November 7, 2007

The Persistence of Rendition

When President Bush publicly acknowledged the existence of secret CIA jails, he also said they would be vacated — temporarily.

Today, parts of the rendition program are still being debated by U.S. courts — and investigated by foreign governments.

According to the Washington Post, 14 suspected Al Qaeda militants have been taken out of CIA prisons and moved to Guantanamo, but human rights groups say up to 30 other “ghost prisoners” remain unaccounted for.

Some have been transferred to their home countries, such as Libya or Pakistan, and held in government jails there.

Others are suspected of remaining at several CIA “black sites.”

Prisoners claim to have been flown to places as disparate as Jordan, Morocco, Afghanistan and Poland.

One of those black sites could be on Diego Garcia, British-controlled island 1,000 miles off Sri Lanka’s southern coast that is home to a large U.S. military base.

At the urging of human rights groups, British government officials recently launched an investigation into whether the CIA detained terrorist suspects there or still is — a revelation that would prove “hugely embarrassing” for the government, according to the Guardian.

A prison is known to have existed on the island since 1984.

British ministers have also disclosed that a building on the island was reassigned as a prison after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

There have also been reports of terrorist suspects held indefinitely in ships around the island.

British officials have asked the U.S. about the island several times over the past three years, as recently as a month ago, and say they are assured that no al Qaeda suspects have been held there.

Scottish officials were similarly faced with recent evidence that Scottish airports were used to refuel secret CIA rendition flights more than 100 times since the start of the war.

Government ministers say they “take seriously” any attempt to use Scottish airspace to transport prisoners to locations where they could be tortured, and have asked police to investigate, according to the Observer.

Amnesty International is meanwhile lobbying the government to adopt an “anti-rendition policy,” the first of its kind, which would empower air-traffic controllers to cross-check private flights against CIA aircraft registrations.

The measure would also ask the flight operator to find out what is on board and permit the police to board the plane to investigate.

Citing concerns over state secrets, the Justice Department has asked a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit against a flight planning and refueling company that is accused of organizing more than 70 CIA rendition flights containing prisoners bound for black sites, reports Bloomberg.

The ACLU brought the lawsuit against Colorado-based Jeppesen Dataplan on behalf of several detainees it claims were tortured using rendition flights.

It claims the company collaborated with the government by falsifying flight plans.

Sources:

“Claims of secret CIA jail for terror suspects on British island to be investigated”
Guardian (U.K.), October 19, 2007

“From CIA jails, inmates fade into obscurity”
Washington Post, October 27, 2007

“U.S. asserts state secrets, seeks to dismiss CIA case”
Bloomberg, October 19, 2007

“Call for outlawing of ‘rendition’ flights”
Observer (U.K.), October 28, 2007

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