rights organization Human Rights Watch and Polish media have repeatedly referred to Stare Kiejkuty as the possible location of a secret CIA prison.

The village is remote but only 20 kilometres from the former military airport Szymany, where numerous landings of CIA-chartered planes were reported to have taken place since the end of 2002.

The airport staff was reportedly not allowed to get close to those machines. Instead cars with darkened windows and military registration plates were said to have approached the planes.

Such cars indicate a link to the military intelligence camp at Stare Kiejkuty, reports said.

The Polish government is due to complete a report into the alleged secret CIA prisons by next week, and a closed session of the secret service committee of the Polish parliament was planned for Thursday.

The location of Stare Kiejkuty has definitely come up before. German-language article appears to be here.

And despite the fact that the Barcelona flight ended up landing in Azerbaijan, it seems like the Council of Erope finds it unlikely that there is/was a secret prison in that country:

The Council of Europe on Thursday said the presence of secret US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) jails in Azerbaijan is unlikely. "The CE is conducting a scrutiny on this in a number of countries, but Azerbaijan is not included in the list", the CE Secretary General's special envoy Mats Lindberg told reporters on Thursday.

This comes amid a Council of Europe investigation into claims the US secret service runs clandestine jails in Eastern Europe. The CE has set up a taskforce to investigate the issue in the 46 member states after its Secretary General Terry Davis urged European countries to look into reports suggesting CIA operates such prisons for terror suspects. The US has refused to confirm or deny the reports which surfaced in the US early in November. A Turkish publication earlier quoted the country's minister of transport Binali Yildirim as saying that an American secret aircraft landed in Baku on November 15.

American media reported as long as two years ago that the aircraft has repeatedly landed in the Azeri capital in the past. Azeri officials have dismissed the allegations. "The reports saying there are US prisons in the country are false", minister of justice Fikrat Mammadov said. "Azerbaijan's penitentiary system is in constant public spotlight and rights defenders regularly visit prisons to look at the conditions provided there", the minister said.

Well we'll see about that. The Americans already have a semi-secret airbase near Baku, so operating a secret prison there would make perfect sense.

Switching over to the Czech Republic for a moment:

The alleged illegal transfers of prisoners by the U.S. secret service CIA over Europe were discussed in the Chamber of Deputies that was approving overflights by foreign military planes in 2006 today.

The government draft schedule that usually arouses no greater attention in the lower house gave rise to an emotional debate on human rights and anti-terrorism struggle this time.

A number of deputies were embarrassed about the fact that some flights by U.S. planes are not clearly identified.

"I would like to be assured that the Czech Republic will no longer be a site where alleged aircraft with alleged prisoners of whoever it may be aboard can land," Vladimir Lastuvka (senior ruling Social Democrats, CSSD) said.

He said that the information about secret transports and CIA prisons in Europe is serious and that the Czech government should deal with it.

"We can never rule it out, not even in this case, that excesses may occur," Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda (KDU-CSL) said in reaction.

The Czech Republic is extremely important because it has already stated it was asked to be used as a transit point for CIa flights and refused, indicating that other countries were asked and didn't refuse.

And meanwhile Portugal continues to say it knows nothing about the whole thing:

"The Portuguese state has not given any authorisation for landing or overflight of aeroplanes of the kind alleged in the press and that would have violated our legislation and international law," [Foreign Minister] Freitas do Amaral told parliament's constitutional and rights committee.

Freitas do Amaral said the state had no indication that such planes had ever passed through Portugal under the present government, which came to power early this year, or previous ones.

Portuguese-language article on this here.

The BBC is now reporting that the European Parliament, the lawmaking body for the EU (as opposed to the Council of Europe), is close to opening its own investigation:

The European Parliament has agreed in principle to launch an inquiry into claims that the CIA has been operating secret prisons in Europe.

The move was backed by leaders of all the political groups in the parliament.

It follows an inquiry by the Council of Europe that earlier this week said that such allegations were credible.

The leaders of the European Parliament agreed unanimously that their investigative committee would run alongside the investigation by the human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe.

"It's important in this European Parliament that we get to the root of the matter," said Hannes Swoboda, one of the leaders of the Socialist group.

"We must investigate without prejudice but without being blind to the possibilities. We want to know the truth, nothing more than the truth," Mr Swoboda said.

The committee's exact mandate is expected to be determined in January.

In other words, this will be one slow, tedious process. But it does show that the issue is being taken seriously and that the ball is moving, albeit at a turtle's pace.

And last but not least, the slowest tortoise of the bunch, the American Congress, is close to maybe perhaps possibly opening its own investigation:

The Senate is poised to approve a measure that would require the Bush administration to provide Congress with its most specific and extensive accounting about the secret prison system established by the Central Intelligence Agency to house terrorism suspects.

The measure includes amendments that would require the director of national intelligence to provide regular, detailed updates about secret detention facilities maintained by the United States overseas, and to account for the treatment and condition of each prisoner. The facilities, established after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, are thought to hold two dozen to three dozen terrorism suspects, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is said to be the mastermind of the attacks.

An agreement reached Wednesday between Democrats and Republicans called for the measure to be approved by unanimous consent, but it was unclear on Wednesday night when a final vote might occur.

The full, ugly truth might not come out for years. But with some Polish leaders leaking to Stern, and someone revealing a document strongly suggesting the EU had knowledge of the CIA's rendition flights, the truth is bound to escape in one form or another.

Will definitely keep you updated on this case...


Malawi Extraordinary Renditions
Dutch FM Bot
Cheney Visit to CIA Camp in Poland
Evidence CIA Rendition & Flights Credible ¶ HR Council of Europe

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


'Sapere aude'

by Oui (Oui) on Thu Dec 15th, 2005 at 05:49:21 AM EST
Just one quip about your El Pais translation (Considering you don't speak Spanish, it's an outstanding job)
Equerra Catalan Republic (ERC)
Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya: Republican Left of Catalonia.

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 Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 15th, 2005 at 07:54:12 AM EST
Thanks as always for your linguistic help ;) It's a struggle just remembering my own language (English) sometimes! :)


Night and day you can find me Flogging the Simian

by soj on Fri Dec 16th, 2005 at 03:45:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
it does seem like Llamazares is doing his utmost best to make some political hay out of this, which is keeping the heat on in Madrid.
Zapatero's is a minority government. It was supported in the investiture vote by ERC (Puigcercós) and IU (Llamazares), but it needs to negotiate each legislative initiative with the rest of the political parties. CiU (a Christian-Democrat/Liberal coalition of Catalan Nationalists) recently made the unprecedented proposal to form a government coalition with PSOE (CiU support for PSOE or PP central governments is not unprecedented, but it was always outside the government). What allows Zapatero a smooth rule with a minority government is the fact that the last 4 years of PP rule with an absolute majority alienated every other party to the extent that, at parliamentary committee meetings, the rest of the opposition treats the PP representative more harshly that the government representative they're supposed to be controlling (to the great relief of the PSOE representatives).

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 Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 15th, 2005 at 08:03:29 AM EST
The Czech Republic is extremely important because it has already stated it was asked to be used as a transit point for CIa flights and refused, indicating that other countries were asked and didn't refuse.
If I remember correctly, Czechia actually claimed to have refused to host a secret prison. Can we dig up the actual quotation?

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 Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 15th, 2005 at 08:05:44 AM EST

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