Thursday, February 21, 2008

Shannon Stopover

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said that "the great George Bush" assured him that no rendition flights had used or would use Shannon airport for the extra-judicial transfer of prisoners. Tony Blair's government had claimed similar assurances and only cited evidence of pre 9/11 transfers that might have used British facilities.

The claim about British facilities now turns out to be false --

CIA Director Michael Hayden told agency employees in a message Thursday that information previously provided to the British "turned out to be wrong."

The spy agency reviewed rendition records late last year and discovered that in 2002 the CIA had in fact refueled two separate planes carrying two alleged terrorists on Diego Garcia, a British island territory in the Indian Ocean.

Diego Garcia is a disgrace all of its own, since the natives were kicked off the island to make room for the base. But anyway, if a plane needed to refuel in Diego Garcia en route to or from the USA, it had to have needed to refuel somewhere else as well. So the Shannon question comes back.

It's St Patrick's Day in less than a month. Bertie will be in America. It will be during Holy Week. If ever there was a time for confession and atonement, this might be it.

UPDATE: In a press briefing, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack comes very close to implying that the US has something more than an informal arrangement but less than a treaty with the UK about the use of military bases for rendition flights. How much less than a treaty? Is George Bush again entering into quasi-treaties without Senate advice and consent?

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