Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Whole Lotta Nothing

I'll be very interested to to learn whether allegations that the United States Central Intelligence Agency operated secret prisons in Europe are true. This report from the Associated Press does not add one iota to the discussion.

Here's how it starts.

Investigator: U.S. Shipped Out Detainees

PARIS - A European investigator said Tuesday he has found mounting indications the United States illegally held detainees in Europe but then hurriedly shipped out the last ones to North Africa a month ago when word leaked out.

That's pretty definitive. The body of the story, I would anticipate, would flesh out the details, the proof, that all of this occurred. I would be wrong. What follows is a series of allegations without evidence, innuendo, and speculation worthy of Liz Smith.

The investigator, Swiss Senator Dick Marty, found "clues" that this occurred in Poland and Romania. He speculates:

"To my knowledge, those detainees were moved about a month ago, maybe a little more," he told reporters after briefing the legal committee of the Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog, on his findings. "They were moved to North Africa."

Asked by The Associated Press on the sidelines of the meeting to which North African country detainees might have been moved, he said: "I would imagine that it would be Morocco — up to you to confirm it."

Sure, they were flown to North Africa, but it's "up to you to confirm it"? Checking with Poland, Romania and Morocco, however, yielded nothing, only denials of involvement or knowledge thereof . Zip.

Who is alleging this? The Washington Post reported on it on Nov. 2, and the NY based Human Rights watch supposedly reached this conclusion by analyzing the flight logs of CIA planes. In fact, about 2 weeks after the initial report Mr. Marty stated large prisons were unlikely. Mr. Marty continues.

Marty told the council's legal committee information gathered so far "reinforced the credibility of the allegations concerning the transfer and temporary detention of individuals.

"Reinforced the credibility of the allegations?" That's some publishing standard. The evidence must be pretty solid. No. Here's what we find in paragraph 12.

The investigator told reporters he could not offer proof that secret detention centers existed. But he cited two suspected cases of detainees held by U.S. authorities in Europe as signs that suspects were held at least temporarily in Europe.

The cases cited were the alleged February 2003 kidnapping of Egyptian cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr by the CIA in Milan, Italy; and claims by Khaled al-Masri, a Lebanese-born German...

Of course, Nasr actually was about to be detained as a suspected terrorist, and al-Masri has only allegations.

So what we have is a) concern for a probable terrorist "kidnapped" (I would say apprehended) in Italy (how that relates to the allegations I have no idea), b) other allegations by a Lebanese man, with no proof, c) denials of involvement or knowledge by the three nations directly named, d) an actual CIA leak of classified - but unverified and possibly false - information in the CIA's continuing war against the Bush administration, and e) analysis of flight logs as proof.

I'm waiting for more data. Meanwhile, Mr. Marty, unless you produce a little more of substance, keep your anti-American public statements to yourself.

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