Europe Raps the CIA

3 minute read
Camille Agon

The CIA probably doesn’t mind the occasional bitter valentine. But on Feb. 14, the European Union sent a humdinger when its Parliament approved a controversial report castigating Britain, Germany, Italy and 11 other European countries for their alleged complicity in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. With critics calling the U.S. practice of secretly transferring terrorism suspects from one country to another the equivalent of outsourcing torture, the E.U.’s final report alleges that the CIA operated more than 1,245 flights in European airspace between 2001 and 2005 and accuses several countries of “turning a blind eye” to those flights, which “on some occasions” were used for rendition. The 76-page communiqué, which caps a yearlong investigation of flight data from the E.U.’s air-traffic agency, doesn’t confirm the existence of secret detention facilities but says those temporary prisons “may” have been located on U.S. military bases in European countries.

While the European Parliament doesn’t have the legal power to impose sanctions against E.U. countries found to have violated human rights by cooperating with the U.S. secret detention program, it can try to prod more member nations into starting criminal investigations. As one of the authors, European Parliament member Giovanni Fava, put it, “This is a report that doesn’t allow anyone to look the other way.”


Italy On Feb. 17, an Italian court indicted 26 Americans, most of them CIA agents, on charges of kidnapping Egyptian imam Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, who was seized in Milan in 2003 and taken to Cairo, where he was allegedly tortured. The first criminal trial involving rendition is set to begin in June, but Italy has already said it will not seek extraditions.

Germany German prosecutors on Jan. 31 issued arrest warrants for 13 CIA agents alleged to have abducted Khaled al-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, while he was on vacation in Macedonia in 2003. Al-Masri was flown to Afghanistan, where he was allegedly held for five months in a secret prison and then released in a remote part of Albania.

Sweden The E.U. report, which alleges the Swedish government was in cahoots with the CIA, could rekindle a 2005 parliamentary investigation that concluded U.S. agents broke Swedish laws in 2001 by subjecting two Egyptians–who were secretly flown from Stockholm to Cairo–to “degrading and inhuman treatment” and by exercising police powers on Swedish soil.

Portugal On Feb. 5, after a European Parliament deputy presented Portugal’s Attorney General Fernando Pinto Monteiro with evidence that dozens of CIA planes had made stopovers in his country, he opened a criminal investigation into CIA-operated flights allegedly using Portuguese airports to illegally transport terrorism suspects.

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