Global Spiderweb

Devastating Council of Europe report on CIA involvement with kidnapping and torture

After 9-11 the gloves come off. Cofer Black, director, CIA Counterterrorism Center, 1999–2002


If this nation is to remain true to the ideals symbolized by the flag, [we] must not wield the tools of tyrants even to resist an assault by the forces of tyranny. Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 2004


Three years ago, a CIA kidnapping ring was in Italy to snatch a radical imam, Hussan Mustafa Nasr, from a street in Milan. Flown on a CIA plane to his native Egypt, Nasr was held in a dungeon where he was given electric shock treatments, hung upside down, and tortured in various positions. Released and then rearrested, Nasr disappeared in the bowels of the Egyptian prison system.

While in Milan setting up the kidnapping, the CIA crew made many calls from their top-of-the-line hotel rooms, but these were not, as the spying trade puts it, on "secure phones." So, Italian intelligence agents had no difficulty tracking them—leading to arrest warrants for these CIA spooks for violating the sovereignty of Italy and its laws.

I was sure that our Justice Department would never extradite the members of this gang because the president and his team continuously assure the world that we never ever send suspects to countries where they'd be tortured. But I have kept wondering whether, in Italy, the case of the CIA criminals has been closed.

However, this month, at a conference in Florence convened by NYU law school's increasingly influential Center on Law and Security, Italy's renowned investigating judge, Armando Spataro, declared—as reported in the June 4 New York Times—that he has activated in Milan a "criminal case against 22 people allegedly linked to the Central Intelligence Agency charged with the abduction of [Hussan Nasr] . . . as part of a rendition operation."

The exposure of this CIA kidnapping ring is part of the growing revulsion throughout Europe and other parts of the world against such American gangsterism. As Judge Sparato said in Florence: "We know it's a great mistake to fight terrorism in this way."

For example, by its own involvement in torture, the CIA has given Al Qaeda and its offshoots an effective recruiting tool. And even among people across the globe who have supported American efforts to export democracy, these crimes make a mockery of the president's recurring assurances—most recently on June 14—that "we are a nation of laws and the rule of law. . . . This is a transparent society."

Now, further angry attention is being focused throughout Europe on an explosive report by the 46-nation Council of Europe, which enforces the European Convention on Human Rights. It documents the secret collusion of certain European countries with the CIA in what the report's chief investigator—former prosecutor Dick Marty of Switzerland—calls "a spider's web across the globe." This exposure—says the London-based Financial Times—"is likely to make it more difficult for European countries to cooperate with U.S. intelligence." Next week: Dick Marty nails those countries.

I have the full 67-page report on CIA renditions—released on June 6—as well as the documentation, which includes the flight logs of planes used by the CIA. Dick Marty notes that the report is based on the interviews with victims of these renditions; their families; letters from those still imprisoned; and past and present informants inside intelligence agencies.

Says Dick Marty: "I have considered the human impact of renditions in two ways: first, the systematic CIA practice of preparing a detainee to be transported on a rendition aircraft; and second, the grave and long-lasting psychological damage that extraordinary rendition inflicts on its victims."

To begin: "Four to six CIA agents perform the operation [on the blindfolded victim]. They are dressed in black . . . wearing black gloves with their full faces covered. . . . The CIA agents 'don't utter a word when they communicate with one another,' using only hand signals. . . .

"The man's hands and feet are shackled. The man has all his clothes [including his underwear] cut from his body using knives or scissors in a careful, methodical fashion . . . the man is subjected to a full body cavity search . . . the man is photographed with a flash camera when he is nearly or totally naked. . . .

"Some accounts [the specific sources of all these accounts are footnoted] speak of a foreign object being forcibly inserted into the man's anus . . . in each description this practice has been perceived as a grossly violating act that affronts the man's dignity."

I interrupt this account to make the point that—if these CIA agents are ever brought before a court here or anywhere—there have been no charges against their victims. The kidnappers went to no judge for authorization—in the United States or in the country where they committed their crimes—for these renditions to torture.

The CIA agents do not identify themselves as they pounce on a victim. If one of these "detainees" had secreted a gun on his person—before being stripped of his clothes—and had shot one of these ninjas, all in black, wouldn't that be justified, in a court of law, as an act of self-defense? That is, if the desperate shooter lived more than a few seconds afterwards.

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