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Torture, Deportation: What Did the German Government Know?

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

from the diaries. We need answers! --Jrme

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.

As Spiegel Online reports, the Greens inquire about Otto Schily's talks with Daniel R. Coats.

"Otto Schily has to say whether the WP report is right, what he did know about the kidnappings and who in the Federal Government he informed about these findings," demanded Green parliamentary secretary Volker Beck. (...) The government should have taken these findings as a cause for investigating into the practice of CIA flights in German airspace, Beck stressed.


Green interior policy spokesman Wolfgang Wieland regards the findings from the WP article "alarming". The government might even be guilty of cognisance. It has to be cleared if Schily told his friends "to go on" like an accomplice or if he told them "not to do it ever again."

Indeed: What did the government know? And what did the Green ministers, in the first place: Foreign minister Joschka Fischer, know? I wonder how the information flow in my last government worked. Did everyone have his own private connections to foreign ambassadors? Did no one share any information with chancellor Schröder? How come that the Minister of the Interior simply arrogated foreign policy decisions?

It is good to see that the Greens have found their opposition role quickly, but I am still wondering if Joschka Fischer knew about these things - or if he did not know (which also would not shed the best light upon his foreign office administration).

by Saturday (geckes(at)gmx.net) on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 02:56:39 AM EST
I sure hope the opposition parties in and the people are going to and continue to raise a stink. Don't let the Government officials think they can succeed with this kind of behavior. I don't care which side, right or left, is responsible - they all should be kept responsible. This will also be a warning for the future and the chance that this kind of silent acceptance will be avoided in the future - hopefully!
by Fran on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 03:04:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]

i was looking at a discussion about this in german TV last week, i think it was on N-TV. there was one person from the green party and another one who was in a parliament oversight group for the secret services IIRC. they stated that it would be difficult for the german govt to ask the americans to stop doing this, because they had people from the BND go to syria to ask questions to abducted people after they had been tortured there, and the americans (rice) would rightly be able to tell the germans that they had no moral authority to ask the americans to stop torturing people while the germans themselves were involved.

since, CNN is saying that there were about 400 kidnapping flights over the EU, probably with torture victims. since the number comes from CNN it looks like the US wants to pile dirt on the european govts in order to discredit any attempts at countering the kidnappings, or even asking too embarassing questions in public.

i think that, in light of this, it would be more appropriate (and easy) to find out who has been kidnapped in european countries than to ask the governments - plural because it is not only the germans - questions which they will never answer truthfully. because, if there were 400 flights, many of them 737's, and we put a conservative average of 50 people per flight, we still have 20.000 people to account for. and according to an american general, they hold around 83.000 people in the gulag.

by name (name@spammez_moi_sivouplait.org) on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 05:48:30 AM EST
We need a few independent judges in each country to bring down the entire edifice. Remember how Mani Pulite brought down the entire Italian Republic in the early 1990's?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 05:56:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course more countries than only Germany are involved. Now we get to hear some of the truth about what is going on behind everyone's back, and the reactions of the individual governments will have lasting severe international consequences. The U.S., in the person of Miss Mushroom Cloud, is blackmailing Europe into supporting the U.S. in Iraq and in the pseudo-war on terrorist tactics. Which European country will now cut a deal counting on future industrial and oil contracts in Iraq with the support of the U.S.? Poland has probably learned its lesson. The United Kingdom is incorrigibly complicit. France maybe. Yes, I put my money on France with its festering Sarkozy syndrome.
by Quentin on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 07:46:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a good idea. Something like a parliamentarily initiated, judicial investigation on a European scale. Which can also review actions of member governments. A lovely idea </sigh>.

Meanwhile, FDP's Guido Westerwelle does not rule out that his party might call for such a parliamentary investigation comittee (Untersuchungsausschuss) if former and current government officials are unable or unwilling to reveal the facts. This is one of the rare occasions that I agree with Westerwelle.

by Saturday (geckes(at)gmx.net) on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 03:17:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Seems like the kidnapping of Abu Omar in Milan (2003) is being investigated by the German state prosecutor responsible for the town of Zweibrücken, the region that includes Ramstein airbase:

For the German investigators, the initial suspicion arose because the kidnappers allegedly transported Omar to Cairo via Ramstein. In other words, the aircraft is supposed to have landed on German soil and the alleged kidnappers set foot on German soil. [...] The investigation file apparently indicates that the kidnap victim succeeded in communicating with someone. He reported the stopover. On the basis of the flight data that the investigators reviewed both via various air traffic control organizations and sowie Eurocontrol, Ramstein was the only feasible stopover point.

Admittedly, the investigations face difficulties going forward. Ultimately, a criminal investigation requires names. FAZ, 29 Nov. (German)

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 02:42:41 PM EST
Zweibrücken, nice little town...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Dec 5th, 2005 at 04:21:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I'm not sure if I found it nice - but it sure is small :)

have you ever been there?

by Saturday (geckes(at)gmx.net) on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 02:24:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Once, on my way home from Scotland, I camped there. I may have seen only a small sub-sample :-)

Thinking of it, I in fact did - the camping site was at the river on the Western outskirts, and half my memories are of the valley beyond...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 05:55:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...sorry, Eastern outskirts...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 05:55:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
oh, you mean the landscape! Ok, that is beautiful for sure!

And usually nice weather. It is one of the few regions in Germany where even tobacco can be grown.

Next time you put up your tent near Zweibrücken or Ramstein, watch out not to get abducted! (brr, sorry for that one!)

by Saturday (geckes(at)gmx.net) on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 06:37:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
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.

It has just been reported that Steinmeier knew.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Dec 6th, 2005 at 02:36:16 PM EST

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