Central Intelligence Agency - controversies - Dagger and Cloak

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Central Intelligence Agency - controversies

War on terror

On November 5, 2002, newspapers reported that Al-Qaeda operatives in a car travelling through Yemen had been killed by a missile launched from a CIA-controlled Predator drone (a medium-altitude, remote-controlled aircraft). On May 15, 2005, it was reported that another of these drones had been used to assassinate Al-Qaeda figure Haitham al-Yemeni inside Pakistan.

In June 2005, two events occurred that may shape future CIA operations.

Arrest warrants for 22 CIA agents were issued within the European Union (Schengen Agreement members). The agents are alleged to have taken an Egyptian, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, a suspected terrorist, from Milan on 17 February 2003 for extraordinary rendition to Egypt, where according to relatives of the cleric, he was tortured. The removal of Nasr was not unusual except that the Italian government has denied having approved the rendition. Similar operations of this sort have occurred worldwide since 9/11, the vast majority with at least tacit approval by the national government. Additionally, it allegedly disrupted Italian attempts to penetrate the terrorist's Al Qaeda network. The New York Times reported soon after that it is highly unlikely that the CIA agents involved would be extradited, despite the US-Italy bilateral treaty regarding extraditions for crimes that carry a penalty of more than a year in prison.

Soon after, President Bush appointed the CIA to be in charge of all human intelligence and manned spying operations. This was the culmination of a years old turf war regarding influence, philosophy and budget between the DIA of The Pentagon and the CIA. The Pentagon, through the DIA, wanted to take control of the CIA's paramilitary operations and many of its human assets. The CIA, which has for years held that human intelligence is the core of the agency, successfully argued that the CIA's decades long experience with human resources and civilian oversight made it the ideal choice. Thus, the CIA was given charge of all US human intelligence, but as a compromise, the Pentagon was authorized to include increased paramilitary capabilities in future budget requests.

Despite reforms which have led back to what the CIA considers its traditional principal capacities, the CIA Director position has lost influence in the White House. For years, the Director of the CIA met regularly with the President to issue daily reports on ongoing operations. After the creation of the post of Director of National Intelligence, currently occupied by Mike McConnell, the report is now given by the DNI—who oversees all US Intelligence activities, including DIA operations outside of CIA jurisdiction. Former CIA Director Porter Goss, himself also a former CIA officer, denies this has had a diminishing effect on morale, in favor of promoting his singular mission to reform the CIA into the lean and agile counter-terrorism focused force he believes it should be.

On December 6, 2005, German Khalid El-Masri filed a lawsuit against former CIA Director George Tenet, claiming that he was transported from the Republic of Macedonia to a prison in Afghanistan and held captive there by the CIA for 5 months on a case of mistaken identity. Two months after his true identity had been found out, he had been taken to Albania and released without funds or an official excuse.

The 2003 War in Iraq

In December 2005, ABC News reported that former agents claimed the CIA used waterboarding, along with five other "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques", against detainees held in the secret prisons. Waterboarding is widely regarded as a form of torture, though there are reports that President Bush signed a secret "finding" that it is not, authorizing its use.

After a media and public outcry in Europe concerning headlines about "secret CIA prisons" in Poland and other US allies, the EU through its Committee on Legal Affairs investigated whether any of its members, especially Poland, the Czech Republic or Romania had any of these "secret CIA prisons." After an investigation by the EU Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, the EU determined that it could not find any of these prisons. In fact, they could not prove if they had ever existed at all. To quote the report, "At this stage of the investigations, there is no formal, irrefutable evidence of the existence of secret CIA detention centres in Romania, Poland or any other country. Nevertheless, there are many indications from various sources which must be considered reliable, justifying the continuation of the analytical and investigative work."

On 13 December 2005 Dick Marty, investigating illegal CIA activity in Europe on behalf of the Council of Europe, reported evidence that "individuals had been abducted and transferred to other countries without respect for any legal standards". His investigation has found that no evidence exists establishing the existence of secret CIA prisons in Europe, but added that it was "highly unlikely" that European governments were unaware of the American program of renditions. However, Marty's interim report, which was based largely on a compendium of press clippings has been harshly criticised by the governments of various EU member states.

Secret CIA prisons

A story by reporter Dana Priest published in The Washington Post of November 2, 2005, reported: "The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important alleged al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement." The reporting of the secret prisons was heavily criticized by members and former members of the Bush Administration. However, Dana Priest states no one in the administration requested that the Washington Post not print the story. Rather they asked they not publish the names of the countries in which the prisons are located. "The Post has not identified the East European countries involved in the secret program at the request of senior U.S. officials who argued that the disclosure could disrupt counter-terrorism efforts". While it was maintained that these prisons did not exist, recently the Bush administration has come forward and admitted their existence.

Khaled el-Masri – arrest warrants issued

On 31 January, 13 arrest warrants were issued for suspected CIA operatives, reportedly involved in the abduction and rendition of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen who was abducted from Macedonia in December 2003 and eventually flown to Afghanistan. There he was held incommunicado in solitary confinement for four months and allegedly subjected to ill-treatment during interrogation. Amnesty International – which first wrote to the CIA and other U.S. authorities in August 2004 raising Khaled el-Masri’s case, but without response – welcomes this move towards holding accountable those suspected of involvement in Khaled el-Masri’s abduction and rendition. The organization calls on the US and German authorities to co-operate fully with investigations by German prosecutors into the involvement of U.S. and German officials in the rendition of Khaled el-Masri.

Abu Omar

In December, Italian prosecutors asked for the indictment of 26 US citizens, 25 of whom are suspected CIA operatives reportedly involved in the abduction and rendition of Abu Omar, a man who was abducted from Milan in 2003 and flown to Egypt, where he remains in detention. Abu Omar alleges that he has been tortured in detention in Egypt, including being hung upside down and having electric shocks applied to his testicles.

Prosecutors also asked to indict nine Italian citizens, primarily operatives of the Italian security service, SISMI. In July 2006, prosecutors also issued extradition requests for 26 US citizens; however, the Italian government has failed to forward these requests to the US authorities. While Amnesty International welcomes developments towards holding both Italian and non-Italian citizens accountable for the abduction and rendition of Abu Omar, it calls on the Italian authorities to forward the extradition requests for the 26 US citizens. The organization also calls on the US and Italian authorities to co-operate fully with investigations by Italian prosecutors into the rendition of Abu Omar.

Supporting warlords in Somalia

The US has stated that it will prevent any country from becoming a free haven for terrorists but refuses to comment on Somalia. The US supported the Ethiopian intervention to restore the UN recognized government. There have been reports of Al-Qaeda members hiding in the war-torn country. The US also carried out reconnaissance flights and air attacks targeting the 1998 Embassy terrorists.

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