Monday, December 05, 2005


Torture, Deportation: What Did the German Government Know?

from The European Tribune:

by Saturday
Sun Dec 4th, 2005 at 05:48:15 PM EDT

from the diaries. We need answers! --Jérôme

In the last few weeks, many German Social Democratic politicians have severely criticised the deportation of terrorist-"suspects" by the CIA since Bush's "WOT" began. Last week, SPD foreign policy spokesman Gerd Weisskirchen demanded "a wholehearted clarification of facts" from Condoleeza Rice and stated that although the USA had a priviledged status in Germany, "this does not mean that they are not bound to international law or the German constitution." I absolutely agree with him, but ever since the CIA torture camp/deportation-scandal began, I also asked myself: What did the European governments which are now criticising the US know? - And especially: What did the Schröder government know?

Judging from the latest Washington Post article on the issue, Weisskirchen's fellow party member Otto Schily, then-Minister of the Interior, already had information about some details of CIA actions as early as May 2004.

More below the fold.

Dana Priest of the WP in her article Wrongful Imprisonment: Anatomy of a CIA Mistake:

In May 2004, the White House dispatched the U.S. ambassador in Germany to pay an unusual visit to that country's interior minister. Ambassador Daniel R. Coats carried instructions from the State Department transmitted via the CIA's Berlin station because they were too sensitive and highly classified for regular diplomatic channels, according to several people with knowledge of the conversation.

Coats informed the German minister that the CIA had wrongfully imprisoned one of its citizens, Khaled Masri, for five months, and would soon release him, the sources said. There was also a request: that the German government not disclose what it had been told even if Masri went public. The U.S. officials feared exposure of a covert action program designed to capture terrorism suspects abroad and transfer them among countries, and possible legal challenges to the CIA from Masri and others with similar allegations.


While the CIA admitted to Germany's then-Interior Minister Otto Schily that it had made a mistake, it has labored to keep the specifics of Masri's case from becoming public. As a German prosecutor works to verify or debunk Masri's claims of kidnapping and torture, the part of the German government that was informed of his ordeal has remained publicly silent. Masri's attorneys say they intend to file a lawsuit in U.S. courts this week.

Masri was held for five months largely because the head of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center's al Qaeda unit "believed he was someone else," one former CIA official said. "She didn't really know. She just had a hunch."

The CIA declined to comment for this article, as did Coats and a spokesman at the German Embassy in Washington. Schily did not respond to several requests for comment last week.

The German citizen al-Masri had been detained in Macedonia in December 2003, then deported to Afghanistan by the CIA. The accusations against him only had seemed to be founded on the fact that the name al-Masri showed up several times in the investigations following 9/11. Al-Masri was intensely interrogated, with interrogation measures resembling torture. After no hard evidence against him could be found, al-Masri was secretly returned back to Europe.

I wonder what those people in the SPD who are now criticising the CIA and the Bush government's handling of the issue really knew before the facts became public. Anybody who cries "torture!" now while having had remained silent in May 2004 when he had evidence about the CIA violating human rights on German and European territory, is about as big a hypocrite as Bush himself.

I do not have anything against diplomatic secrecy, especially when dealing with Germany's most important ally since WW2. But if you remain silent when knowing that someone else committed a crime (the WP still likes to call it a "mistake"), you become the perpetrator's accomplice. I would like to know: What did Otto Schily know in May 2004? What did Schily do in reaction to this information? Otto Schily himself is not in office any more, but Frank Walter Steinmeier, as Chancellor's Office Minister responsible for supervision of German intelligence in the last government, now is Foreign Minister. I would like to ask him the same questions. - Maybe Condoleeza Rice's visit to Berlin this week is the appropriate occasion.

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