Friday, December 02, 2005

They saw him coming

It was unfortunate timing that the Republic of Ireland's foreign minister, a purveyor of half-baked Bushisms, was meeting Condi Rice on the day that an awkward article ran in the New York Times:

A recent analysis done for The New York Times of 26 planes known to be operated by C.I.A. companies shows 307 flights in Europe since September 2001. The information was culled from Federal Aviation Administration data, aviation industry sources and, to a lesser extent, a network of plane spotters who often report to human rights groups.

It finds that there were 94 flights in Germany, the most in Europe. (An investigation has opened there on whether Mr. Nasr, the suspect seized in Italy, was flown out of an American air base in Germany.) Second is Britain, 76 flights, followed by Ireland (33), Portugal (16), then Spain and the Czech Republic (15 each).

The print version of the article had a nice map showing Ireland's role in the CIA supply chain -- and also an ad for Aer Lingus on the same page promising "warm welcomes and warm memories" in Ireland. So anyway, 33 flights. What could they possibly have been doing?

[Irish Times, subs req'd] Shannon airport has never been used for CIA rendition flights, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice has told Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern. Mr Ahern said in Washington yesterday that he accepted Dr Rice's assurance, which had confirmed what US officials had told the Government consistently.

"She was very categorical that Shannon has not been used for anything untoward. We fully accept the categorical assurance of a friendly nation," Mr Ahern said. During what officials called a "forthright" exchange, Dr Rice told the Minister that the United States was not a rogue state and upheld US and international law.

It's worth dwelling for a moment on one of the many problems here. The Bush administration has embraced a legal theory of untramelled executive branch power at time of war -- which surely includes the power to lie to other countries. Of course it could just be that Condi is as out of it as she was in the summer of 2001 and really has no idea what is going on. Maybe we're holding Dermot Ahern to too high a standard.

UPDATE 5 DEC: RTE has more on the Shannon flights:

In Sweden a parliamentary investigation concluded that the arrest of two Egyptians at Stockholm airport, and who were allegedly stripped and hooded and put on a CIA flight en route to Cairo, was a violation of Swedish law.

The two men later complained to the Swedish ambassador to Egypt that they had been tortured. RTÉ News has learned that the plane which took them there, which had the registration number N379P, had landed at Shannon 13 times between 2002 and 2003.

The plane was then re-registered as N8068V and landed three times in 2003 for refuelling. However, the N379P registration turned up in Cork once this year.

In another case, a gulfstream jet (N85VM) allegedly involved in the CIA kidnapping of an islamic cleric in Milan landed in Shannon eight times. A further plane, N313P, claimed by Newsweek magazine as being part of the CIA's covert network, landed 13 times at Shannon.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said that these planes were registered as civilian aircraft so there was no requirement for advance notice, and that no inspections were carried out.

Amnesty International has more. The planes that stopped at Shannon have featured in the most notorious rendition cases.

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