CIA Prisoner 'Renditions' Began under Clinton & Swiss May Have Known about Secret CIA Prisons
January 11, 2006
Political Gateway & Scott Capper / SwissInfo
The CIA's controversial "rendition" program to have terror suspects captured and questioned on foreign soil was launched under US president Bill Clinton. AND: The Swiss intelligence community has allegedly been aware of secret CIA prisons in eastern Europe for nearly two months, according to leaked documents.
CIA Prisoner 'Renditions' Began under Clinton
BERLIN (December 28, 2005) — The CIA's controversial "rendition" program to have terror suspects captured and questioned on foreign soil was launched under US president Bill Clinton, a former US counterterrorism agent told a German newspaper.
Michael Scheuer, a 22-year veteran of the CIA who resigned from the agency in 2004, told Thursday's issue of the newsweekly Die Zeit that the US administration had been looking in the mid-1990s for a way to combat the terrorist threat and circumvent the cumbersome US legal system.
"President Clinton, his national security advisor Sandy Berger and his terrorism advisor Richard Clark ordered the CIA in the autumn of 1995 to destroy Al-Qaeda," Scheuer said, in comments published in German.
"We asked the president what we should do with the people we capture. Clinton said 'That's up to you'."
Scheuer, who headed the CIA unit that tracked Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden from 1996 to 1999, said that he developed and led the "renditions" program, which he said included moving prisoners without due legal process to countries without strict human rights protections.
"In Cairo, people are not treated like they are in Milwaukee. The Clinton administration asked us if we believed that the prisoners were being treated in accordance with local law. And we answered, yes, we're fairly sure."
At the time, he said, the CIA did not arrest or imprison anyone itself.
"That was done by the local police or secret services," he said, adding that the prisoners were never taken to US soil. "President Clinton did not want that."
He said the program changed under Clinton's successor, President George W. Bush, after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
"We started putting people in our own institutions -- in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo. The Bush administration wanted to capture people itself but made the same mistake as the Clinton administration by not treating these people as prisoners of war."
He accused Europeans of being hypocritical in criticizing the US administration for its anti-terror tactics while benefiting from them.
"All the information we received from interrogations and documents, everything that had to do with Spain, Italy, Germany, France, England was passed on," he said.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended renditions on a trip to Europe this month as a "vital tool" for fighting international terrorism but insisted that Washington does not condone torture.
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The Swiss intelligence community has allegedly been aware of secret CIA prisons in eastern Europe for nearly two months, according to leaked documents. The intelligence services are refusing to comment on the affair, revealed at the weekend by the SonntagsBlick newspaper.
Swiss May Have Known about Secret CIA Prisons
Scott Capper / Swissinfo
(January 8, 2006) — Swiss parliamentarian Dick Marty, who is investigating the prison claims for the Council of Europe, played down the significance of the leaked document.
According to the SonntagsBlick, Swiss military intelligence intercepted a fax received by the Egyptian embassy in London supposedly confirming the existence of the detention centres.
The message was picked up by the secret service's Onyx satellite listening system on November 10, just three days after the Council of Europe launched its investigation into allegations that the CIA was running secret interrogation centres in Europe.
The non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch had claimed shortly beforehand that American intelligence services were interrogating suspected members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network at these centres.
The NGO also claimed that American planes had carried prisoners from Kabul to Polish and Romanian military facilities on at least two occasions.
The Egyptian fax stated that 23 Iraqi and Afghan citizens had been transferred to a Romanian military base near the port of Constanza for interrogation purposes. It added that similar detention centres had been set up in Ukraine, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bulgaria.
The SonntagsBlick's story is based on a document leaked from military intelligence. The complete contents of the report are classified as "secret".
Jean-Blaise Defago, a spokesman for the defence ministry, declined to comment on the contents of the document, saying only that the authorities did not know how the newspaper had got hold of it.
He told swissinfo that Defence Minister Samuel Schmid had ordered an inquiry and confirmed that legal steps were being considered.
The parliament's control committee, which oversees military intelligence, has been informed of the leak.
Dick Marty, who is leading the Council of Europe's investigation into the prison allegations, is cautious about the SonntagsBlick's revelations.
"I cannot say whether this is an authentic document, and furthermore the fax relays information confirming things we already knew," he told swissinfo.
"But it seems inappropriate to me to talk of absolute proof. It is the kind of scoop I was expecting to see and I'm sure there will be plenty more."
Marty believes that if the document turns out to be authentic, it will be further proof that some governments in Europe are not revealing everything they know.
A more pressing concern in his view is how the document came to light.
"How is it that the Swiss intelligence services are intercepting messages between Cairo and the Egyptian embassy in London?" he asked.
"Or is it another foreign [security] service that passed on the information to Switzerland and then to the SonntagsBlick?"
• Swiss Defence Ministry: http://www.vbs.admin.ch/internet/vbs/en/home.html
• Swiss military intelligence (German): http://www.vbs.admin.ch/internet/vbs/de/home/departement/organisation/snd.html
• SonntagsBlick (German): http://www.blick.ch/sonntagsblick
• Council of Europe: http://www.coe.int/defaultEN.asp
• Human Rights Watch: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/11/14/nepal12021.htm
• Dick Marty (Italian): http://www.dickmarty.ch/
• Echelon - Federation of American Scientists: