US terrorism against European citizens

2005-03-13

Richard Moore

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http://counterpunch.com/fresia03112005.html

March 11, 2005

Former Intel Officer: The US Considered Her a Military Target

Targeting Guiliana

By JERRY FRESIA
Former US Air Force Intelligence officer

The top U.S. general in Iraq, Army gen. George Casey, has
stated that the US had no indication that Italian officials
gave advance notice of the route of the vehicle in which
Giuliana Sgrena and slain officer Nicola Calipari were riding.
As a former Air Force intelligence officer, I would argue that
this statement is absolutely ludicrous. Based upon
intelligence collection capabilities of even 3 decades ago, it
is reasonable to assume that the US intercepted all phone
communication between Italian agents in Iraq and Rome,
monitored such traffic in real time and knew precisely where
Sgrena's vehicle was at all times, without advanced notice
being provided by Italian officials.

During the early 1970s, it was my job to monitor intelligence
collected on the Korean peninsula. It was my responsibility to
report serious anomalies to the White House by means of a
secure phone.

At that time, satellite photographic collection capability was
in its infancy; however, the joke, often told at briefings,
was that while "we can identify a golf ball anywhere on planet
earth, we cannot tell you the brand."  In addition to
satellite photography, I would assume, as in Korea, that there
would be numerous other sources of photography from "manned"
and "unmanned" aircraft that are regularly positioned over key
areas, such as the airport in Baghdad, which are capable of
providing real time imagery of vehicle traffic.

Work was also being conducted to monitor voice conversation,
in real time, by detecting the vibrations that the human voice
creates in window panes in a particular room or more easily,
in an automobile. But most important, the US, by 1974, had the
capability to intercept any and all ground to air phone
conversations. It is inconceivable to me that the US would not
be monitoring all conversations between Italian agents and
Rome, particularly cell phone conversations in a hostile
environment where cell phone communications are used to
trigger explosives. Are we to believe that in an area near the
airport, an area that is intensely hostile according to the
US, that they would not be monitoring cell phone signals? Even
if such conversations were electronically "scrambled," the
position of such signals would be of enormous intelligence
value.

One can only assume that the intelligence capability of the US
during the past 28 years has improved significantly. Thus, the
wrong questions are being asked. It is reasonable to assume
that 1) satellite and aircraft intelligence (photographic and
electronic) intelligence was being collected in real time and
2) that my contemporary counterpart in Iraq was monitoring
this intelligence and vehicular traffic (and possibly the
conversations within such vehicles) within a radius of several
kilometers around the airport if not the entire city.
Anomalies would be reported immediately to those in command.
The question, then, becomes what communication occurred
between those in command and those who fired upon Sgrena's
vehicle.

I also believe that a clear motivation for preventing Sgrena
from telling her story is quite evident. Let us recall that
the first target in the second attack upon the city of
Fallujah was al-Fallujah General Hospital. Why? It was the
reporting of enormous civilian casualties from this hospital
that compelled the US to halt its attack. In other words, the
control of information from Fallujah as to consequences of the
US assault, particularly with regard to civilians, became a
critical element in the military operation.

Now, in a report by Iraq's health ministry we are learning
that the US used mustard, nerve gas and napalm ? in the manner
of Saddam ? against the civilian population of Fallujah.
Sgrena, herself, has provided photographic evidence of the use
of cluster bombs and the wounding of children there. I have
searched in vain to find these reports in any major corporate
media. The American population, for the most part, is ignorant
of what its military is doing in their name and must remain so
in order for the US to wage its war against the Iraqi people.

Information, based upon intelligence or the reporting of brave
journalists, may be the most important weapon in the war in
Iraq. From this point of view, the vehicle in which Nicola and
Giuliana were riding wasn't simply a vehicle carrying a
hostage to freedom. It is quite reasonable to assume, given
the immorality of war and of this war in particular, that it
was considered a military target.

Jerry Fresia is a former US Air Force intelligence officer. He
now lives in Italy.

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To: "t r u t h o u t" <•••@••.•••>
From: •••@••.•••
Subject: CIA Abductions Suspected in Europe
Cc: 
Bcc: 
X-Attachments: 

At 9:06 AM -0800 13/03/2005, t r u t h o u t wrote:
FOCUS | CIA Abductions Suspected in Europe
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/031305Y.shtml

Also see below:  
Human Rights Observer Cites 2002 Abuse *

 Go to Original

 Europeans Investigate CIA Role in Abductions
By Craig Whitlock
The Washington Post

Sunday 13 March 2005
Suspects possibly taken to nations that torture.

Milan - A radical Egyptian cleric known as Abu Omar was
walking to a Milan mosque for noon prayers in February 2003
when he was grabbed on the sidewalk by two men, sprayed in the
face with chemicals and stuffed into a van. He hasn't been
seen since.

Milan investigators, however, now appear to be close to
identifying his kidnappers. Last month, officials showed up at
Aviano Air Base in northern Italy and demanded records of any
American planes that had flown into or out of the joint
U.S.-Italian military installation around the time of the
abduction. They also asked for logs of vehicles that had
entered the base.

Italian authorities suspect the Egyptian was the target of a
CIA-sponsored operation known as rendition, in which terrorism
suspects are forcibly taken for interrogation to countries
where torture is practiced.

The Italian probe is one of three official investigations that
have surfaced in the past year into renditions believed to
have taken place in Western Europe. Although the CIA usually
carries out the operations with the help or blessing of
friendly local intelligence agencies, law enforcement
authorities in Italy, Germany and Sweden are examining whether
U.S. agents may have broken local laws by detaining terrorist
suspects on European soil and subjecting them to abuse or
maltreatment.

The CIA has kept details of rendition cases a closely guarded
secret, but has defended the controversial practice as an
effective and legal way to prevent terrorism. Intelligence
officials have testified that they have relied on the tactic
with greater frequency since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The Bush administration has received backing for renditions
from governments that have been criticized for their human
rights records, including Egypt, Jordan and Pakistan, where
many of the suspects are taken for interrogation. But the
administration is getting a much different reception in
Europe, where lawmakers and prosecutors are questioning
whether the practice is a blatant violation of local
sovereignty and human rights.

There are many practical and legal hurdles to filing criminal
charges against U.S. agents, including the question of whether
they are protected by diplomatic immunity and the matter of
determining their identity. However, prosecutors in Italy and
Germany have not ruled out criminal charges. At the same time,
the European investigations are producing new revelations
about the suspected U.S. involvement in the disappearances of
four men, not including the Egyptian, each of whom claims they
were physically abused and later tortured.

In Germany, a 41-year-old man, Khaled Masri, has told
authorities that he was locked up during a vacation in the
Balkans and flown to Kabul, Afghanistan in January 2004, where
he was held as a suspected terrorist for four months. He said
that only after his captors realized he was not the al Qaeda
suspect they were looking for did they take him back to the
Balkans and dump him on a hillside along the Albanian border.
He recalled his captors spoke English with an American accent.

German prosecutors, after several months of scrutinizing his
account, have confirmed several key parts of his story and are
investigating it as a kidnapping.

"So far, I've seen no sign that what he's saying is incorrect.
Many, many pieces of the puzzle have checked out," said Martin
Hofmann, a Munich-based prosecutor overseeing the
investigation. "I have to try to find out who held him, who
tortured or abused him, and who is responsible for this."

In Sweden, a parliamentary investigation has found that CIA
agents wearing hoods orchestrated the forced removal in
December 2001 of two Egyptian nationals on a U.S.-registered
airplane to Cairo, where the men claimed they were tortured in
prison.

One of the men was later exonerated as a terrorism suspect by
Egyptian police, while the other remains in prison there.
Details of the secret operation have shocked many in Sweden, a
leading proponent of human rights.

Although Swedish authorities had secretly invited the CIA to
assist in the operation, the disclosures prompted the director
of Sweden's security police last week to promise that his
agency would never let foreign agents take charge of such a
case again.

"In the future we will use Swedish laws, Swedish measures of
force and Swedish military aviation when deporting
terrorists," Klas Bergenstrand, the security police chief,
told reporters. "That way we get full control over the whole
situation."

Clues to a Mystery

In Milan, the Egyptian-born cleric attracted the attention of
counterterrorism police soon after arriving in Italy in 1997
from Albania. Known as Abu Omar, his full name was Hassan
Mustafa Osama Nasr. He was 42, a veteran fighter from the wars
in Bosnia and Afghanistan and a wanted man in Egypt, where
authorities had charged him with belonging to an outlawed
Islamic radical group.

Nasr frequently preached at two mosques in Milan that have
long attracted religious and political extremists, according
to Italian and U.S. officials. One of the mosques, a converted
garage on Viale Jenner, is classified as a financier of
terrorism causes by the U.S. Treasury Department, which has
accused it of supporting "the movement of weapons, men and
money around the world."

Nasr reinforced the mosque's reputation by preaching angrily
against the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan and handing out
vitriolic pamphlets criticizing U.S. policy in the Middle
East. Italian counterterrorism police tapped his home
telephone and kept him under surveillance.

"He was the kind of person who, let's put it this way, did not
speak diplomatically," said Abdelhamid Shaari, president of
the Islamic Cultural Center at Viale Jenner, who denies that
either the mosque or the center sponsor terrorism or illegal
activity. "When he attacked America, he did not speak in
half-measures. He got right to the point."

When Nasr vanished, his family and mosque leaders reported it
as a kidnapping, after a witness said she saw the abduction.
The witness, a recent immigrant, said she was scared to repeat
her story to the police, however, leading some investigators
to speculate that Nasr had disappeared on his own and gone to
Iraq to fight U.S. forces.

Italian police opened a missing person investigation, but the
case stalled for more than a year. That changed in April 2004,
when Nasr's wife unexpectedly received a telephone call from
her husband. He told her he had been kidnapped and taken to a
U.S. air base in Italy. He said he was then flown to another
U.S. base, before being taken to Cairo.

The call was recorded by Italian police, who had kept the
wiretap on Nasr's home telephone in place. Although
transcripts have not been made public, Nasr's colleagues at
the mosque said he reported that he had been tortured and kept
naked in subfreezing temperatures in a prison in Cairo.

During the phone call, Nasr told his wife that he had been let
out of prison in Egypt but remained under house arrest. His
relatives have said they believe he was imprisoned again
shortly afterward when news of the recorded conversation was
reported by Italian newspapers.

The existence of the wiretap is revealed in sealed Italian
court papers reviewed by The Washington Post. The documents,
dated in the spring of 2004, include a judge's authorization
to continue the wiretap and show that investigators were
pursuing the theory that covert agents - possibly from the
United States, Italy or Egypt - were behind the kidnapping.

Italian investigators have since determined that 15 agents,
some of them CIA operatives, were involved in Nasr's
abduction, according to reports in Corriere della Sera, a
leading Italian daily. Investigators were able to trace calls
made by the agents by linking calls made by the same phones
near the mosque and Aviano Air Base on the day Nasr vanished,
the newspaper reported.

The investigation is being led by Armando Spataro, a
well-known counterterrorism prosecutor whose office has also
built a hard-nosed reputation for winning convictions in cases
involving the Mafia and political corruption. Spataro, who has
worked closely with U.S. officials in the past on terrorism
cases, confirmed that he visited Aviano last month but
declined to comment further.

Capt. Eric Elliott, a U.S. military spokesman at Aviano, said
Spataro met at the base for several hours with Italian
military officials, who then forwarded a request for records
to their American counterparts. Elliott declined to describe
the records being sought, citing "an active investigation."

The U.S. Embassy in Rome declined to answer questions about
whether American agents were involved in Nasr's disappearance.
"We do not comment on intelligence matters," said Ben Duffy,
an embassy spokesman.

Italian opposition lawmakers have demanded answers from Prime
Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government on whether Italian
agents or intelligence services played a role. But government
ministers have remained tight-lipped.

Shaari, the director of the Islamic cultural center in Milan,
said some Muslims are worried they could be kidnapped, too.

"If they can take Abu Omar, then they can take anyone," he
said. "This is an extremely dangerous precedent, both for the
Muslim community and for Italy, as a democratic and free
state."

Claims Corroborated

In late December 2003, Khaled Masri got into a bitter argument
with his wife in their home town of Ulm, Germany. They agreed
he should get away for a few days, so he bought a bus ticket
for Skopje, Macedonia.

At the Macedonian border on New Year's Eve, immigration
officials took a close look at his passport and detained him,
without explanation. Other agents later interrogated him and
pressed him to admit he was a member of al Qaeda, according to
accounts Masri gave his attorney and German prosecutors.

Masri protested his innocence, but was kept under guard in
Macedonia for three weeks. He said that one day in late
January 2004, he was beaten, stripped, shackled and put on a
plane that took him to Afghanistan. There, he was kept in a
cell under dismal conditions, deprived of water and repeatedly
interrogated. Only after going on a hunger strike, he said,
did his captors relent; he was flown back to the Balkans in
May 2004.

He said he was released near an Albanian border checkpoint,
where guards returned his passport and cash. By the time he
made it home, even his wife was reluctant to believe his
story, thinking he had left her for another woman, according
to his attorney.

German police have questioned Masri several times and said
they have found his version consistent and believable. Stamps
in his passport show he entered Macedonia and left Albania on
the dates he described. The bus driver on the route to Skopje
confirmed to investigators that Masri had been on board and
was taken away by border guards.

Investigators have conducted a chemical radioisotope analysis
of Masri's hair. They said the findings back up his story that
he was malnourished while in captivity.

Flight logs also support Masri's claim that he was flown out
of Macedonia by U.S. secret agents. Aviation records show a
U.S.-registered Boeing jet arrived in Skopje at 9 p.m. on Jan.
23, 2004, and departed about six hours later. Masri had
provided German investigators with the same time and date.

The flight plan shows the aircraft was scheduled to go to
Kabul, but later amended its route to include a stopover in
Baghdad. The existence of the flight logs was first reported
by Frontal 21, a news show on the German television network
ZDF. A copy of the logs was obtained by The Washington Post.

Records show the jet, with tail number N313P, was registered
at the time to a U.S. firm, Premier Executive Transport
Services Inc., that records suggest is a CIA front company.
The same firm owned another aircraft, a Gulfstream jet, that
has been used in other rendition cases, including the one in
Sweden.

Masri's attorney and investigators said they think he was
abducted because his name is similar to that of an al Qaeda
suspect, Khalid Masri, who allegedly played a crucial role in
persuading the members of the Hamburg cell that carried out
the Sept. 11 attacks to go to Afghanistan, where they first
met Osama bin Laden.

Manfred Gnjidic, the lawyer, said he has asked the U.S.
Embassy in Berlin for an explanation of what happened, but has
received no response.

"We are quite sure that they were behind this," said Gnjidic.
"We are looking for punishment and to hold someone
accountable."

Robert Wood, an embassy spokesman, declined to answer specific
questions about the case. "But our policy is pretty clear," he
said. "The United States does not transfer detainees to
countries where we believe it is more likely or not that they
will be tortured."

Macedonian officials also had little to say. "Our answer is,
no comment," said Goran Pavlovski, spokesman for the
Macedonian Interior Ministry. "If the Germans want
information, they should ask us about it, and we will
respond."

Under German law, prosecutors have the authority to
investigate any crime committed against a German citizen, even
in foreign lands.

Hofmann, the Munich prosecutor, acknowledged that he has
limited powers to investigate cases outside Germany. But he
said he is preparing a formal request for legal help from the
Macedonian government, as well as from Albanian and Afghan
officials.

"I'm confident that other information will be forthcoming," he
said. "This case has a considerable political meaning. There's
a certain amount of pressure on everyone involved."

--------------

 Human Rights Observer Cites 2002 Abuse
The Associated Press

Saturday 12 March 2005

New York - Unreleased U.S. Army reports detailing the deaths
of two Afghan men who were beaten to death by American
soldiers show that military prison abuses began in Afghanistan
in 2002, and were part of a systematic pattern of
mistreatment, a human rights representative said Saturday.

More than two dozen American soldiers face possible criminal
prosecution - and one already is charged with manslaughter -
in the deaths at the main U.S. detention facility in Bagram,
just north of the Afghan capital of Kabul.

As documented by the Army's Criminal Investigation Command,
the men died a year before the photographed horrors at the Abu
Ghraib prison in Iraq, according to John Sifton, the
Afghanistan researcher for the New York-based Human Rights
Watch.

In a phone interview, Sifton said his group had obtained 20
pages of electronically scanned Army reports.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued to obtain the case
files under the Freedom of Information Act, but the Army
withheld portions of the records because of an ongoing
investigation and possible charges.

On Saturday, a Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Jeremy Martin,
would say only that the cases from 2002 "were thoroughly
investigated and people were punished appropriately."

"The Bush Administration and the Pentagon describe the abuse
problems as isolated incidents, not systematic, not part of a
plan. The evidence shows otherwise," Sifton said. "Far from
being isolated incidents, these beatings were part of a
pattern of abuse."

Members of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion who set
up intelligence operations at the Bagram facility did the same
at the Abu Ghraib prison.

The two Afghan detainees died in December 2002 - a week apart
- as reported in Army memos, with updates detailing their fate
after they were captured by Afghan forces and handed to the
U.S. military.

There were several other deaths of Afghans in American custody
before December 2002, Sifton said, "and we want more
information."

"It's amazing," he said. "Nobody has been punished for this.
The command has recommended that 28 people be prosecuted for
this, but only two have been charged so far."

The unreleased Army documents detail U.S. military
investigations of the deaths of a man named Mullah Habibullah,
about 30, and another identified only as Dilawar, a
22-year-old taxi driver with a 2-year-old daughter, according
to Sifton.

Under U.S. detention, the two men were chained to the ceiling
in standing positions, one at the waist and one by the wrists,
while their feet remained on the ground, according to the Army
reports. One of them was maimed over a five-day period, dying
with his leg muscle tissue destroyed from blows to his knees
and lower body.

The Army has publicly acknowledged the two deaths and
announced in October that up to 28 U.S. soldiers face possible
charges in connection with what were ruled homicides.

Sifton said the Army documents show that U.S. military
investigators are accusing intelligence officers and police
guards of using severe, unapproved tactics on many prisoners
at Bagram, not only the two men.

Last month in a closed hearing at Fort Bliss, Texas, Pfc.
Willie V. Brand of the 377th Military Police Company was
charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with
Dilawar's death, one Army document shows. Brand is accused of
beating him to death over five days.

An autopsy performed by a medical examiner and cited by the
Army showed that Dilawar's legs were so damaged by blows that
amputation would have been necessary.

Dilawar died from "blunt force trauma to the lower extremities
complicating coronary artery disease," according to an Army
report dated July 6, 2004.

Habibullah died of a pulmonary embolism apparently caused by
blood clots formed in his legs from the beatings, according to
a June 1, 2004, military report.

Another member of the Cincinnati-based 377th Company, Sgt.
James P. Boland, was charged with assault, maltreatment and
dereliction of duty in Dilawar's death, and dereliction of
duty in Habibullah's death.

© Copyright 2005 by TruthOut.org

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