Thursday, October 26, 2006

America, The Human Rights Abusers

CIA tried to silence EU on torture flights

Germany offered access to prisoner in Morocco if it quelled opposition

Richard Norton-Taylor
Thursday October 26, 2006
The Guardian

The CIA tried to persuade Germany to silence EU protests about the human rights record of one of America's key allies in its clandestine torture flights programme, the Guardian can reveal.

According to a secret intelligence report, the CIA offered to let Germany have access to one of its citizens, an al-Qaida suspect being held in a Moroccan cell. But the US secret agents demanded that in return, Berlin should cooperate and "avert pressure from EU" over human rights abuses in the north African country. The report describes Morocco as a "valuable partner in the fight against terrorism".

The classified documents prepared for the German parliament last February make clear that Berlin did eventually get to see the detained suspect, who was arrested in Morocco in 2002 as an alleged organiser of the September 11 strikes.

He was flown from Morocco to Syria on another rendition flight. Syria offered access to the prisoner on the condition that charges were dropped against Syrian intelligence agents in Germany accused of threatening Syrian dissidents. Germany dropped the charges, but denied any link.

After the CIA offered a deal to Germany, EU countries adopted an almost universal policy of downplaying criticism of human rights records in countries where terrorist suspects have been held. They have also sidestepped questions about secret CIA flights partly because of growing evidence of their complicity.

The disclosure is among fresh revelations about how the CIA flew terrorist suspects to locations where they were tortured, and Britain's knowledge of the practice known as "secret rendition". They are contained in Ghost Plane, by Stephen Grey, the journalist who first revealed details of secret CIA flights in the Guardian a year ago. More than 200 CIA flights have passed through Britain, records show.

He describes how one CIA pilot told him that Prestwick airport, near Glasgow, was a popular destination for refuelling stops and layovers. "It's an 'ask-no-questions' type of place and you don't need to give them any advance warning you're coming," the pilot said.

The CIA used planes of Air America, a group of private companies it secretly owned, and a second company, Aero Contractors. A CIA Gulfstream V jet, frequently used for the secret rendition of prisoners, flew to Diego Garcia, the British Indian Ocean territory where the US has a large base, the book says. Grey plans to publish more than 3,000 logs of the CIA flights on the internet this week.

CIA pilots, sometimes using false identities and whose planes regularly passed through Britain, ran up huge bills in luxury hotels after flying terrorist suspects to secret locations where they were tortured. But they revealed their whereabouts and identities by indiscreet use of mobile phones and allowed outsiders to track their aircraft's flights.

On one occasion, CIA pilots and crew lived it up in Majorca after rendering Benyam Mohammed, an Ethiopian brought up in Notting Hill, west London, to Afghanistan where he was tortured. Benyam was detained in Pakistan early in 2002, and then flown to Morocco, where he says he suffered appalling torture. He is being held at Guantánamo Bay.

Benyam has said in a statement to his lawyer that he was tortured for more than two years after being questioned by US and British officials. He says that while in Morocco he was shown photos of people he knew from a west London mosque, and was asked about information he was told was supplied by MI5.

The government has consistently denied it has ever actively cooperated in the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" programme". The Foreign Office said yesterday that the government had "not approved and will not approve a policy of facilitating transfer of individuals through the UK to places where there are substantial grounds to believe they face a real risk of torture".

Special report
Human rights in the UK

Useful links
Human Rights Act 1998
European court of human rights
Lord Chancellor's office
UN high commissioner for human rights

The above found here on the web

* * * *
My companion site with posts not found here:

* * * *

High-flying lifestyle of the CIA's rendition men

· VIP status for agents who transfer terror suspects
· New book reveals disturbing details

Richard Norton-Taylor
Thursday October 26, 2006
The Guardian

In January 2004 a crew of CIA agents checked into the five-star Marriott Son Antem golfing resort in Palma for a well-deserved rest. The agents had just flown from Rabat in Morocco to Afghanistan and back to Algeria - a gruelling 8,000-mile journey - and were looking forward to luxuriating in the hotel's spa where, as the brochure put it, they could "journey to deep inner peace".

But as the crew were basking in comfort at US taxpayers' expense there was little peace for their cargo. In the hold on that day was Benyam Mohammed, a former Guantánamo Bay detainee alleged to be one of the world's most dedicated jihadists. In Morocco, Mohammed would later allege, he had been doused in hot liquids, subjected to incessant loud noise and had his penis slashed with a scalpel.

The details of Mohammed's treatment emerges in Ghost Plane, a new book by investigative journalist Stephen Grey describing the CIA's clandestine system of international terrorist transfers known as extraordinary rendition.

The Marriott Son Antem was not the only luxury hotel in Palma frequented by CIA agents. The rendition crews also liked to stop off at the Gran Melia Victoria, a five-star hotel in the centre of the Majorcan capital. On one occasion, they ordered three bottles of fine Spanish wine, and five crystal glasses from Mallorcair, one of the plane's ground handling agents - refreshments for the flight home, all charged to the CIA's bill.

Agents displayed a similar taste for luxury in Milan where Italian prosecutors accuse the CIA of involvement in the seizure and rendering of Abu Omar, a radical Egyptian cleric, to Cairo in 2003. Italian investigators found the CIA agents spent nearly $150,000 (£80,000) on accommodation. Two spent nearly $18,000 during a three-week stay at Milan's Savoy hotel.

But the US secret service operatives' indiscretions meant the task of the Italians investigating the kidnapping of Abu Omar was made simple.

CIA officers frequently called each other's hotels and many of the 22 CIA agents allegedly involved had "frequent flyer" numbers or hotel loyalty cards so they could earn points during their stay in the Italian fashion capital. Among itemised phone bills discovered by Italian counter-terrorism police was one showing 156 calls had been made to a landline in Milan. This led them to the US consulate.

Another example of the indiscretions and contradictions in the US administration's rendition programme emerges in its willingness to lavish money on entertaining the Syrians.

In December 2002, Syrian president Bashar Assad and his wife paid an official visit to London. They were guests of honour at the City of London.

But back in the Syrian capital, Damascus, on that same day in December 2002, seven prisoners were languishing in jail, sent there by the US despite President George Bush's view that Syria was part of an "axis of evil" with a legacy of "torture, oppression, misery, and ruin". There is clear evidence the seven rendered there by the US were brutally tortured.

One, Maher Arar, abducted with the help of Canada, was freed after more than nine months when he signed a false confession that he had trained at a camp in Afghanistan.

For Mr Arar, the contrast between his treatment and the Syrian president's is likely to be a bitter pill to swallow.

Full coverage
CIA rendition flights

Case studies
06.12.2005: Seized, held, tortured: six tell same tale

Interactive guide
Rendition flights

Special reports
United States
Guantánamo Bay
Terrorism threat to UK

The above from The Guardian in the UK, found here

* * * *

The Iranians should trust the Americans, right?

US demands UN sanctions on Iran
President Ahmadinejad (centre) visits the Natanz nuclear enrichment plant
Iran produced its first enriched uranium in February
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has urged the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution imposing sanctions on Iran over its nuclear programme.

Iran's defiance must be held to account to save the international community's credibility, Ms Rice said.

Her comments come after Tehran said it was taking steps to further develop its nuclear programme.

The UN gave Iran an end of August deadline to stop enriching uranium, threatening sanctions if it did not.

Iran rejects Western allegations that its nuclear programme has a military aspect, and maintains it is enriching uranium only to generate electricity.

China's UN delegate Li Junhua said it was premature to say that the Security Council was in a position to impose sanctions.

But Ms Rice pressed the council to take immediate action.

"For the international community to be credible, it must pass a resolution now that holds Iran accountable for its defiance," she said.

Capacity doubled

A report carried by the Iranian student news agency, Isna, on Wednesday said it has installed a second centrifuge cascade for uranium enrichment.

The report says Iranian scientists intended to start injecting uranium gas into it within days.

Iran first produced a small quantity of enriched uranium in February. Scientists were running just one cascade then, made up of 168 centrifuges, the machines that spin uranium gas to enrich it.

Now it has emerged that Iran has doubled its capacity by installing a second cascade two weeks ago.

Some reports had suggested Iranian scientists were experiencing technical difficulties. Others said they were going slow, awaiting the outcome of political talks that have now stalled.

Iran had said earlier that it planned to install 3,000 centrifuges at its site in Natanz by the end of this year.

To produce industrial-scale nuclear fuel, tens of thousands of centrifuges would be needed.

The above from the BBC, found here

* * * *

Iran should still be thanking us for installing a US puppet, The Shah, right?

Iran's gulf of misunderstanding with US
By Gordon Corera
Security correspondent, BBC News

Tehran demonstration, summer 2006
Anti-American protests in Tehran are a regular event
The US and Iran almost never speak to each other.

"It's the most unusual relationship we have with any country in the world," explains US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns.

"It's been 27 years since we've had a normal diplomatic, social and political relationship. And so for instance I am one of the people responsible for Iran in our government and yet I have never met an Iranian government official in my 25-year career."

The fiery rhetoric between Iran and the US of recent months has made it appear that the two countries are on a collision course. But did it have to be this way and could the two sides still sit down face to face?

9/11 opportunity

In the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US, there were some tentative steps.

In Iran, vast crowds turned out on the streets and held candlelit vigils for the victims. Sixty-thousand spectators respected a minute's silence at Tehran's football stadium.

Taleban soldiers on the Iran border, 2001
Iran came close to a war with the Taleban

Some of Iran's leaders also sensed an opportunity. America quickly fixed its sights on the Taleban in Afghanistan with whom the Iranians had nearly come to war just three years earlier.

With a common enemy in the Taleban, the two found grounds to co-operate.

After the Afghan war, US negotiators worked closely with Iranian counterparts to form a new Afghan government.

Some of the talks between US and Iranian officials moved beyond Afghanistan and there was hope that it could lead to tentative re-engagement and eventually a restoration of relations.

But back in their respective capitals, there were voices of dissent.

Debates in Washington and Tehran paralleled each other. Hardliners and moderates clashed about whether it was worth talking to the other side and whether it could ever be trusted.

Parade of Shahab-3 missile in front of a picture of the Iranian late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, 22 September

Hardliners in Iran, scarred by the past, cited Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's dictum that any friendship between the US and Iran was like that between a wolf and a sheep.

And just a few weeks after Iran and the US had worked so closely over Afghanistan, Iran was described by President George W Bush as part of an "axis of evil" in his 2002 State of the Union address.

Javad Zarif, now Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, said this was a big surprise at after the co-operation over the Afghan government.

"We were all shocked by the fact that the US had such a short memory and was so ungrateful about what had happened just a month ago," he said.

But the hardliners in Washington had been bolstered by Israel's discovery just a few weeks before the speech of a consignment of arms alleged to be heading from Iran to Palestinian groups.

Surprise overture

Another potential opening came in May 2003.

America's swift march to Baghdad the previous month had led to fears in Tehran that it would be next.

So Tehran made a dramatic - but surprisingly little known - approach to the Americans.

Iran's offer came in the form of a letter, although Iranian diplomats have suggested that their letter was in turn a response to a set of talking points that had come from US intermediaries.

In it, Iran appeared willing to put everything on the table - including being completely open about its nuclear programme, helping to stabilise Iraq, ending its support for Palestinian militant groups and help in disarming Hezbollah.

I believe the nuclear issue could have been resolved long time ago
Javad Zarif, Iran ambassador
What did Iran want? Top of the list was a halt in US hostile behaviour and a statement that "Iran did not belong to 'the axis of evil'".

The letter was the product of an internal debate inside Tehran and had the support of leaders at the highest level.

"That letter went to the Americans to say that we are ready to talk, we are ready to address our issues," explains Seyed Adeli, who was then a deputy foreign minister in Iran. But in Washington, the letter was ignored.

Larry Wilkerson, who was then chief of staff to US Secretary of State Colin Powell, thinks that was a big mistake.

"In my mind it was one of those things you throw up in the air and say I can't believe we did this."

He says the hardliners who stood against dialogue had a memorable refrain. "We don't speak to evil'.

The problem was that at the very moment that Iranian vulnerability was at its greatest, thanks to America's swift march to Baghdad, Washington was at its most triumphalist.

Why talk to Iran when you could simply dictate terms from a position of strength?

Gift to the hardliners

The effect of America's rejection of talks was far reaching.

It would tilt the balance of power within Tehran towards the hardliners.

"The failure is not just for the idea, but also for the group who were pursuing the idea," explains Seyed Adeli.

Over the following years, the hardliners in Tehran who were far less supportive of dialogue moved into the ascendancy. And the balance of power between Iran and the US began to shift.

Iranian president Ahmadinejad and Javad Zarif at the UN General Assembly
President Ahmadinejad ponders tactics at the UN General Assembly

America's victory in Iraq began to look like something far more ambivalent as a bloody insurgency gathered strength. Meanwhile, Iran's influence both in Iraq and across the Middle East grew, augmented by rising oil prices.

In March 2005, the US announced it would back the EU's negotiations with Iran over its nuclear programme, which Iran says is peaceful but the US and others believe is geared towards weapons.

The possibility of talks is currently on the table. But the US insists that Iran must suspend its nuclear activity first.

At the UN, Iran's ambassador Javad Zarif argues that this is the source of the problem.

"Had it not been for those arbitrary red lines and the pressure that went along with those arbitrary red lines imposed on our negotiating partners, I believe the nuclear issue could have been resolved long time ago."

But the US believes that Iran has failed to be open about its nuclear programme and needs to abide by UN demands that it halt its activity first.

The two sides may be able to sit down and talk face to face in the coming months, if agreement can be reached regarding some form of Iranian suspension of nuclear activity. But if this chance is lost, there may not be many more.

Mixed Messages and Secret Diplomacy was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 at 8pm on Monday 25 September.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

View My Stats