Saturday, December 03, 2005

IRAQ : Bushwhacked : An American song with pictures

Excellent work here by Tom a Veteran (Infantry Hospital Corpsman, USMC/USN) that I spotted in a comments thread on the excellent Daily Dissent . Bushwhacked

If you like Tom's work why not check out other tracks on his site


Abductors threaten Iraq hostages

Arabic television station al-Jazeera has broadcast a new videotape of four Western hostages being held in Iraq. The TV quoted a statement in which the kidnappers said they would kill the men unless all prisoners in Iraqi and US centres were released by 8 December.

The peace activists - two Canadians, an American and a Briton - were accused by their captors of being spies.

The American and the Briton were shown calling for the kidnappers' demands to be met, al-Jazeera said.

The videotape, from a group calling itself Swords of Truth, apparently showed the two Canadian hostages receiving food from their captors.

Few details have emerged of how the group was abducted last week. It is thought they were in a district of western Baghdad with minimal security when they were snatched.

In a videotape shown on al-Jazeera earlier this week, the group accused the men of being spies.

The US-based Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) identified the men as Briton Norman Kember, 74, American Tom Fox, 54, and Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32.

The group is one of the few remaining aid groups operating in Iraq.

A spokesman for the UK Foreign Office said it was aware of the media reports of the videotape and was looking into it.

Source BBC

US civil rights group to sue CIA

A US civil rights groups says it is taking the CIA to court to stop the transportation of terror suspects to countries outside US legal authority. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says the intelligence agency has broken both US and international law.

It is acting for a man allegedly flown to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she'll comment on recent reports of alleged CIA prisons abroad before starting a visit to Europe on Monday.

Ms Rice has said she will provide an answer to a EU letter expressing concern over reports last month alleging the US intelligence agency was using secret jails - particularly in eastern Europe.

"The lawsuit will charge that CIA officials at the highest level violated US and universal human rights laws when they authorised agents to abduct an innocent man, detain him in incommunicado, beat him, drug and transport him to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan," the ACLU said in a news release.

The release identified the jail as the "Salt Pit".

The group did not provide the name or nationality of the plaintiff, saying only that he would appear at a news conference next week to reveal details of the lawsuit.

The ACLU also wants to name corporations which it accuses of owning and operating the aircraft used to transport detainees secretly from country to country.

The highly secretive process is known as "extraordinary rendition" whereby intelligence agencies move and interrogate terrorism suspects outside the US, where they have no American legal protection.

It has become extremely controversial, the BBC's Adam Brookes in Washington reports.

Some individuals have claimed they were flown by the CIA to countries like Syria and Egypt, where they were tortured.

The US government and its intelligence agencies maintain that all their operations are conducted within the law and they will no doubt fight this case vigorously, our correspondent says.

He says they will not want to see US intelligence officers forced publicly to defend their actions and they will not want to see one of their most secret procedures laid bare in open court.

source BBC

Ten Marines Killed By Roadside Bomb

WASHINGTON -- Ten Marines were killed and 11 wounded by a roadside bomb near Fallujah, Iraq, in one of the deadliest attack on American troops in recent months, the Marine Corps announced on Friday.

A brief statement said the Marines were from Regimental Combat Team 8, of the 2nd Marine Division.

They were hit Thursday by a roadside bomb, which the military calls an improvised explosive device, made from several large artillery shells, the Marines said.

The Marines were on a foot patrol outside of Fallujah, about 30 miles west of Baghdad. Of the 11 who were wounded, seven have returned to duty, the Marine Corps statement said. It added that Marines from the same unit continue to conduct counterinsurgency operations throughout Fallujah and surrounding areas.

The names of those killed were withheld pending notification of their relatives, in line with usual military practice.

Pentagon officials said they did not immediately have any information beyond was what contained in the Marine Corps statement.

Fallujah had been a stronghold of the insurgents until U.S. forces, led by Marines, assaulted the city in November 2004. Since then the U.S. military and the Iraqi government have been working to rebuild the city and limit the return of insurgents.

At least 2,120 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the war in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Iraq : Shi´ite leader urges pullout

Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is accusing U.S President George W. Bush of violating international opinion by failing to give a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

Al-Sadr, whose father and two brothers are believed to have been killed on Saddam Hussein's orders in 1999, has a strong following among the poor urban Shi'ite Muslims. He is also rallying support ahead of elections on December 15th.

Al-Sadr said, "President Bush closed the possibility of timetable for forces withdrawal and I consider this as a violation to the world opinion, United Nations, Security Council, the Islamic conference and the Arab League in addition to the Iraqi people who gathered in the Arab League."

"The stability of Iraq will lead to the stability of the whole world. We noticed that when US forces occupied Afghanistan, nothing good happened towards making the country stable."

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Guantanamo is just an aside

The largest group of former detainees of the "war on terror" came together for a London conference on torture and other ill-treatment of detainees. The conference ran from 19-21 November and was organised by Amnesty International and Reprieve, another UK-based human rights organisation. Over the course of the three-day gathering, former detainees, including many previously held at Guantanamo Bay, talked about their experiences of ill- treatment while in detention.

Secretary-General of Amnesty International Irene Khan was amongst the speakers present. Commenting on the accounts of former detainees Khan said, "their stories are just one tiny element of the terrible human suffering that the war on terror is creating." She warned that "Guantanamo is only the tip of the iceberg. Torture and ill-treatment are increasingly legitimised by the war on terror."

It has recently been revealed that the US has detained more than 83,000 people since the launching of its "war on terror" four years ago. Up to 14,500 of those remain in detention and 108 people are known to have died in US custody.

There are allegations that the American authorities are holding thousands of people in secret locations around the world, including Eastern Europe.

The aim of the conference -- which heard testimonies from former detainees and family members from around the world, along with representatives of human rights organisations, lawyers and UN experts -- was to highlight the human cost of the war on terror. Moazzam Begg, a British national who spent three years in Guantanamo Bay, was among the former detainees who participated in the conference. Begg was captured by Pakistani and US agents in Islamabad in early 2002. He was held at different detention centres in Kandahar and Bagram in Afghanistan before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay. He was released -- without charge -- and repatriated to Britain earlier this year.

"People always ask me how I cope with the difficulties of readjusting to normal life," Begg said. "And I answer life is no longer normal."

Along with Begg, eight other British former Guantanamo Bay detainees have been repatriated and released without charge. Their release came following extensive diplomatic negotiations between Washington and London. Ten UK residents who are not British citizens remain in Guantanamo Bay. This raises the question of just how many innocent men are languishing in the notorious naval base in legal limbo -- not because there is convincing evidence of their culpability, but because their countries have not lobbied for -- or not in a position -- to demand their repatriation and trial at home, if need be.

Begg said he felt especially guilty during his encounters with the wives and children of the UK residents he left behind.

"What do I say to their children when they ask: did you see my father?" he asked. "What can I say to them when they ask me: what had my father done? And what I can say to them when they say: why are you back and my father is not? What does the United States of America say to them? There is nothing to say except that it is unequivocally wrong."

The Pentagon says 505 people are currently held at Guantanamo Bay. Many of these have been there for four years, without being charged, let alone tried or convicted of a crime. Most of the detainees were captured in Afghanistan following the October 2001 US invasion.

Source : Here

Two CIA Flights Stopped in France

PARIS (AP) - Two flights chartered by the CIA made stopovers in France in 2002 and 2005, French newspaper Le Figaro said Friday, adding to likely questions facing U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when she visits Europe next week.

A French Foreign Ministry official said authorities were checking with civil aviation authorities whether the flights, first mentioned Thursday in the New York Times and Britain's Guardian newspaper, did indeed take place.

``It is perfectly possible there were flights,'' said spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei. The ministry had previously said it had no knowledge of any CIA flights in France.

Le Figaro said the first flight identified took place on March 31, 2002. The Learjet private plane stopped in the northwestern town of Brest on its way from Iceland to Turkey, with a planned stop in Rome, the newspaper said.

Authorities at the airport told the Figaro that the crew had indicated it was alone on board the aircraft, it added.

The second flight stopped over near Paris on July 20, 2005, arriving from Norway, Le Figaro said, quoting as its source the Norwegian newspaper Ny Tid. This airplane, a Gulfstream III jet, had landed six times at the U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, it added.

Several European governments have launched investigations into whether covert CIA flights were used in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, to transfer Islamist suspects to third countries where they could be interrogated beyond the reach of international law.

95 per cent of US newspapers ignored report on torture of Iraqi prisoners

Source : Here Military autopsy reports provide indisputable proof that detainees are being tortured to death while in US military custody. Yet the corporate media of the United States (US) is covering it with the seriousness of a garage sale for the local Baptist Church, media research organisation Project Censored has said.

According to Prof Peter Phillips, director, Project Censored, a press release on these deaths by torture was issued by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on October 25, 2005 and was immediately picked up by Associated Press (AP) and United Press International (UPI) wire services, making the story available to the US corporate media. A thorough check of Nexus-Lexus and Proquest electronic data bases, using the keywords ACLU and autopsy, showed that at least 95 per cent of the daily papers in the US didn't bother to pick up the story.

The Los Angeles Times covered the story on page A-4 with a 635-word report headlined "Autopsies Support Abuse Allegations." Fewer than a dozen other daily newspapers including: Bangor Daily News, Maine; Telegraph-Herald, Dubuque Iowa; Charleston Gazette; Advocate, Baton Rouge; and a half dozen others actually covered the story.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Seattle Times buried the story inside general Iraq news articles. USA Today posted the story on its website. MSNBC posted the story to its website, but apparently did not consider it newsworthy enough to air on television.

"The Randi Rhodes Show," on Air America Radio, covered the story. AP/UPI news releases and direct quotes from the ACLU website appeared widely on Internet sites and on various news-based listservs around the world, including Common Dreams, Truthout, New Standard, Science Daily, and numerous others, Phillips said.

What little attention the news of the US torturing prisoners to death did get has completely disappeared as context for the torture stories now appearing in corporate media. A Nexus-Lexus search November 30, 2005 of the major papers in the US using the word torture turned up over 1,000 stories in the last 30 days. None of these included the ACLU report as supporting documentation on the issue.

The Project Censored director wondered, "How can the American public understand the gravity of the torture that is currently being committed in our name when the issue is being reported with no reference to the extent to which these crimes against humanity have gone? Has the Internet become the only source of real news for mainstream Americans while the corporate media only tells us what they want us to know?"

Project Censored is a media research group out of Sonoma State University which tracks the news published in independent journals and newsletters. From these, Project Censored compiles an annual list of 25 news stories of social significance that have been overlooked, under-reported or self-censored by the country's major national news media.

According to Phillips, a recent American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) posting of one of forty-four US military autopsy reports read as follows: "Final Autopsy Report: DOD 003164, (Detainee) Died as a result of asphyxia (lack of oxygen to the brain) due to strangulation as evidenced by the recently fractured hyoid bone in the neck and soft tissue hemorrhage extending downward to the level of the right thyroid cartilage. Autopsy revealed bone fracture, rib fractures, contusions in mid abdomen, back and buttocks extending to the left flank, abrasions, lateral buttocks. Contusions, back of legs and knees; abrasions on knees, left fingers and encircling to left wrist. Lacerations and superficial cuts, right 4th and 5th fingers. Also, blunt force injuries, predominately recent contusions (bruises) on the torso and lower extremities. Abrasions on left wrist are consistent with use of restraints. No evidence of defense injuries or natural disease. Manner of death is homicide. Whitehorse Detainment Facility, Nasiriyah, Iraq."

Read More by clicking on the source above

U.N.: Torture in China Still Widespread

BEIJING Dec 2, 2005 — The first U.N. torture investigator to visit China said Friday that abuse was still widespread and authorities subjected detainees to electric shocks, beatings and sleep deprivation. He also accused the government of obstructing his work.

Manfred Nowak, the U.N. Human Rights Commission's special investigator on torture, told reporters at the end of his trip that certain groups have been particular targets of torture: political dissidents, human rights activists, practitioners of Falun Gong, unofficial church groups and Tibetan and Uighur minorities.

Nowak's visit, which began Nov. 21, capped a decade-long effort by the U.N. to send an investigator to look into claims of torture and mistreatment by Chinese authorities. Beijing has repeatedly agreed to allow the visits and then postponed them.

When asked about the prevalence of torture, which was outlawed in 1996, Nowak replied: "I consider it on the decline but still widespread."

Nowak visited detention centers in Beijing, Tibet and the Muslim-majority region of Xinjiang, and held talks with top Chinese prosecutors and justice officials.

A United Nations statement said the organization has received reports that Chinese authorities, over the years, have used various methods of torture including electric shock batons, cigarettes, hoods or blindfolds, submerging prisoners in water or sewage or exposing them to extreme heat or cold.

Based on the information Nowak gathered, he was able to confirm that "many of these methods of torture have been used in China," the statement said.

"Very often an individual police officer is not instructed to torture but is under pressure to extract a confession," he told reporters.

Nowak also complained that Chinese security agents attempted at various times throughout the visit to obstruct or restrict his attempts at fact-finding.

"There was frequent surveillance of my interviews that I had outside the prisons with victim's family members by intelligence agents who tried to on the one hand to listen to our private conversations," Nowak said.

Source ABC

Friday, December 02, 2005

Bush concern at Iraq 'propaganda'

The White House has expressed concern over reports that the US military is planting favourable stories about Iraq in the Baghdad press.

"We are seeking more information from the Pentagon," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

The reports, originally carried by the Los Angeles Times, said the Pentagon was secretly paying Iraqi papers to run articles praising US and Iraqi troops.

Many stories are being presented as independent accounts, the paper said.

"We're very concerned about the reports," Mr McClellan said on Thursday.

"We need to know what the facts are," he told reporters.

The US, Mr McClellan said, was "a leader when it comes to promoting and advocating a free and independent media around the world, and we will continue to do so".

He added: "We've made our views very clear when it comes to freedom of press."

Source : BBC

So lets get this straight , the Whitehouse does not know if the CIA are using Eastern European torture camps . Now the White house does not know if the pentagon is using propaganda in this way

What does the White house know ?

Insurgent 'attack' US bases in Iraq

Insurgents attacked US bases and government offices in Ramadi, in central Iraq, and then dispersed throughout the city, reports say. Heavily-armed insurgents fired mortars and rockets at the buildings and then occupied several main streets, residents told news agencies.

But the US military played down the scale of the attack, saying it had resulted in no damage or casualties.

US Marines spokesman Captain Jeffrey Pool told the AFP news agency the militants had simply fired a rocket propelled grenade at a joint US-Iraqi observation post at 0930 (0630 GMT).

"As of 1400 (1100 GMT), there were no signs of any significant insurgent activity anywhere in the city."

Captain Pool accused the militants of exaggerating the scale of the attack.

"This is clearly a sign of how desperate insurgents have become," he said.

Residents told the Reuters news agency earlier that hundreds of heavily armed men in masks had for a time patrolled the main streets of the city and set up checkpoints.

Leaflets distributed by the men declared that al-Qaeda in Iraq, the group run by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was now in control of the city.

"Its followers will burn the Americans and will drive them back to their homes by force. Iraq will be a graveyard for the Americans and its allies," one leaflet declared.

Residents said there was no noticeable presence of US or Iraqi forces in the city after the attacks.

Sky news in the UK is reporting "More than 400 militants reportedly launched an assault on the American garrison and fired on nearby council offices before seizing several streets. "

Twist to terror suspects row as logs show 80 CIA planes visited UK

The Guardian The transatlantic row over the secret transfer of terror suspects by the Bush administration took a new twist yesterday when it emerged that more than 300 flights operated by the CIA had landed at European airports.

According to flight logs seen by the Guardian, Britain was second only to Germany as a transit hub for the CIA, which stands accused of operating a covert network of interrogation centres in eastern Europe. Several European governments have launched urgent investigations into whether clandestine CIA flights were used in the aftermath of September 11 to transfer Islamist prisoners to third countries where they could be interrogated beyond the reach of international law.

The allegations have provoked a furore in Europe. On Tuesday the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, acting on behalf of the EU, asked the US to clarify whether planes containing terror suspects - known as "rendition" flights - had stopped off in Europe. He also raised the allegations made by Human Rights Watch earlier this month about covert interrogation centres.

The US has so far refused to confirm or deny the reports. But on Tuesday the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, told Germany's new foreign minister, Franz-Walter Steinmeier, the administration would respond. Ms Rice is likely to come under further pressure when she visits Europe next week. The Guardian's survey of flight logs taken from 26 CIA planes reveals a far higher level of activity than previously known. The CIA visited Germany 96 times. Britain was second with more than 80 flights by CIA-owned planes, although when charter flights are added the figure rises to more than 200. France was visited just twice and neutral Austria not at all, according to the logs, which also reveal regular trips to eastern Europe, including 15 visits to the Czech capital Prague.

Only one visit is recorded to the Szymany airbase in north-east Poland, which has been identified as the alleged site of a secret CIA jail. Poland and Romania have denied hosting CIA prisons.

While the logs show unprecedented CIA activity, they do not show which planes were involved in prisoner transfers. In October and December 2003 a CIA Boeing flew from RAF Northolt to Tripoli while the CIA and MI6 were negotiating with Libya over its weapons of mass destruction programme. In January 2004 the same Boeing was allegedly involved in shipping suspects to a US prison in Afghanistan.

The European Council has appointed a special investigator and is examining possible human rights violations by member countries. The European Union has launched an inquiry and the Austrian government has asked the US to explain a US C-130 Hercules that flew into its airspace. The flight logs were obtained from Federal Aviation Administration data and sources in the aviation industry.

Israelis training Kurds in northern Iraq

JERUSALEM, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Private Israeli security firms have sent experts to Iraq's northern Kurdish region to give covert training to Kurdish security forces, an Israeli newspaper reported on Thursday.

The daily Yedioth Ahronoth said that over the past year and a half the Israeli companies had set up a secret training base in northern Iraq as part of a multi-million dollar project with the Kurdish regional government.

It said dozens of Israeli specialists had been sent to teach Kurdish forces "weapons training, self-defence and counter-terror warfare".

Israel's foreign ministry voiced doubt over the report. "As far as I know there are no Israelis whatsoever in Kurdistan," ministry spokesman Mark Regev said. "As there is a formal state of war between Israel and Iraq, it is illegal for Israelis to visit Iraq."

Israel and Iraq have no diplomatic ties, and Iraq is one of a number of Arab countries with which the Jewish state is still officially in a state of war. Israel has peace treaties with only two of its Arab neighbours, Egypt and Jordan.

The newspaper did not cite any sources for its report but showed photographs of men it said were Israelis, their faces concealed, training Kurds in the use of weapons at an unknown location and preparing vehicles at an airport.

Yedioth said Kurdish authorities had kept the project secret fearing attack by al Qaeda militants. It said the teams had entered northern Iraq from Turkey.

The Kurds, who make up 15-20 percent of Iraq's population and live mostly along the borders with Iran and Turkey, have enjoyed broad autonomy since the 1991 Gulf War.

Well its not the first time this claim has been made , but Turkey must be close to boiling point by now

Thursday, December 01, 2005

U.S. Military Covertly Pays to Run Stories in Iraqi Press

Los Angeles Times WASHINGTON -- As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.

The articles, written by U.S. military "information operations" troops, are translated into Arabic and placed in Baghdad newspapers with the help of a defense contractor, according to U.S. military officials and documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Many of the articles are presented in the Iraqi press as unbiased news accounts written and reported by independent journalists. . The stories trumpet the work of U.S. and Iraqi troops, denounce insurgents, and tout U.S.-led efforts to rebuild the country.

While the articles are basically truthful, they present only one side of events and omit information that might reflect poorly on the U.S. or Iraqi governments, officials said. Records and interviews indicate that the U.S. has paid Iraqi newspapers to run dozens of such articles -- with headlines such as "Iraqis Insist on Living Despite Terrorism" -- since the effort began this year.

The operation is designed to mask any connection with the U.S. military. The Pentagon has a contract with a small Washington-based firm called Lincoln Group, which helps translate and place the stories. The Lincoln Group's Iraqi staff, or its subcontractors, sometimes pose as freelance reporters or advertising executives when they deliver the stories to Baghdad media outlets.

The military's effort to disseminate propaganda in the Iraqi media is taking place even as U.S. officials are vowing to promote democratic principles, political transparency and freedom of speech to a country emerging from decades of dictatorship and corruption. It comes as the State Department is training Iraqi reporters in basic journalism skills and Western media ethics, including one workshop titled "The Role of Press in a Democratic Society."

Underscoring the importance U.S. officials place on development of a Western-style media, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday cited the proliferation of news organizations in Iraq as one of the country's great successes since the ouster of Saddam Hussein. The hundreds of newspapers, television stations and other "free media" offer a "relief valve" for the Iraqi public to debate the issues of their burgeoning democracy, Rumsfeld said.

The military's information operations campaign has sparked a backlash among some senior military officers in Iraq and at the Pentagon who argue that attempts to subvert the news media could destroy the U.S. military's credibility both in foreign nations and with the American public.

"Here we are trying to create the principles of democracy in Iraq. Every speech we give in that country is about democracy. And we're breaking all the first principles of democracy when we're doing it," said a senior Pentagon official who opposes the practice of planting stories in the Iraqi media.

The arrangement with Lincoln Group is evidence of how far the Pentagon has moved to blur the traditional boundaries between military public affairs -- the dissemination of truthful information to the media -- and psychological and information operations, which use propaganda and sometimes misleading information to advance the objectives of a military campaign.

The Bush administration has come under criticism for distributing video and news stories in the United States without identifying the federal government as their source and for paying American journalists to promote administration policies, practices the Government Accountability Office has labeled "covert propaganda."

According to military officials familiar with the effort in Iraq, much of the effort is directed by the "Information Operations Task Force" in Baghdad, part of the multinational corps headquarters (MNC-I) commanded by Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are critical of the effort and are not authorized to speak publicly about it.

A spokesman for Vines declined to comment for this article. A Lincoln Group spokesman also declined comment.

As part of a psychological operations campaign that has intensified over the past year, one of the military officials said that the task force also has purchased an Iraqi newspaper and taken control of a radio station, and is using the outlets to channel pro-American messages to the Iraqi public. Neither is identified as a military mouthpiece.

The official would not disclose which newspaper and radio station are under U.S. control, saying that naming the organizations would put their employees at risk of insurgent attacks.

U.S. law forbids the military from carrying out psychological operations or planting propaganda with American media outlets. Yet several officials said that given the globalization of media driven by the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle, the Pentagon's efforts are carried out with the knowledge that coverage in the foreign press inevitably "bleeds" into the Western media and influences coverage in U.S. news outlets.

Read more by clicking on the source above

UK airports 'are stop-offs in torture flights'

Eleven police forces were today threatened with legal action if they fail to investigate allegations that UK airports are being used as secret stop-overs by CIA jets transferring terror suspects to torture camps.

The human rights group Liberty has called on the chief constables of forces from Prestwick, near Glasgow, to Bournemouth to investigate claims that the airports are facilitating kidnap and torture - which is illegal under British and European Union law.

The move follows international concern over the CIA's failure to confirm or deny suggestions that it has illegally abducted terrorist suspects and flown them between a network of clandestine detention centres - so-called "black sites" - for interrogation under torture.

The potentially devastating allegations threaten to overshadow a tour of European capitals by Condoleezza Rice, the United States secretary of state, next week. Britain, in its role as president of the EU, has demanded "clarification" from the White House.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, today told the BBC: "The allegations, the suspicions and the circumstantial evidence gives serious enough concern that we are asking chief constables to do their duty and investigate.

"If they will not investigate then I'm afraid we will have to seek, unhappily, the address of the courts." The forces have been given 14 days to respond to the letter, she said.

The process of "outsourcing" interrogation, known as extraordinary rendition, was developed by the CIA in the mid-1990s with the approval of the Clinton administration in an attempt to dismantle groups affiliated to al-Qaeda.

Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden have already opened investigations into the clandestine stop-offs.

Flight records show that at least 210 private jets carrying detainees apparently leased by shell companies attached to the CIA have stopped over in the UK since September 2001.

Liberty said that the practice was in breach of British and international law, and European and United Nations human rights conventions, which forbid complicity in torture.

It has written to the chief constables of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Dorset, Essex, Hampshire, Kent, the Metropolitan Police, the Ministry of Defence police, Sussex, Thames Valley and the West Midlands police forces.

The airports where the flights are alleged to have landed include Biggin Hill in Kent, Birmingham, Bournemouth, RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, Farnborough, Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Mildenhall in Suffolk, RAF Northolt in north London, Stansted and Prestwick

Source : The Times

Italian Judge upholds arrest warrant for CIA agents

ROME (AP) - A judge has rejected an appeal by a former CIA station chief in Milan against an arrest warrant issued for his alleged role in the kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric, ruling that he was not protected by diplomatic immunity.

Italian judges have issued arrest warrants for 22 purported CIA agents, including the former station chief Robert Seldon Lady, accused of involvement in the kidnapping of cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr.

The judge on Monday rejected arguments by Seldon Lady's lawyer, Daria Pesce, who claimed that he was protected under international treaty and Italian law, and that evidence of his involvement in any alleged abduction was weak.

Prosecutors claimed Nasr's abduction was a serious violation of Italian sovereignty, and said it hindered Italian terrorism investigations. They reconstructed the alleged operation through cell phone traffic and other evidence, contending that Seldon Lady played a central role.

They have sought the extradition of the 22 suspects, and the Italian Justice Ministry is deciding whether to press the case with Washington.

Prosecutors claim that Nasr, believed to belong to an Islamic terror group, was abducted on a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003, before being flown to Egypt, where he was reportedly tortured. He is believed to still be there.

Pesce contended that Seldon Lady's work as an intelligence officer accredited at the U.S. Consulate protected him.

But Milan Judge Enrico Manzi ruled that Seldon Lady lost immunity when he left his post in August 2004, and that in any case consular officials could be arrested for grave crimes, according to court documents obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.

He said that consular officials did enjoy protection, ``but always within the limits of international law. Within these limits, naturally, is the principle of the sovereignty of the host state that cannot allow on its territory the use of force by a foreign state that outside every control of the political and judicial authorities.''

Neither Seldon Lady, who owns a home in Italy, nor any of the other suspects has been arrested, with all of them believed to be out of the country.

Pesce said Seldon Lady was in the United States. She said she planned to appeal Manzi's decision.

Manzi noted in his ruling that there had been contacts between Seldon Lady's phone and others used by suspects believed to have carried out the kidnapping.

The judge said evidence from a raid on Seldon Lady's home, turning up among other evidence a photo of Nasr and records of Internet searches to plan the route of Nasr's transfer from Milan, ``have made the picture of evidence against him even more complete.''

Nasr's alleged abduction was purportedly part of the CIA's ``extraordinary rendition'' program, in which terrorism suspects are transferred to third countries without court approval, subjecting them to possible ill-treatment.

Premier Silvio Berlusconi's government, a strong U.S. ally, has denied it had any prior knowledge of the alleged kidnapping. The United States has consistently declined comment on the case.

Source : Here

Judith Miller 'sorry' for WMD inaccuracies

Source : BBC

Judith Miller, the US journalist at the heart of the CIA leak probe, has apologised to her readers because her stories about WMD and Iraq turned out to be wrong.

The US journalist, who spent 85 days in prison over the summer before agreeing to give evidence to a grand jury investigating the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, made the apology during an exclusive interview for BBC Newsnight.

She said: "I am obviously deeply chagrined that I ever write anything that turns out to be incorrect. I'm deeply sorry that the stories were wrong."

Although Ms Miller apologised for the intelligence being incorrect she defended her journalism saying she was right to publish and had done everything she could to verify the facts. She said: "I'm deeply sorry our intelligence community got it wrong."

"I am deeply sorry that the President was given a national intelligence estimate which concluded that Saddam Hussein had biological and chemical weapons and a active weapons programme."

The journalist also voiced concerns about the implications of the failure of intelligence for the wider, so-called "War on Terror".

"I think it's a terrible failure, it's a shocking failure, it's a deeply troubling failure, because if we didn't know about Iraq, what do we really know about the programmes of Iran or North Korea or Syria or what al-Qaeda is up to?"

hehehe loyal to the end ....

America's double standard on terrorism

Source : Here

Cuban expatriate Luis Posada Carriles, an old U.S. terrorist chicken, has come home to roost in Bush's nest, exposing the president's anti-terrorist policies as a hoax.

Posada, 77, unabashedly embodies violence as Gandhi stood for nonviolence. His resume contains a long list of terrorist "accomplishments," including the bombing of a Cuban commercial airliner over Barbados in which all 73 people aboard died.

Yet this year he returned surreptitiously to the United States, where he had not resided regularly since the mid 1960s. After reports of his presence began to embarrass Homeland Security, he turned himself in and requested political asylum. Because U.S. judges and the government have refused to extradite him to Venezuela to face charges to the crimes he admits to having committed, he's likely to be allowed to live freely and legally in this country within a few months.

His return to the U.S. in the midst of the President's war against terrorism embarrasses the Bush administration. Posada has forced it to decide on terrorist criteria: "acceptable" acts of terrorism carried out against Cuba versus unacceptable ones undertaken against the United States and its allies.

It is indeed a double standard. And it puts these comments Mr. Bush made in a recent speech in an awkward light: "The United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor them, because they're equally as guilty of murder."

Posada has confided to journalists and others that for four decades he had worked on and off with the CIA to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro. In 1976, Posada teamed up with Orlando Bosch, another obsessed Castro-hater, and hired two Venezuelan killers to detonate a bomb on board a commercial Cubana flight over Barbados.

Seventy-three passengers and crew members died. This was a blatant terrorist act. The hired weasels ratted on Posada to the police, landing him in a Venezuelan prison.

After a decade of inconclusive judicial proceedings, Posada's Miami buddies bribed the prison officials and Posada "escaped" to Central America, where he worked for Lt. Col. Oliver North in supplying the Contras in their CIA-backed attempt to overthrow the Nicaraguan government.

In 1990 in Guatemala, an unknown gunman shot Posada in the face. He recovered, but didn't regain full use of his voice. Even that didn't stop him. In 1997, he recruited a Salvadoran to bomb hotels in Cuba. One bomb killed an Italian tourist. Cuban cops grabbed the Salvadoran, who named Posada as his employer

Posada even boasted about his violence against Cuban tourism to two New York Times reporters in July 1998. How did he feel about killing the innocent civilian, they asked? "I sleep like a baby," he replied. In 1999, beginning to feel age and frustration as the ever elusive Castro still rode high, Posada planned another hit. With three seasoned assassins, he traveled to Panama with explosives that he planned to detonate under the platform where Castro would be speaking. Again, someone informed the police.

He and his cronies got caught, tried and convicted — but not of conspiring to assassinate. Rather, with Miami money pulling Panamanian judicial strings, a judge found them guilty of threatening public security and falsifying documents. In 2004, more Miami money bought off Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso, who pardoned Posada during her last week in office.

Despite Posada's terrorist past, the Bush administration has refused to extradite him to Venezuela to face trial for the airline bombing.

Following his arrival this year, Posada hid in Miami for several weeks. Neither President Bush nor Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tried to arrest him. Only after Posada called a press conference did humiliated Homeland Security agents arrest him — which they did gently.

Even in custody, Posada continued to weaken Bush, who owes huge debts to Cuban-Americans. They would scream "treason" if he delivered Posada to Venezuela, a friend of Cuba. What a dilemma. On Sept. 27, a U.S. immigration judge denied Venezuela's request to extradite. The U.S. government lawyer offered no opposition to the judge's ruling, although it carried heavy implications.

Posada, a notorious terrorist who Hugo Chavez's government labeled "the Osama bin Laden of Latin America," is getting a free ride — thanks to President Bush's policies.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Fate of four hostages in iraq still unknown (video)

It seems as at the same time the suicide bombings in Iraq are getting less and less coverage the Insurgants have changed tactic , returning to the kidnap of westerners that will ensure their place on the worlds televisions

Four peace activists, from the UK, US and Canada have been kidnapped and a video has been released to Al-jazeera (watch it here via the BBC Link )

The hostage takers have (as yet) not made any claims , apart from to lable the hostages as spies . Which in the case of the britain (and it seems the other three also) this claim is obviously false.

Recent history has shown that when dealing with hostages who can disconect themsleves from the occupation usually brings them home safely , on the positive front , these guys can .

Norman Kember. (from the UK) was very vocal in his anti war stance and it seems the others are of a similar mind

Mr Kember had been taken hostage, along with American Tom Fox, 54, and Canadians James Loney, 41, and Harmeet Singh Sooden, 32

The major concern at the moment is that the group responsible "the Swords of Truth Brigade" are an unknown entity and hence we can have no real idea what they want or what they will do , so we can only hope they follow the lead of the previous kidnappings and hope they let these people go soon

the statement from the group said it was "involved in violence-reduction programmes in areas of lethal conflict around the world."

"We are angry because what has happened to our team-mates is the result of the actions of the US and UK government due to the illegal attack on Iraq and the continuing occupation and oppression of its people,"

Dick Cheney accused of war crimes by former top aide

Article : BBC A top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell has launched a stinging attack on US Vice-President Dick Cheney over abuse of prisoners by US troops. Col Lawrence Wilkerson accused Mr Cheney of ignoring a decision by President Bush on the treatment of prisoners in the war on terror.

Asked by the BBC's Today if Mr Cheney could be accused of war crimes, he said: "It's an interesting question."

"Certainly it is a domestic crime to advocate terror," he added.

"And I would suspect, for whatever it's worth, it's an international crime as well."

This is an extraordinary attack by a man who until earlier in the year was Mr Cheney's colleague in the senior reaches of the Bush team, the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says.

Col Wilkerson has in the past accused the vice-president of responsibility for the conditions which led to the abuse of prisoners.

But this time he has gone much further, appearing to suggest Mr Cheney should face war crimes charges, our correspondent adds.

He said that there were two sides of the debate within the Bush administration over the treatment of prisoners.
Mr Powell and more dovish members had argued for sticking to the Geneva conventions, which prohibit the torture of detainees.

Meanwhile, the other side "essentially wanted to do away with all restrictions".

Mr Bush agreed a compromise, that "Geneva would in fact govern all but al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda look-alike detainees".

"What I'm saying is that, under the vice-president's protection, the secretary of defence [Donald Rumsfeld] moved out to do what they wanted in the first place, even though the president had made a decision that was clearly a compromise," Col Wilkerson said.

He said that he laid the blame on the issue of prisoner abuse and post-war planning for Iraq "pretty fairly and squarely" at Mr Cheney's feet.

"I look at the relationship between Mr Cheney and Mr Rumsfeld as being one that produced these two failures in particular, and I see that the president is not holding either of them accountable... so I have to lay some blame at his feet too," he went on.

In the BBC interview, Col Wilkerson also developed his views on whether or not pre-war intelligence was deliberately misused by the White House.

He said that he had previously thought only honest mistakes were made.

But recent revelations about doubts in the intelligence community that appear to have been suppressed in the run-up to the war have made him question this view.

full transcript of interview Here

Suspects in court over 'Jazeera bombing' leak

LONDON (Reuters) - Two men appeared in a British court on Tuesday accused of leaking a secret document which a newspaper said showed that U.S. President George W. Bush wanted to bomb Arabic television station Al Jazeera.

The hearing came a week after the Daily Mirror reported that a British government memo said British Prime Minister Tony Blair had talked Bush out of bombing the broadcaster's headquarters in Qatar in April last year.

The White House has dismissed the report as "outlandish" and on Monday Blair denied receiving any details of a reported U.S. proposal to bomb Al Jazeera.

Defendant David Keogh, a civil servant who used to work at the Cabinet Office, was charged with making a "damaging disclosure of a document relating to international relations."

His co-defendant Leo O'Connor, once a researcher for a former member of parliament, was charged with receiving a document which he knew, or had reason to believe, was protected against disclosure by Britain's Official Secrets Act.

The two spoke only to confirm their personal details during a 15-minute hearing at Bow Street magistrates' court in central London. The case was adjourned until January 10.

The Daily Mirror said the memo came from Blair's Downing Street office and turned up in May last year at the local office of Tony Clarke, then a member of parliament for Blair's Labor party, who had employed O'Connor as a researcher.

Clarke handed the document back to the government.

O'Connor's lawyer Neil Clark told reporters after the hearing he had not been granted access to the document but hoped he would before the trial resumes.

"Sometime between now and January 10 I hope that that document will be disclosed to me," he said. "It needs to be disclosed because it's impossible to defend unless you know the case that you're facing."

He added that his client regarded media reporting of the case as "inaccurate."

In its report, The Mirror quoted an unnamed government official as suggesting Bush's threat was a joke, but added another unidentified source saying Bush was serious.

Al Jazeera, which has repeatedly denied U.S. accusations that it sides with insurgents in Iraq, has called on Britain and the United States to state whether the report was accurate.

The British government's top lawyer warned media organizations after the Daily Mirror story that they would be breaking the law if they published details of the leaked document

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Nowhere to run : Key Israeli historian calls for Bush 'impeachment'

Source Guardian : There is a remarkable article in the latest issue of the American Jewish weekly, Forward. It calls for President Bush to be impeached and put on trial "for misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 BC sent his legions into Germany and lost them".

To describe Iraq as the most foolish war of the last 2,014 years is a sweeping statement, but the writer is well qualified to know. He is Martin van Creveld, a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and one of the world's foremost military historians. Several of his books have influenced modern military theory and he is the only non-American author on the US Army's list of required reading for officers.

Professor van Creveld has previously drawn parallels between Iraq and Vietnam, and pointed out that almost all countries that have tried to fight similar wars during the last 60 years or so have ended up losing. Why President Bush "nevertheless decided to go to war escapes me and will no doubt preoccupy historians to come," he told one interviewer.

The professor's puzzlement is understandable. More than two years after the war began, and despite the huge financial and human cost, it is difficult to see any real benefits.

The weapons of mass destruction that provided the excuse for the invasion turned out not to exist and the idea that Iraq could become a beacon of democracy for the Middle East has proved equally far-fetched.

True, there is now a multi-party electoral system, but it has institutionalised and consolidated the country's ethnic, sectarian and tribal divisions - exactly the sort of thing that should be avoided when attempting to democratise.

In the absence of anything more positive, Tony Blair has fallen back on the claim that at least we're better off now without Saddam Hussein. That, too, sounds increasingly hollow.

The fall of Saddam has brought the rise of Zarqawi and his ilk, levels of corruption in Iraq seem as bad as ever, and at the weekend former prime minister Iyad Allawi caused a stir by asserting that the human rights are no better protected now than under the rule of Saddam.

Noting that some two-thirds of Americans believe the war was a mistake, van Creveld says in his article that the US should forget about saving face and pull its troops out: "What had to come, has come. The question is no longer if American forces will be withdrawn, but how soon - and at what cost."

Welcome as a pullout might be to many Americans, it would be a hugely complex operation. Van Creveld says it would probably take several months and result in sizeable casualties. More significantly, though, it would not end the conflict.

"As the pullout proceeds," he warns, "Iraq almost certainly will sink into an all-out civil war from which it will take the country a long time to emerge - if, indeed, it can do so at all. All this is inevitable and will take place whether George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice like it or not."
This is one of the major differences between Iraq and the withdrawal from Vietnam. In Vietnam, it took place under a smokescreen of "Vietnamisation" in which US troops handed control to local forces in the south.

Of course, it was a fairly thin smokescreen; many people were aware at the time that these southern forces could not hold out and in due course the North Vietnamese overran the south, finally bringing the war to an end.

Officially, a similar process is under way in Iraq, with the Americans saying they will eventually hand over to the new Iraqi army - though the chances of that succeeding look even bleaker than they did in Vietnam.

"The new Iraqi army is by all accounts much weaker, less skilled, less cohesive and less loyal to its government than even the South Vietnamese army was," van Creveld writes.

Worse still, in Iraq there is no equivalent of the North Vietnamese regime poised to take power. What will happen once the Americans have gone is anyone's guess, but a sudden outbreak of peace seems the remotest of all the possibilities.

Not surprisingly, many who in principle would argue that the Americans had no right to invade Iraq in the first place are apprehensive about what might happen once they leave. The conference organised by the Arab League in Cairo last week was one example: it called for "the withdrawal of foreign forces according to a timetable" but didn't venture to suggest what that timetable might be.

With or without American troops, the war in Iraq has acquired a momentum of its own and threatens to spill over into other parts of the region.

There are four major issues: terrorism, Sunni-Shia rivalries, Kurdish aspirations, and the question of Iraq's territorial integrity - all of which pose dangers internationally.

Back in July 2003, terrorism in Iraq seemed a manageable problem and President Bush boldly challenged the militants to "bring 'em on". American forces, he said, were "plenty tough" and would deal with anyone who attacked them.

There were others in the US who talked of the "flypaper theory" - an idea that terrorists from around the world could be attracted to Iraq and then eliminated. Well, the first part of the flypaper theory seems to work, but not the second.

As with the Afghan war in the 1980s that spawned al-Qaida, there is every reason to suppose that the Iraq war will create a new generation of terrorists with expertise that can be used to plague other parts of the world for decades to come. The recent hotel bombings in Jordan are one indication of the way it's heading.

Contrary to American intentions, the war has also greatly increased the influence of Iran - a founder-member of Bush's "Axis of Evil" - and opened up long-suppressed rivalries between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

The impact of this cannot be confined to Iraq and will eventually be felt in the oil-rich Sunni Gulf states (including Saudi Arabia) that have sizeable but marginalised Shia communities.

Kurdish aspirations have been awakened too - which has implications for Turkey, Syria and Iran, especially if Iraq is eventually dismembered.

With a fragile central government in Baghdad constantly undermined by the activities of militants and weakened by the conflicting demands of Sunnis, Shias and Kurds, the demise of Iraq as a nation-state sometime during the next few years has become a distinct possibility.

The effect of that on the regional power balance is difficult to predict, but at the very least it would bring a period of increased instability.

No one can claim that any of this was unexpected. The dangers had been foreseen by numerous analysts and commentators long before the war started but they were ignored in Washington, mainly for ideological reasons.

There were, of course, some in the neoconservative lobby who foresaw it too and thought it would be a good thing - shaking up the entire Middle East in a wave of "creative destruction".

The result is that even if the US tries to leave Iraq now, in purely practical terms it is unlikely to be able to do so.

Professor van Creveld's plan for withdrawal of ground troops is not so much a disengagement as a strategic readjustment.

An American military presence will still be needed in the region, he says.

"Tehran is certain to emerge as the biggest winner from the war ... Now that Iraq is gone, it is hard to see how anybody except the United States can keep the Gulf states, and their oil, out of the mullahs' clutches.

"A divided, chaotic, government-less Iraq is very likely to become a hornets' nest. From it, a hundred mini-Zarqawis will spread all over the Middle East, conducting acts of sabotage and seeking to overthrow governments in Allah's name.

"The Gulf States apart, the most vulnerable country is Jordan, as evidenced by the recent attacks in Amman. However, Turkey, Egypt and, to a lesser extent, Israel are also likely to feel the impact. Some of these countries, Jordan in particular, are going to require American assistance."

As described in the article, van Creveld's plan seems to imply that the US should abandon Iraq to its fate and concentrate instead on protecting American allies in the region from adverse consequences.

A slightly different idea - pulling out ground troops from Iraq but continuing to use air power there - is already being considered in Washington, according to Seymour Hersh in the latest issue of the New Yorker magazine.

The military are reportedly unhappy about this, fearing it could make them dependent on untrustworthy Iraqi forces for pinpointing targets.

One military planner quoted by the magazine asked: "Will the Iraqis call in air strikes in order to snuff rivals, or other warlords, or to snuff members of your own sect and blame it on someone else?"

Focusing on air power has obvious political attractions for the Bush administration, since it is the safety of US ground troops that American voters are most concerned about.

But, again, that would not amount to a real disengagement and would do little or nothing to improve America's image in the region - especially if reliance on air strikes increased the number of civilian casualties.

The inescapable fact is that the processes Mr Bush unleashed on March 20 2003 (and imagined he had ended with his "mission accomplished" speech six weeks later) will take a decade or more to run their course and there is little that anyone, even the US, can do now to halt them.

In his eagerness for regime change in Iraq, Mr Bush blundered into a trap from which in the short term there is no way out: the Americans will be damned if they stay and damned if they leave

U.S. storm brewing at UN climate summit in Montreal

The first United Nations climate conference since the Kyoto agreement came into force in February has opened with the US still resisting targets.

Delegates meeting in the Canadian city of Montreal are to discuss how targets on cutting greenhouse gas emissions over the next seven years will be met. They will also look at what measures will follow in 2012 when Kyoto expires.

As the talks opened, Canada urged wider participation in measures to tackle "a terrible danger for the planet".

The host government is trying to find a formula which would enable the US, other industrialised countries and the developing nations to unite under a combined statement on future action.

Thousands of scientists, officials and environmentalists are attending 12 days of talks.

The US, which fears the Kyoto deal could harm development and economic growth, said it would resist the Canadian proposal. The one thing that we don't want to see, and cannot afford, is to allow this US administration to hold the rest of the world hostage

President Bush's chief environmental advisor, James Connaughton, made clear the US would not support binding targets.

"We don't need them," he told reporters, pushing the case that "many of the more consequential initiatives [on cutting emissions] have occurred outside of a treaty process."

Because the US has not ratified Kyoto, it will take no formal part in discussions held under its provisions.

However, the Americans do have a place at the table in Montreal, because they are participants in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change - the broader agreement which gave rise to the legally binding protocol.

Canadian Environment Minister Stephane Dion said he was interested in seeking a rapprochement amongst countries with different views on the best approach to tackling climate change.

"Let us set our sights on a more effective, more inclusive long-term approach to climate change... More action is required now," he said at the opening of the conference.
Environmental pressure groups argue it is pointless to attempt to re-engage the Bush administration on meaningful worldwide action on global warming.

"The one thing... we cannot afford is to allow this US administration to hold the rest of the world hostage while they go on about voluntary this and voluntary that," Steve Sawyer of Greenpeace told the BBC.

UK government officials, negotiating on behalf of the EU as Britain holds the current presidency, are determined to use the Montreal talks to demonstrate that binding targets on cutting greenhouse gas emissions are here to stay.

They also believe flexibility will be needed in the measures developing countries may be persuaded to adopt to limit the growth in their own emissions as their economies expand.

The BBC's correspondent in Montreal, Liz Blunt, says even big emitters of CO2 like India and China may be happy to reduce emissions if they can do it without hampering their rapid development.

My Source BBC

Key quotes from Sadddams trial today


"They brought me here to the door and I was handcuffed. They cannot bring in the defendant in handcuffs."

"How can a defendant defend himself if his pen was taken. Saddam Hussein's pen and papers were taken. I don't mean a white paper. There are papers downstairs that include my remarks in which I express my opinion."

"I don't want you to alert them! I want you to order them. They are in our country. You are an Iraqi, you are sovereign and they are foreigners, invaders, and occupiers." [speaking after hearing Chief Judge Rizgar Mohammed Amin would speak to Saddam's guards about his complaints]


"They rounded up 400 people from the town - women, children and old men. Saddam's personal bodyguards took part in killing people."

"I don't know why so many people were arrested. [Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti] "was the one directly giving the orders."


"This is indirect murder. I was examined three months ago and diagnosed with cancer. The trial and the care for the accused are two separate affairs." (complaining of a lack of medical care in custody)

Watch a clip of todays trial at the BBC Here

VIDEO : A trip down memory lane ( The history of Saddam )

Must watch presentation


EU May Suspend Nations With Secret Prisons

BERLIN (AP) - The United States has told the European Union it needs more time to respond to media reports that the CIA set up secret jails in some European nations and transported terror suspects by covert flights, the top EU justice official said Monday.

Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini also warned that that any of the 25 bloc nations found to have operated secret CIA prisons could have their EU voting rights suspended.

The Council of Europe - the continent's main human rights watchdog - is investigating the allegations, and EU justice official Jonathan Faul last week formally raised the issue with White House and U.S. State Department representatives, Frattini said.

``They told him, 'give us the appropriate time to evaluate the situation.' Right now, there is no response,'' he said.

Frattini said suspending EU voting rights would be justified under the EU treaty, which stipulates that the bloc is founded on the principles of liberty, democracy, respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, and that a persistent breach of these principles can be punished.

Clandestine detention centers would violate the European Convention on Human Rights.

Allegations that the CIA hid and interrogated key al-Qaida suspects at Soviet-era compounds in Eastern Europe were first reported Nov. 2 in The Washington Post. A day after the report appeared, Human Rights Watch said it had evidence indicating the CIA transported suspected terrorists captured in Afghanistan to Poland and Romania.

Frattini said Romania's interior minister, Vasile Blaga, had assured him the allegations were untrue and that a base at Mihail Kogalniceanu - used by American forces from 2001-03 to transport troops and equipment to Afghanistan and Iraq - was not used as a detention center.

``It is very, very important to get the truth. It is impossible to move only on the basis of allegations,'' Frattini said.

Reports of secret CIA flights followed the allegations of secret prisons, as more and more countries have decided to open investigations into the issue. Frattini said if the flights took place without the knowledge of local authorities, they would be violations of international aviation agreements.

Other airports that might have been used by CIA aircraft in some capacity include Palma de Mallorca in Spain, Larnaca in Cyprus and Shannon in Ireland, as well as the U.S. air base at Ramstein, Germany, EU officials have said. Investigations into alleged CIA landings or fly overs have been launched in Austria, Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and there have been unconfirmed reports in Macedonia and Malta.

Allawi ' Iraq is as bad now as it was under Saddam '

LONDON: Abuse of human rights in Iraq is as bad now as it was under Saddam Hussein, if not worse, former prime minister Iyad Allawi said in an interview published yesterday.

"People are doing the same as (in) Saddam Hussein's time and worse. It is an appropriate comparison," Dr Allawi, a secular Shi'ite and former Baathist who is standing in elections scheduled for December 15, told British newspaper The Observer.

"People are remembering the days of Saddam," he said.

"These are the precise reasons why we fought Saddam Hussein and now we are seeing the same things.

"We are hearing about secret police, secret bunkers where people are being interrogated," Dr Allawi said in an apparent reference to the discovery of a bunker at the Shi'ite-run Interior Ministry where 170 men were held prisoner, beaten, half-starved and in some cases tortured.

"A lot of Iraqis are being tortured or killed in the course of interrogations."

Dr Allawi said the Interior Ministry, which has tried to brush off the scandal over the bunker, was afflicted by a "disease". If not cured, he said, it "will become contagious".

"The Ministry of the Interior is at the heart of the matter," Dr Allawi said.

"I am not blaming the minister himself, but the rank and file are behind the secret dungeons and some of the executions that are taking place."


Rumsfeld’s Al-Jazeera outburst

THE Middle Eastern news network Al-Jazeera was accused by Donald Rumsfeld, the American defence secretary, of broadcasting “vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable” reports about the war in Iraq the day before President George W Bush met Tony Blair at the White House and apparently suggested bombing the station’s headquarters.

Rumsfeld denounced the satellite television station at a Pentagon briefing on April 15, 2004 after Al-Jazeera had reported that America’s assault on the insurgent stronghold of Falluja was terrorising civilians. “They are simply lying,” Rumsfeld said.

It was on April 16 that Bush reportedly said during talks with Blair that he wanted to bomb Al-Jazeera’s offices in Doha, Qatar, although it is not known whether he was joking.

A report last week that was said to be based on a transcript of the conversation claimed that Blair had talked the president out of a raid, but Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, has banned newspapers from publishing details under the Official Secrets Act. The White House dismissed the report as “outlandish”.

The Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad detailed 34 instances of alleged hype and distortion by the television station from April 8-13, ranging from reports of a helicopter and fighter plane being shot down to stories about American soldiers killing and mutilating Iraqi citizens.

In 2001, after the September 11 attacks, the Pentagon awarded the Rendon Group, a public affairs firm, a $16.7m contract to monitor media in the Islamic world. It was assigned to track “the location and use of Al-Jazeera news bureaux, reporters and stringers”, and was asked to “identify the biases of specific journalists and potentially obtain an understanding of their allegiances”.

The firm says that it did not go on to monitor Al-Jazeera. But the original contract suggests the Pentagon was interested in targeting the station and its journalists.

In 2002 Al-Jazeera’s bureau in Kabul was hit by a US missile and five months later a missile struck its Baghdad office and killed a reporter. Both were said to be accidents.

Frank Gaffney, head of the Center for Security Policy, a Washington-based think tank, last week described Al-Jazeera as “fair game” on the grounds that it promoted beheadings and suicide bombings.

Wadah Khanfar, director- general of Al-Jazeera, delivered a letter to Downing Street yesterday urging Blair to clarify reports that Bush had suggested bombing the station.

“We have regularly been accused of showing beheadings of hostages, but Al-Jazeera has never shown any material of this nature,” Khanfar said.

UK : opposes Bolton tactic on UN reform

Britain has rejected a proposal by John Bolton, America's combative ambassador to the United Nations, to block the upcoming UN budget as a tactic to push throughdisputed reforms. The rare public disagreement between the two close allies comes as the showdown over reforms at the UN's New York headquarters becomes increasingly acrimonious.

Britain has rebuffed a Bolton move to join him in refusing to pass the organisation's 2006 budget until member states approve wide-ranging management reforms.

To the irritation of Mr Bolton, many developing nations are bitterly opposed to changes that they claim are driven by American political pressure. He suggested last week that talks on the 2006 and 2007 budgets could be postponed as a means to overcome the trenchant resistance from the "G77" bloc of developing countries. He also threatened that the United States could seek an alternative to the UN for solving international problems in future.

Britain strongly supports the reform package, but along with the other 24 EU states it has ruled out a budget delay. "We are not in favour of holding any individual items or the budget hostage to other issues but we do say very clearly that by the end of this year we need clarity and a determination to tackle a better management for the United Nations," said the British ambassador Emyr Jones Parry.

Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general, said that any delay in approving next year's budget would create a "serious financial crisis". Mr Bolton says a temporary budget could be passed to ensure UN operations did not grind to a halt.

The reform proposals are intended to improve the efficiency and running of the UN bureaucracy by handing the secretary general's office greater power to oversee management, finance and staffing. These responsibilities are currently the remit of the unwieldly 191-state General Assembly, where developing nations fear losing their influence.

The changes - agreed at the UN World Summit in September following a damning report into the oil-for-food scandal - are already a watered-down version of what America and the EU had hoped for.

The stand-off is also frustrating Mr Annan, who is desperate to introduce reforms before he leaves office next year in an attempt to improve a reputation badly tarnished by the scandal.

"We have to get past this political dogfight. We just hope that both sides can sober up and reach some agreement on this," Mark Malloch Brown, Mr Annan's British chief of staff, told the Sunday Telegraph. "The UN needs a first-class international public administration capable of meeting its challenges and we don't have that right now."

Western diplomats hope that there may be progress before the end of the year on limited changes such as new ethics committee and overhauling the discredited human rights commission. But they are braced for "trench warfare" on management reforms.

"The hostility and conflict in the debate about reforms illustrate the many fault lines in the organisation," said a senior Western envoy. "It is going to be a long hard slog."

Mr Bolton, a long-time and vocal UN critic, arrived in New York four months ago with a reputation as an uncompromising tough talker. Privately, British diplomats express surprise that he has not made greater efforts to cultivate them or build alliances. "You're either with him or against him," said one.

Source : Here