Europe Turns a Blind Eye to the CIA

EU governments are ignoring the CIA’s transportation of terror suspects to torture sites

Tony WesolowskyJuly 5, 2006

The Council of Europe held a press conference on the CIA's alleged illegal activities in Europe.

Thir­teen mem­bers of an E.U. Par­lia­ment probe arrived in Wash­ing­ton on May 10, seek­ing answers to alle­ga­tions of CIA-oper­at­ed secret flights and pris­ons in Europe. A report­ed 1,000 CIA flights have secret­ly criss­crossed Europe since 911, often trans­port­ing ter­ror sus­pects” to be inter­ro­gat­ed in oth­er coun­tries, such as Egypt, where pris­on­ers are rou­tine­ly tortured. 

But when the Euro­peans came call­ing at the nation’s cap­i­tal, only low-lev­el admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials and four mem­bers of Con­gress (all Democ­rats) met with them face-to-face.

Stonewalling from the Bush admin­is­tra­tion should be no sur­prise, but Euro­pean gov­ern­ment offi­cials haven’t been any more forth­com­ing. Javier Solana, the E.U.’s for­eign pol­i­cy chief, told the E.U. Par­lia­ment, I have no infor­ma­tion what­so­ev­er that tells me with cer­tain­ty that any of the accu­sa­tions, alle­ga­tions, rumors that have tak­en place in the last year’s time are true.” 

Daniele Ganser, author of NATO’s Secret Armies: Oper­a­tion Glad­io and Ter­ror­ism in West­ern Europe, says Euro­pean lead­ers are silent for a rea­son. The Euro­pean and the U.S. intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ties are mutu­al­ly depen­dent on each oth­er. The ren­di­tion pro­grams of the CIA are not being open­ly crit­i­cized by the E.U. intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty because the E.U. coun­tries fear that the U.S. will cease to share information.” 

A num­ber of E.U. gov­ern­ments have col­lud­ed by sim­ply turn­ing a blind eye,’ fail­ing to ask any ques­tions,” Tony Bun­yan, the direc­tor of State­watch, which mon­i­tors state and civ­il lib­er­ties in Europe, told the E.U. probe. So that if asked they could say, No requests for tran­sit or over-fly­ing have been received.’”

In fact, accord­ing to the min­utes of a meet­ing about the war on ter­ror by Euro­pean and U.S. offi­cials in Athens in 2003, the Euro­pean Union and Unit­ed States agreed to use Euro­pean tran­sit facil­i­ties to sup­port the return of crim­i­nals and inad­mis­si­ble aliens.”

Not only do Euro­pean gov­ern­ments know more about CIA skull­dug­gery on their soil, in some cas­es they are accom­plices. Gio­van­ni Clau­dio Fava, an Ital­ian Social­ist and mem­ber of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment inquiry, wrote in a draft report to E.U. law­mak­ers that it was improb­a­ble that the abduc­tion of Egypt­ian cler­ic Abu Omar on Feb. 17, 2003 in Milan by CIA agents was orga­nized and car­ried out with­out the pre­vi­ous knowl­edge of Ital­ian author­i­ties and secu­ri­ty service.” 

As the Wash­ing­ton Post report­ed in Novem­ber, the CIA is also run­ning secret deten­tion cen­ters in East­ern Europe. Human Rights Watch has named Roma­nia and Poland as like­ly sites and charges that CIA planes made numer­ous flights between 2003 and 2004 from Afghanistan to the Szy­many air­port in north­east­ern Poland. Mean­while, the Unit­ed States signed a deal with Roma­nia in Decem­ber to build a mil­i­tary base at the Mihail Kogalin­iceanu air­field on the Black Sea, which is where the secret CIA site is thought to be locat­ed. Those claims have been backed by a fax inter­cept­ed by Swiss secret ser­vices from the Egypt­ian For­eign Min­istry to their embassy in Lon­don, which stat­ed that 23 Iraqi and Afghan pris­on­ers were inter­ro­gat­ed at the airfield.

Roma­nia has denied the charges. The Pol­ish par­lia­ment launched its own probe, but dis­closed its find­ings only to a closed-door ses­sion of par­lia­ment last Decem­ber. Noth­ing has hap­pened since.

The CIA has also set up counter ter­ror­ist intel­li­gence cen­ters (CTICs) around the world, 16 in Europe. In 2005, the CIA’s Deputy Direc­tor of Oper­a­tions, Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., told a closed ses­sion of the House and Sen­ate Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee that more than 25 CTICs were respon­si­ble for more than 3,000 arrests.

Just what type of coop­er­a­tion” Euro­pean intel­li­gence agen­cies are pro­vid­ing to the CIA at the CTICs is, like every­thing with the spy agency, murky.

The his­to­ry of what the CIA did in Europe since its cre­ation in 1947 is almost com­plete­ly unknown,” says Ganser. It’s a black spot in people’s memory.”

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