Amnesty International & Prensa Latina & LA Times & London Guardian – 2005-12-07 09:02:36
USA: 800 Secret CIA Flights Into and Out of Europe
(December 5, 2005) — Amnesty International today revealed that six planes used by the CIA for renditions have made some 800 flights in or out of European airspace including 50 landings at Shannon airport in the Republic of Ireland.
The information contradicts assurances given last week by the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern, that Ireland’s Shannon airport had not been used for “untoward” purposes, or as a transit point for terror suspects.
The organisation also rejected assertions by the US Secretary of State as she began a four-nation tour of Europe. In a statement today, Ms Rice argued that rendition — transferring detainees from country to country without legal process — was permissible under international law.
Although the victims of rendition usually end up in countries known to use torture in their interrogations, Ms Rice added that the US government seeks assurances on treatment from receiving nations.
“Flying detainees to countries where they may face torture or other ill-treatment is a direct and outright breach on international law with or without so called “diplomatic assurances”. These assurances are meaningless. Countries known for systematic torture, regularly deny the existence of such practices,” said Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Regional Programmes.
Amnesty international has obtained flight records for six CIA-chartered planes from September 2001 to September of 2005. According to the US Federal Aviation Administration over this period, these planes landed 50 times in Shannon and took off 35 times, suggesting that some flights were kept secret.
Although Shannon airport is used as a refuelling stop for the US military, none of the planes were military transport planes. In total for this period, the six planes made some 800 flights originating or landing in Europe.
The planes include:
* Boeing 737-7ET, call sign N313P (Later re-registered as N4476S). The largest of the six planes, with 32 seats, is owned by Premier Executive Transport Services, a CIA front company that also owns N379P. N313P has been frequently seen at US military bases, including in Afghanistan.
* Gulfstream V: call sign N379P (Later re-registered as N8068V and then as N44982): this plane, which has made more than 50 trips to the US detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, has been nicknamed “The Guantanamo Bay Express”. It was also used in the CIA rendition of Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed al-Zari from Sweden to Egypt.
* Gulfstream III: N829MG (Later re-registered as N259SK). This plane took dual Syrian-Canadian national Maher Arar from the US to Syria where he was detained for 13 months’ without charge, during which time he was tortured. He was finally released in October 2003.
* GulfstreamIV, call sign N85VM (Later re-registered as N227SV), the plane that took Abu Omar to Egypt from Germany after his kidnapping in Italy, turned around and flew to Shannon. The plane’s flight log also shows visits to Afghanistan, Morocco, Dubai, Jordan, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Azerbaijan and the Czech Republic.
Amnesty International is publishing the information after a challenge by the Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern on Thursday last week.
Asked about CIA planes using Shannon airport, the Foreign Minister said, “If anyone has any evidence of any of these flights please give me a call and I will have it immediately investigated.”
On 17 Feb 2003, for instance, the Gulfstream IV, N85VM took Abu Omar from Ramstein to Cairo, then turned around and flew to Shannon, arriving at 0552 on the 18th.
The latest information confirms other persistent and reliable reports in the media and by non-governmental organizations that CIA-chartered flights are used for renditions. Amnesty International only has partial flight logs for six planes whilst the CIA has been reported to use some 30 leased aircraft.
European countries have allowed these aircraft to land, refuel and take off from their territory.
Under international law and standards, all States must cooperate to bring to an end any serious breach of the prohibition of torture and other peremptory rules of international law. They must also refrain from aiding or assisting those carrying out such breaches.
Amnesty International calls on European countries to investigate promptly and thoroughly allegations that their territory has been used to assist CIA-chartered flights secretly transporting detainees to countries where they may face “disappearance”, torture or other ill-treatment. Pending the results of such an investigation, all States must ensure that their territory and facilities are not used to assist rendition flights.
The organization urges all member States of the Council of Europe to provide full cooperation with the investigation carried out by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on allegations about secret detention centres, and provide complete information on their internal law and practices relating to secret rendition flights, as requested by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
CIA Used Irish Airport
DUBLIN (December 5, 2005) — CIA planes used Shannon Airport, Ireland, on 38 occasions to land with alleged terrorists onboard, RTE TV reported on Monday from information taken from declassified government documents.
This report contradicts Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern, who denied the use of national airfields for secret CIA flights.
Ahern’s remarks followed a recent meeting with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is expected to explain these flights during a five-day European tour she began in Germany.
Local media recall that the US Air Force uses Shannon Airport to refuel its war planes.
Last week, the European Union threatened to sanction, including suspension of vote, to Council members with verified existence of CIA detention centers.
However, the EU did not mention measures for those countries where CIA planes landed or stopped over with detainees aboard.
European media have so far noted more than 400 secret flights in Germany, about 200 in Britain, and another dozen in other European states, and are demanding the US clarify details of these operations.
Ex-CIA Agent in Milan Asks for Immunity
Tracy Wilkinson / Los Angeles Times
An Italian judge rejects the request of the retired station chief, wanted in a suspect’s abduction.
ROME (December 5, 2005) — He has not been arrested, and he’s probably nowhere near Italy, but a former CIA station chief has begun to sketch his defense against charges he led a clandestine operation that kidnapped a radical Egyptian imam from the streets of Milan.
Robert Seldon Lady, identified by Italian prosecutors and law enforcement officials as the retired station chief in Milan, is one of 22 current or former CIA operatives for whom Italian prosecutors have issued arrest warrants in connection with the 2003 abduction. The cleric was seized on his way to a mosque and bundled off to an Egyptian jail, where he later said he was tortured.
The case is being watched closely because it threatens to expose in the greatest detail yet the Bush administration’s practice of “extraordinary rendition,” the transport of a suspect seized abroad by American agents to another country for interrogation without judicial approval. Renditions are an especially controversial element in a network of murky CIA counter-terrorism operations that is coming to light, including secret prisons and mysterious flights in Europe and beyond.
The practices are expected to be a major issue of discussion this week when US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visits several European capitals.
“One of the things she will be saying is, ‘Look, we are all threatened by terror. We need to cooperate in its solution,’ ” national security advisor Stephen Hadley told “Fox News Sunday.”
“As part of that cooperation for our part, we comply with US law,” he added. “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.”
In seeking to squash the arrest warrant that names him, Lady, 51, makes essentially two arguments, according to court documents provided to the Los Angeles Times.
As an accredited consular officer at the US Consulate in Milan, he enjoyed diplomatic immunity, Lady’s attorneys argue. And without acknowledging the kidnapping, the attorneys argue that any such activity would have been carried out under the orders of the U.S. government and with the knowledge and permission of Italian officials. Italian law protecting state security shields Lady from having to answer to judicial authorities about such activities, the attorneys say.
But an Italian judge, Enrico Manzi, last week rejected the arguments and denied Lady’s request for immunity. Manzi said Lady lost his immunity when he retired from the agency, and that immunity need not always apply if the alleged crimes are sufficiently serious.
Although Lady’s attorney, Daria Pesce, said she planned to appeal, the ruling was a significant setback to defense efforts to make the case go away.
Although Lady had retired to northern Italy, he left the country ahead of the indictments, the first batch of which was issued in June. Manzi said evidence confiscated from Lady’s home in the north was particularly compelling. This included surveillance photos of the abducted cleric, known as Abu Omar, and computer records mapping out the route from the Milan neighborhood where he was snatched to the US-run Aviano Air Base, where he was placed on board a jet. Abu Omar is suspected by Italian law enforcement of helping to recruit militants and supporting terrorist attacks.
Publicly, the CIA has neither confirmed nor denied Lady’s affiliation with the agency or any aspect of the Milan operation. Privately, some CIA officers have sought to portray it as the work of contractors. But the Italian court papers did not shy away from describing Lady’s former job; and if he was involved, then the mission probably was directed at a top level.
In his role in American intelligence, Lady, “far from representing a serious threat … should be considered an important ally in the fight against international terrorism, which is highly destabilizing for the entire Western Hemisphere,” attorney Pesce wrote in her court filing.
“Mr. Lady, in carrying out the duties typical of a supervisor of the American intelligence agency CIA, could well have assumed the role of a member of a special diplomatic mission, sent by the USA to Italy with, we reiterate, the indispensable authorization of our state,” she added.
Members of such “special diplomatic missions” normally enjoy “absolute immunity” for acts performed on behalf of the state, she said.
The last claim is proving especially embarrassing for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, a loyal ally of President Bush. Berlusconi has repeatedly denied that his government knew about or approved the Milan abduction.
Pesce, in an interview last week, said she was attempting to present a “hypothetical” scenario that shows Lady could not have acted without authorization. She emphasized that she did not have direct knowledge of Italian government complicity.
Armando Spataro, the lead prosecutor attempting to bring the CIA operatives to trial, issued the arrest warrants over the summer and, following protocol, last month asked the Italian Justice Ministry to demand the extradition of the agents from the United States.
But Justice Minister Roberto Castelli, who answers to Berlusconi, has so far refused to act and may have sought to undermine the case by calling Spataro a leftist militant. On Friday, Castelli again said he was still “studying” the matter.
Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times
Britain’s Role in War on Terror Revealed:
200 ‘Ghost Flights Logged across Nearly 20 Airfields
Ian Cobain, Stephen Grey and Richard Norton-Taylor / Guardian
(December 6, 2005) — The full extent of British logistical support for the CIA’s secret “ghost flights” emerged yesterday as Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, said the agency’s operations were “a vital tool” in the campaign against terrorism.
The Guardian publishes for the first time today the details of more than 200 flights in and out of Britain of aircraft owned or controlled by the CIA. The agency has used almost 20 airports across the UK during the period when its agents have been snatching terror suspects and taking them to countries where they may be tortured.
As well as enjoying access to a number of RAF bases, the agency has been flying in and out of civilian airports across the country. Its destinations include not only major airports such as Heathrow and Gatwick, but small airports at Bournemouth on the south coast and Wick in the north of Scotland.
Last night MPs, who have formed a campaign group to challenge British support for the CIA’s so-called extraordinary renditions programme, met for the first time and demanded that the government come clean about the use of UK facilities. The all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary renditions was presented with a report by American legal academics which suggested that Britain may be breaking international law by “acquiescing” in torture.
The CIA has been moving detainees around the world to a number of secret prisons, using aircraft owned by front companies or leased for short periods. Ms Rice said yesterday that “renditions take terrorists out of action and save lives”.
Using publicly-available information from the US federal aviation administration, as well as European air traffic data, the Guardian has compiled a detailed log of the CIA’s flights in and out of the UK during the period that the rendition programme has been operating.
There have been more than 210 flights in and out of the country since the attacks of September 11. One Gulfstream V executive jet, for example, which has changed its tail number several times and has been linked with a number of abductions, is a regular visitor to Glasgow airport, and also flies in and out of Luton, Northolt and Brize Norton.
Some aircraft have stopped in the UK for short refuelling stops, but at other times they have remained in the country for several days. But there is no evidence that any detainees have been on board aircraft when they have stopped in the UK and many of the flights are thought to be unconnected with renditions.
Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, responded to Ms Rice by saying that “all European countries fully share the determination expressed here by the US to protect our citizens from the threat of terrorism, clearly while operating within international law and our treaty obligations”.
Such was the threat of suicide attacks after September 11 and July 7, he said, that “it is right that democracies should discuss these issues, including the importance of the legal framework, which we all observe. Secretary Rice’s reply makes clear that US policy is to comply with the UN convention against torture.”
The Tory MP Andrew Tyrie, chairman of the parliamentary committee, questioned the value of the assurances sought from countries where suspected terrorists were sent that they would not be tortured.”We have to ask ourselves how valuable assurances of that type are from countries such as Egypt, Syria and Libya,” he said.” I think it is highly likely that some of these people will have been tortured.”
He said the committee would ask Mr Straw to give evidence to it, adding that the MPs were “not prepared to put up with vacuous replies”.
Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, described Ms Rice’s admission as disingenuous. “What possible purpose is served by rendition other than to subject individuals to harsher treatment than would otherwise be the case?” he asked.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, said any suggestion from Ms Rice that the ends justified the means “would give dangerous ammunition to every dictator and terrorist around the world”.
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005
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