Germany Orders Arrest of
13 CIA Operatives in
Kidnapping of Khaled el-Masri
JEFFREY FLEISHMAN / Los Angeles Times 31jan2007
BERLIN — A Munich court has ordered the arrest of 13 U.S. intelligence operatives in connection with the kidnapping and beating of a German citizen who was interrogated for five months at a secret prison in Afghanistan, prosecutors announced today.
The suspects belong to a CIA-sponsored team that allegedly flew Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, from Macedonia to Afghanistan in January 2004. Each of the accused, all but one of whom were identified only by aliases, were charged with kidnapping and causing serious bodily harm.
Police found a "strong suspicion" that the operatives were involved in el-Masri's disappearance, said a statement released by the Munich prosecutor's office. "According to the information we have, the suspects listed in the arrest warrants are believed to be so-called code names of CIA agents. The investigation will now focus on learning the actual names of the suspects."
Legal experts said it was unlikely the accused, including four pilots, a medic and members of an operations unit, would appear before a German court. CIA and State Department officials have refused to comment in detail about the el-Masri case, but the Bush administration has said anti-terror laws allow for such covert operations, known as "extraordinary renditions." U.S. officials have denied allegations of torture.
"As far as I know, the German court has never issued an arrest warrant against 13 CIA officials all at once," said Hans-Christian Stroeble, a member of a parliamentary committee investigating the el-Masri case. His Greens Party has criticized the renditions program as a violation of human rights. "This is a great success."
The intelligence operatives, most of whom are believed to be Americans, are alleged to have been involved in a mission that loaded a bound and drugged el-Masri onto a Boeing 737 that flew him from Skopje, Macedonia to Afghanistan in the early morning of Jan. 24, 2004. el-Masri had been detained weeks earlier by Macedonian security officials when he attempted to cross the Serbian-Macedonian border. He said while in Macedonian custody he was beaten and photographed naked.
German prosecutors were initially skeptical about el-Masri's tale of disappearing into a hidden dimension in the fight against terrorism and being held for five months of interrogation and abuse until he was released in the mountains of Albania in May 2004. But German authorities said they concluded that the car salesman and father of four was telling the truth.
German officials believe el-Masri was the victim of mistaken identity: a man with the same name as a suspected terrorist linked to Al Qaeda. Former Interior Minister Otto Shilly has told a German government committee that U.S. officials privately apologized for the abduction.
U.S. authorities never charged el-Masri with a crime and German prosecutors have criticized Washington for not cooperating with their investigation. German officials allege that the operatives, many of whom live in North Carolina, work for Aero Contractors, which has links to the CIA. The company is connected to Premier Executive Transport Services Inc., which held the registration for the Boeing that transported el-Masri, according to European aviation documents.
The case has led to questions within the German government. The parliamentary committee is investigating whether German agents were involved in the abduction and why Foreign Minster Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who then oversaw intelligence agencies for the chancellery, did not immediately disclose his knowledge of the affair.
The case, at times, has agitated the improving relationship between Berlin and Washington. In 2005, after a meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rise, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she was pleased that the Bush administration "admitted this man [el-Masri] had been erroneously taken."
But a senior U.S. official quickly denied such a characterization, saying that el-Masri was released because Washington "no longer had evidence or intelligence to justify" his detention.
source: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-ex-cia31jan1,1,275087.story 31jan2007
CIA Kidnapping Case: Germany Issues Warrants For 13
DAVID RISING / AP 31jan2006
German prosecutors said Wednesday that they have issued arrest warrants for 13 suspected CIA agents who allegedly abducted a German citizen in an apparent anti-terrorist operation gone wrong.
It was Washington's second European ally to seek the arrest of purported CIA agents for spiriting away a terrorism suspect. Italian prosecutors want to question 25 agents and one other American in the alleged kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric suspected of terrorism.
Munich prosecutor Christian Schmidt-Sommerfeld told The Associated Press that warrants in the latest case were issued in the last few days. He said the unidentified agents were sought on suspicion of wrongfully imprisoning Khaled el-Masri and causing him serious bodily harm.
el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, says he was detained in December 2003 at the Serbian-Macedonian border and then flown by the CIA to a jail in Afghanistan, where he was abused. He says he was let go in Albania five months later and told he had been seized in a case of mistaken identity.
Rights activists have seized on el-Masri's story and other cases to demand that the U.S. stop "extraordinary rendition" — moving terrorism suspects to third countries where they could face torture. Some European governments have been accused of winking at the practice.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other U.S. officials have declined to address el-Masri's case. However, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the Bush administration acknowledged making a mistake with el-Masri.
Germany's government refused to comment on the arrest warrants, as did the CIA. The State Department's deputy spokesman, Tom Casey, said only that the U.S. would review the allegations.
NDR television released a list of 11 men and two women reportedly named in the warrants. It said three had been contacted by its reporters and had refused comment.
The prosecutor's office refused to confirm the list, while revealing the suspects' real names weren't known.
"The personal details contained in the arrest warrants are, according to our current knowledge, aliases of CIA agents," Schmidt-Sommerfeld said in a statement. "Further investigation will, among other things, concentrate on trying to determine the clear identities of the suspects."
el-Masri's attorney, Manfred Gnjidic, said the issuing of the arrest warrants was "a very important step in the rehabilitation" of his client. "It shows us that we were right in putting our trust in the German authorities and the German prosecutors," he told reporters.
Prosecutors were led to the suspects after receiving a list in December 2005 of possible people involved in el-Masri's detention compiled by a Spanish journalist from sources within Spain's Civil Guard, a paramilitary police unit, Schmidt-Sommerfeld said.
He said Spanish authorities then provided help and prosecutors were able to pursue an investigation against "concrete persons."
Schmidt-Sommerfeld said tips were also received from others, including prosecutors in Milan, Italy, and Dick Marty, a Swiss senator who led a Council of Europe inquiry into purported CIA "extraordinary rendition" flights. The prosecutor did not give any details on the tips.
The CIA agents are suspected of flying aboard a Boeing 737 from the Spanish island of Palma de Mallorca in January 2004 to pick up el-Masri from Macedonian authorities, another prosecutor, August Stern, said.
ARD television said last year investigators were working from passport photocopies made by a hotel where the suspects stayed, but Stern said he could not confirm that or other details.
The Justice Department has declined to provide Munich prosecutors assistance, citing legal proceedings involving el-Masri in the United States.
el-Masri has asked a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., to reinstate a lawsuit against the CIA seeking compensation. A judge dismissed the suit last May, ruling that a trial could harm national security by revealing details about CIA activities.
The German government has said it learned of the case only after el-Masri's release. In late 2005, Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the then-U.S. ambassador to Germany had told his predecessor, Otto Schily, about it May 31, 2004.
Schaeuble said Ambassador Dan Coats provided no details of el-Masri's treatment, but told Schily that "one had apologized to him (el-Masri) and agreed (on) confidentiality and paid him a sum of money."
Gnjidic, el-Masri's lawyer, has said his client denies receiving either an apology or money.
source: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/world/4515195.html 31jan2007
CIA Abduction of el-Masri:
Suspected CIA Kidnappers Identified
Der Spiegel (Germany) 21jan2007
The US intelligence agents involved in wrongly kidnapping a German citizen of Arab descent could soon face warrants for their arrest. Clues to their identity have turned up from Spanish authorities and German TV journalists.
The case of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent who was allegedly kidnapped and tortured in secret CIA prisons, continues to unfold. According to a report in the German press on Thursday, the US intelligence agents who wrongly abducted el-Masri might be confronted with warrants for their arrest, as details of their identities become known to German prosecutors.
Munich's Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that prosecutors had received a list of names of suspected US kidnappers from Spanish officials. "We now have very specific questions for the Spanish authorities," state prosecutor August Stern told the paper.
el-Masri says he was wrongly abducted on New Year's Eve 2003 in Macedonia and detained in various secret overseas prisons often referred to as "black sites." His five month ordeal finally ended when he was dumped on an abandoned road in Albania.
el-Masri's case is one of the best known cases of extraordinary rendition, a practice the United States is thought to use against terror suspects. The practice has come under considerable criticism by human rights groups that allege the US officials spirit the suspects away to countries that use questionable interrogation methods illegal under US law.
Spain provides names
The list from Spain is key to pursuing el-Masri's abductors since many of the secret CIA flights stopped on the Spanish Mediterranean island of Majorca. Several US intelligence employees were there the day before el-Masri's kidnapping and were booked into a luxury hotel -- albeit under fake names. However, Süddeutsche reported that the hotel's staff made copies of their passport photos, enabling them to be identified.
German public broadcaster ARD also reported on Thursday that some of its journalists had been able to uncover the identities of at least three of the US agents in Spain under the aliases Eric Fain, James Fairing and Kirk James Bird, who were all on the plane transporting el-Masri. Perhaps because they were only pilots, the CIA didn't seem to go to great lengths to change their identities. All kept their real first names and all apparently work for the North Carolina firm Aero Contractors, which according to the New York Times has been heavily involved in the CIA's renditions operations.
A German parliamentary committee on Thursday continued its investigation into the el-Masri case. The inquiry is meant to uncover to what extent German intelligence officials knew about the abduction and whether the government at the time was complicit in the kidnapping. Berlin denies keeping quiet about the case.
source: http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,438371,00.html 31jan2007
Khalid El-Masri (born June 29, 1963) is a German citizen who was, in the course of the CIA's extraordinary rendition programme, detained, flown to Afghanistan, and interrogated and allegedly tortured by the CIA for several months as a part of the War on terror, and then released without charge. This illegal detention was apparently due to a misunderstanding that arose concerning the similarity of the spelling of El-Masri's name with the spelling of suspected terrorist al-Masri.
El-Masri was born in Kuwait to Lebanese parents. He grew up in Lebanon and moved to Germany in 1985 to escape the Lebanese Civil War. He became a German citizen in 1994, married a fellow Lebanese in 1996 and has several children.
El-Masri travelled from his home in Ulm to go on vacation in Skopje at the end of 2003. He was detained by Macedonian border officials on December 31, 2003, because his name was identical (except for variations in English spelling) to that of Khalid al-Masri, an alleged mentor to the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell who has not been apprehended, and because of suspicion that his German passport was a forgery. He was held in a motel in Macedonia for over three weeks and questioned about his activities, his associates, and the mosque he attended in Ulm.
The Macedonian authorities also contacted the local CIA station, who in turn contacted the agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia. A December 4, 2005, article in the Washington Post said that an argument arose within the CIA over whether they should remove him from Macedonia in an extraordinary rendition. The decision to do so was made by the head of the al Qaeda division of the CIA's Counter-terrorism Center on the basis of a hunch he was involved in terrorism.  The Macedonians released him on January 23, 2004 and American security officials, described in an MSNBC article as members of a "black snatch team", came to Macedonia, and detained him. They beat him, stripped him naked, drugged him, and gave him an enema. He was then dressed in a diaper and a jumpsuit, and flown to Baghdad, then immediately to "the salt pit", a covert CIA interrogation centre in Afghanistan which contained prisoners from Pakistan, Tanzania, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
El-Masri wrote in the Los Angeles Times that, while held in Afghanistan, he was beaten and repeatedly interrogated. He has also claimed that he was raped. He was kept in a bare, squalid cell, given only meager rations to eat and putrid water to drink. In February, CIA officers in Kabul began to suspect his passport was genuine. The passport was sent to the CIA headquarters in Langley where in March the CIA's Office of Technical Services concluded it was indeed genuine. Discussion over what to do with El-Masri included secretly transporting him back to Macedonia, without informing German authorities, dumping him, and denying any claims he made. In the end they did inform the German government, without apologizing, and were able to persuade the Germans to remain silent.
In March 2004 El-Masri took part in a hunger strike, demanding that his captors afford him due process or watch him die. After 27 days without eating, he forced a meeting with the prison director and a CIA officer known as "The Boss". They conceded he should not be imprisoned but refused to release him. El-Masri continued his hunger strike for 10 more days until he was force-fed and given medical attention. He had lost more than 60 pounds since his abduction in Macedonia.
While imprisoned in Afghanistan, Masri befriended several other detainees, and they all memorized each other's telephone numbers so that if one was released they could contact the others' families. One of these detainees, an Algerian named Laid Saidi, was recently released and his description of his capture and detention closely matches that of El-Masri.
In April 2004, CIA Director George Tenet learned that El-Masri was being wrongfully detained. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice learned of his detention shortly thereafter in early May and ordered his release. El-Masri was released on May 28 following a second order from Rice. American authorities met with him and agreed to release him if he agreed never to tell the story of his ordeal to anyone. They flew him out of Afghanistan and released him at night on a desolate road in Albania, without apology, or funds to return home. At the time he believed his release was a ruse, and he would be executed. He was eventually intercepted by Albanian guards, who believed him to be a terrorist due to his haggard and unkempt appearance. He was subsequently reunited with his wife who had returned to her family in Lebanon, with their children, because she thought her husband had abandoned them. Using isotope analysis, scientists at the Bavarian archive for geology in Munich analyzed his hair and verified that he was malnourished during his disappearance.
- According to a December 4, 2005, article in the Washington Post, the CIA's Inspector General is investigating a series of "erroneous renditions", including El-Masri's.  The article was written by Dana Priest, the journalist who broke the story on the covert interrogation centres — the "black sites".
- A November 9, 2005 Reuters story stated that a German prosecutor is investigating El-Masri's kidnapping "by persons unknown", and that another lawyer, Manfred Gnjidic, would be flying to the U.S. to file a civil compensation suit. The Reuters story says American authorities have neither confirmed nor denied any element of El-Masri's story.
- On December 5, 2005, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the United States had acknowledged holding El-Masri in error.
- On December 6, 2005, the American Civil Liberties Union helped El-Masri file suit in the USA against former CIA director George Tenet and the owners of the private jets, leased to the US government, that the CIA used to transport him. El-Masri had to participate via a videolink because the American authorities again confused him with al-Qaeda terrorist Khalid al-Masri and denied him entry when his plane landed in the United States. Some press reports attributed the Americans barring him entry due to his name remaining on the watchlist. But his lawyer, Manfred Gnjidic, was also barred entry.
- On December 17, 2005, Front magazine published an article that said a member of a German Intelligence Agency had clandestinely passed a copy of El-Masri's dossier to the CIA in April 2004.
- El-Masri published a first-person account of his experience in the Los Angeles Times.
- A report on March 2, 2006, claimed that El-Masri may have been a leader of a radical Lebanese group "El-Tawhid" during the early 1980s - the time of the Lebanese Civil War. The Arabic name for the Levantine Druze ethnic group is '"Ahl al-Tawhid". German reports assert that El-Masri reported his being a member of "El-Tawhid" or "Al-Tawhid" when he applied to Germany for refugee status, in 1985 - a reference either to the civil war group or his ethnic identity. The reference to "El-Tawhid" may have been confused with the group Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi lead, Al Qaeda in Iraq, used to be called "Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad". "Al-Tawhid" translates simply as "monotheism". "Ahl al-Tawhid", the Druze's name for themselves, translates as "people of monotheism". "Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad", the former name for Zarqawi's group, translates as the "movement for monotheism and struggle".
- On May 12, 2006, a U.S. federal court heard a government motion to dismiss the suit brought by El-Masri, claiming the trial could jeopardize national security.
- On Thursday, May 18, 2006, U.S. Federal District Judge T.S. Ellis, III dismissed a lawsuit El-Masri filed against the CIA and three private companies allegedly involved with his transport, explaining that a public trial would "present a grave risk of injury to national security." Ellis also acknowledged that if Masri's allegations were true then he deserved compensation from the US government.
- The BND (German intelligence agency) declared on June 1, 2006 that it had known of el-Masri's seizure 16 months before Germany was officially informed of his mistaken arrest. Germany had previously claimed that it did not know of el-Masri's abduction until his return to the country in May 2004 .
- On Wednesday, July 26, 2006, The ACLU announced that "it will appeal the recent dismissal of a lawsuit brought by Khaled El-Masri against the US government."  According to ACLU attorney Ben Wizner, "If this decision stands, the government will have a blank check to shield even its most shameful conduct from accountability."
- On Wednesday October 4, 2006 the Washington Post reported that Munich prosecutors were complaining that a lack of cooperation from US authorities was impeding their investigation into El-Masri's abduction. The article reports that Munich prosecutors have a list of the names, or known aliases, of 20 CIA operatives who they believe played a role in the abduction.
- On Wednesday January 31, 2007 Munich Prosecutor Christian Schmidt-Sommerfeld announced that warrants for 13 people were issued for suspected involvement in Mr El-Masri's rendition. 
- Extraordinary Rendition - Khaled El-Masri - Statement, American Civil Liberties Union, June 12, 2005
- a b Dana Priest: Wrongful Imprisonment: Anatomy of a CIA Mistake. Washington Post, December 4, 2005
- a b c CIA accused of detaining innocent man: If the agency knew he was the wrong man, why was he held?, MSNBC, April 21, 2005
- Jerry Markon: Lawsuit Against CIA is Dismissed. Washington Post, May 19, 2006
- Dana Priest, Plea to cover up wrongful arrest, Sydney Morning Herald, December 5, 2005
- Craig S. Smith; Souad Mekhennet (2006-07-07). Algerian Tells of Dark Odyssey in U.S. Hands. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2006-07-07. Retrieved on 2006-10-14.
- Georg Mascolo, Holger Stark: The US Stands Accused of Kidnapping. SPIEGEL ONLINE, February 14, 2005
- German man to file suit over US 'kidnapping', Reuters, November 9, 2005
- Glenn Kessler: Rice to Admit German's Abduction Was an Error. Washington Post, December 6, 2005
- German Man Claims U.S. Tortured Him, Forbes, December 6, 2005
- Magazine: CIA received German file on German captive, Reuters, December 17, 2005
- America kidnapped me, Los Angeles Times, December 19, 2005
- El-Masri a member of El-Tawhid, msn.de, February 23, 2006
- Al-Qaeda-Iraq link being investigated in Germany, report says, Drudge Report, February 5, 2003,
- Terrorists with German Passports, Der Spiegel, October 27, 2005
- U.S. seeks to block lawsuit against CIA, Associated Press, May 12, 2006
- Judge dismisses Masri torture case, Reuters, May 18, 2006
- Souad Mekhennet, Craig S. Smith: German Spy Agency Admits Mishandling Abduction Case. The New York Times, June 2, 2006
- "ACLU To Appeal Dismissal of El-Masri Lawsuit", DemocracyNow.org, July 26, 2006
- Craig Whitlock: German Lawmakers Fault Abduction Probe. Washington Post, October 4, 2006
For links to references, please go to source document
source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khalid_El-Masri 31jan2007