Man sues CIA over torture claims
A man who says he was a victim of the CIA’s alleged secret prisons is suing its former chief over torture claims. Khaled al-Masri says he was kidnapped in 2003 while on holiday in Macedonia, flown to Afghanistan and mistreated. His is a rare legal challenge to the US policy of “extraordinary rendition” – flying suspects to third countries without judicial process. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said this week the US does not practice or condone torture. Human rights groups say extraordinary rendition is a violation of international law. The US maintains that all such operations are conducted within the law. The landmark lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a district court in Alexandria, Virginia. It claims that former CIA director George Tenet and other CIA officials violated US and universal human rights laws when they authorised agents to kidnap Mr Masri. The lawsuit says Mr Masri suffered “prolonged arbitrary detention, torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment”. Mr Masri, 42, a Lebanese-born German citizen, spoke at an ACLU news conference in Washington via a satellite video link from Stuttgart, Germany. He claims he was beaten and injected with drugs before being taken to Afghanistan and held for five months.
The civil rights group says the government has to be held to account over “extraordinary rendition”. “Kidnapping a foreign national for the purpose of detaining and interrogating him outside the law is contrary to American values,” said Anthony D Romero, executive director of the ACLU. “Our government has acted as if it is above the law. We go to court today to reaffirm that the rule of law is central to our identity as a nation.” The case was discussed earlier in Berlin by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Secretary of State Rice. Mrs Merkel said the US acknowledged making a mistake in detaining Mr Masri. While refusing to comment on the case directly, Ms Rice said the US sought to rectify any mistakes made. Both told reporters that intelligence work was an essential part of the war on terror, but should not break international law. Before she left the US, Ms Rice admitted that terror suspects were flown abroad for interrogation but denied they were tortured. She said suspects were moved by plane under a process known as rendition, and that this was “a lawful weapon”.
cable 07BERLIN242, AL-MASRI CASE — CHANCELLERY AWARE OF USG CONCERNS
VZCZCXYZ0015 OO RUEHWEB DE RUEHRL #0242 0371748 ZNY SSSSS ZZH O 061748Z FEB 07 FM AMEMBASSY BERLIN TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6940
S E C R E T BERLIN 000242 SIPDIS NOFORN SIPDIS FOR S/ES-O, EUR AND L E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/06/2017 TAGS: KJUS PTER PREL PGOV GM SUBJECT: AL-MASRI CASE -- CHANCELLERY AWARE OF USG CONCERNS REF: A. BERLIN 230 Â¶B. BERLIN 200 Classified By: DCM John M. Koenig for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) Â¶1. (S/NF) In a February 6 discussion with German Deputy National Security Adviser Rolf Nikel, the DCM reiterated our strong concerns about the possible issuance of international arrest warrants in the al-Masri case. The DCM noted that the reports in the German media of the discussion on the issue between the Secretary and FM Steinmeier in Washington were not accurate, in that the media reports suggest the USG was not troubled by developments in the al-Masri case. The DCM emphasized that this was not the case and that issuance of international arrest warrants would have a negative impact on our bilateral relationship. He reminded Nikel of the repercussions to U.S.-Italian bilateral relations in the wake of a similar move by Italian authorities last year. Â¶2. (S/NF) The DCM pointed out that our intention was not to threaten Germany, but rather to urge that the German Government weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the U.S. We of course recognized the independence of the German judiciary, but noted that a decision to issue international arrest warrants or extradition requests would require the concurrence of the German Federal Government, specifically the MFA and the Ministry of Justice (MOJ). The DCM said our initial indications had been that the German federal authorities would not allow the warrants to be issued, but that subsequent contacts led us to believe this was not the case. Â¶3. (S/NF) Nikel also underscored the independence of the German judiciary, but confirmed that the MFA and MOJ would have a procedural role to play. He said the case was subject to political, as well as judicial, scrutiny. From a judicial standpoint, the facts are clear, and the Munich prosecutor has acted correctly. Politically speaking, said Nikel, Germany would have to examine the implications for relations with the U.S. At the same time, he noted our political differences about how the global war on terrorism should be waged, for example on the appropriateness of the Guantanamo facility and the alleged use of renditions. Â¶4. (S/NF) Nikel also cited intense pressure from the Bundestag and the German media. The German federal Government must consider the "entire political context," said Nikel. He assured the DCM that the Chancellery is well aware of the bilateral political implications of the case, but added that this case "will not be easy." The Chancellery would nonetheless try to be as constructive as possible. Â¶5. (S/NF) The DCM pointed out that the USG would likewise have a difficult time in managing domestic political implications if international arrest warrants are issued. He reiterated our concerns and expressed the hope that the Chancellery would keep us informed of further developments in the case, so as to avoid surprises. Nikel undertook to do so, but reiterated that he could not, at this point "promise that everything will turn out well." TIMKEN JR
CIA flying suspects to torture?
March 6, 2005
(CBS) You may not have heard the term “rendition,” at least not the way the Central Intelligence Agency uses it. But renditions have become one of the most important secret weapons in the war on terror. In recent years, well over 100 people have disappeared or been “rendered” all around the world. Witnesses tell the same story: masked men in an unmarked jet seize their target, cut off his clothes, put him in a blindfold and jumpsuit, tranquilize him and fly him away. They’re describing U.S. agents collaring terrorism suspects. Some notorious terrorists such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the mastermind of 9/11, were rendered this way. But as Correspondent Scott Pelley reports, it’s happening to many others. Some are taken to prisons infamous for torture. And a few may have been rendered by mistake.
One of the covert missions happened in Stockholm, and the details have touched off a national scandal in Sweden. Two Egyptians living in Sweden, Mohammad Al-Zery and Ahmed Agiza, were arrested by Swedish police and brought to an airport. An executive jet was waiting with a crew of mysterious masked men. “America security agents just took over,” says Tomas Hammarberg, a former Swedish diplomat who pressed for and got an investigation into how the Egyptians disappeared. “We know that they were badly treated on the spot, that scissors and knives were used to take off their clothes. And they were shackled. And some tranquilizers were put in the back of them, obviously in order to make them dizzy and fall asleep.” An airport officer told 60 Minutes she saw the two men hustled to the plane.
She didn’t want to be identified, but she had no doubt about where the plane came from: “I know that the aircraft was American registration … because the ‘N’ first, on the registration.” The so-called “N” number marks an American plane. Swedish records show a Gulfstream G5, N379P was there that night. Within hours, Al-Zery and Agiza, both of whom had been seeking asylum in Sweden, found themselves in an Egyptian prison. Hammarberg says Sweden sent a diplomat to see them weeks later.The so-called “N” number marks an American plane. Swedish records show a Gulfstream G5, N379P was there that night. Within hours, Al-Zery and Agiza, both of whom had been seeking asylum in Sweden, found themselves in an Egyptian prison. Hammarberg says Sweden sent a diplomat to see them weeks later.
What did they tell the diplomat about how they were being treated? “That they had been treated brutally in general, had been beaten up several times, that they had been threatened,” says Hammarberg. “But probably the worst phase of torture came after that first visit by the ambassador. … They were under electric torture.” The Egyptians say Agiza is an Islamic militant and they sentenced him to 25 years. But Al-Zery wasn’t charged. After two years in jail, he was sent to his village in Egypt. The authorities are not allowing interviews. “The option of not doing something is extraordinarily dangerous to the American people,” says Michael Scheuer, who until three months ago was a senior CIA official in the counterterrorist center. Scheuer created the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit and helped set up the rendition program during the Clinton administration. “Basically, the National Security Council gave us the mission, take down these cells, dismantle them and take people off the streets so they can’t kill Americans,” says Scheuer. “They just didn’t give us anywhere to take the people after we captured.” So the CIA started taking suspects to Egypt and Jordan. Scheuer says renditions were authorized by Clinton’s National Security Council and officials in Congress – and all understood what it meant to send suspects to those countries.
“They don’t have the same legal system we have. But we know that going into it,” says Scheuer. “And so the idea that we’re gonna suddenly throw our hands up like Claude Raines in ‘Casablanca’ and say, ‘I’m shocked that justice in Egypt isn’t like it is in Milwaukee,’ there’s a certain disingenuousness to that.” “And one of the things that you know about justice in Egypt is that people get tortured,” says Pelley. “Well, it can be rough. I have to assume that that’s the case,” says Scheuer. But doesn’t that make the United States complicit in the torture? “You’ll have to ask the lawyers,” says Scheuer. Is it convenient? “It’s convenient in the sense that it allows American policy makers and American politicians to avoid making hard decisions,” says Scheuer. “Yes. It’s very convenient. It’s finding someone else to do your dirty work.” The indispensable tool for that work is a small fleet of executive jets authorized to land at all U.S. military bases worldwide. Scheuer wouldn’t tell 60 Minutes about the planes that are used in these operations – that information is classified.
The CIA declined to talk about it, but it turns out the CIA has left plenty of clues out in the open, in the public record. The tail number of the Gulfstream was first reported by witnesses in Pakistan. In public records, the tail number came back to a company called Premiere Executive Transport Services, with headquarters listed in Dedham, Mass. But Dedham is a dead end. The address is a law office on the second floor of a bank — there’s no airline there. The flight log shows one flight took the 737 to Skopje, Macedonia, to Baghdad and finally Kabul, Afghanistan. 60 Minutes found a man who says he was on that flight. Khaled el-Masri was born in Kuwait, but he now lives in Germany with his wife and four children. He became a German citizen 10 years ago. He told 60 Minutes he was on vacation in Macedonia last year when Macedonian police, apparently acting on a tip, took him off a bus, held him for three weeks, then took him to the Skopje airport where he believes he was abducted by the CIA.
“They took me to this room, and they hit me all over and they slashed my clothes with sharp objects, maybe knives or scissors,” says el-Masri. “I also heard photos being taken while this was going on – and they took off the blindfold and I saw that there were a lot of men standing in the room. They were wearing black masks and black gloves.” El-Masri says he was injected with drugs, and after his flight, he woke up in an American-run prison in Afghanistan. He showed 60 Minutes a prison floor plan he drew from memory. He says other prisoners were from Pakistan, Tanzania, Yemen and Saudi Arabia. El-Masri told 60 Minutes that he was held for five months and interrogated by Americans through an interpreter. “He yelled at me and he said that, ‘You’re in a country without laws and no one knows where you are. Do you know what that means?’ I said yes,” says el-Masri. “It was very clear to me that he meant I could stay in my cell for 20 years or be buried somewhere, and nobody knows what happened to you.”
He says they were asking him “whether I had contacts with Islamic parties like al Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood or aid organizations, lots of questions.” He says he told the Americans he’d never been involved in militant Islam. El-Masri says he wasn’t tortured, but he says he was beaten and kept in solitary confinement. Then, after his five months of questioning, he was simply released. At that point, did anyone ever tell him that they’d made a mistake? “They told me that they had confused names and that they had cleared it up, but I can’t imagine that,” says el-Masri. “You can clear up switching names in a few minutes.” He says he was flown out of Afghanistan and dumped on a road in Albania. When he finally made his way back home in Germany, he found that his wife and kids had gone to her family in Lebanon. He called there to explain what happened. El-Masri says that his wife believed him: “I never lied to her, and my appearance showed that I had been in prison.” How did he explain what happened to him to his son? “I explained to him what happened to me. And he understood,” says el-Masri. “I said it was the Americans [who did this to me].”
“And if some of that useful information is gleaned by torture, that’s OK,” asks Pelley. “It’s OK with me,” says Scheuer. “I’m responsible for protecting Americans.” Scheuer says in the Clinton and Bush administrations, and in Congress, details of rendition flights were known to top officials. Now that the missions are coming to light, Scheuer says there is worry in the CIA that field agents will take the fall if any of the missions are later deemed illegal. Are CIA people feeling vulnerable to that? “I think from the first day we ever did it there was a certain macabre humor that said sooner or later this sword of Damocles is gonna fall because if something goes wrong, the policy maker and the politicians and the congressional committees aren’t gonna belly up to the bar and say, ‘We authorized this,'” says Scheuer.
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