German Arrest Warrants for Ghost Air Crews

Well, it's about f'g time.

Today, a prosecutor in Munich disclosed the existence of arrest warrants for 13 members of Ghost Air crews, relative to the kidnapping of Khaled al Masri from Macedonia to a US prison in Afghanistan.  He was left to molder there for months while Condi and others debated exactly what to do with him, seeing as he really was the wrong guy.  Ultimately, they had him flown back to and dumped off pretty close to the same spot he'd been kidnapped from.  The US District Court has dismissed his tort suit, on the "state secrets" doctrine;  he's appealing to the Fourth Circuit.

But, they can't touch the German Courts (yet).  The story was the lead today on German TV network ARD's evening news program, Tagesschau.  The text, translated by yours truly from the website, follows:

CIA officers under suspicion in the case of the kidnapping of al-Masri

Arrest warrants issued against 13 suspects

A Munich court has issued arrest warrants against 13 responsible agents of the US secret service CIA because of suspicion of their involvment in the kidnapping and abuse of the German citizen Khaled al Masri.  The State Prosecutor for Munich (Part I) disclosed this today in a press conference.

The 13 accused are under strong suspicion of  having dragged al Masri off to Afghanistan in 2004.  The arrest warrants specify charges of "deprivation of freedom" (which I suspect is similar to our offenses of false arrest, false imprisonment or kidnapping) and of causing severe bodily injury.  "Prior revelations made it possible to deduce the (true) names of the accused presented in the arrest warrants - from the cover names of the CIA operatives," explained the lead State prosecutor Christian Schmidt-Sommerfeld.

Because of a legal investigative request directed to the Spanish authorities, it was first made possible in the year 2006 to "investigate concrete(ly identified) persons and make orderly the chronology of the kidnapping," said Schmidt-Sommerfeld.  Additional information about these people came from the Milan Prosecutor's office and the counsel to the EU Parliament (Ghost Air)investigator, Dick Marty.

Information from Spain.

The first information came from al Masri's (personal) attorney.  In December 2005 he turned over to the State prosecutors a list of names which a Spanish journalist had derived from a report the (Spanish) Guardia Civil (a national police force) had assembled, with (containing) the information that it dealt with the employment of aircraft in which al Masri himself had reported flew him from Macedonia to Afghanistan.  The prosecutor said the further analysis concentrated on the investigation of the true identities of the accused.

According to research (revealed first) in the ARD politcal magazine show "Panorama", most of them live in the US state North Carolina.  In September 2006 "Panorama" had confronted three of them with the accusations, but the suspects refused all attempts to have them comment.*  In three instances the magazine show was successful in finding out the actual addresses and names of the actors**. Once there it dealt with the pilots, who had traveled to Spain under the cover names of [omitted by me], [omitted by me], and [omitted by me].

"Panorama":  The covers were  simple.

According to Panorama, uncovering the mens' CIA covers proceeded relatively easily.  The men were permitted to retain their first names, their birth dates were partly modified with the help of transpositions, and the data for the required Pilot's medical examination was kept mostly complete.  They worked openly in North Carolina for the firm Aero Contractors;  in one case the work relationship was confirmed.  The firm Aero Contractors is publicly known as (for all intents and purposes, factually) a successor firm to Air America, which operated in the 70s as a secret airline for the CIA.

German arrest warrants are not valid in the USA

It is expected arrests of the accused will be difficult to arrange.  The German arrest warrants have no validity in the United States, and the US Justice Department has so far rejected and refused to assist the German investigation.  Nevertheless, in the event the accused travel to Europe, they can be arrested immediately.

Yahoo news has a little more information, noting that a starting point of the investigation were photocopies of the "secret agents'" passports their Spanish hotel kept...

Frankly, I think the covers were kept simple and easy to solve because the Admin and CIA were feeling arrogant and figured they could get away with kidnappings.


The article has a photo of al Masri, the caption to which says:  "Caption:  Khaled al Masri grew up in Lebanon and has been a German citizen since the 90s."

*(Think of being confronted by a ,,60 Minutes" crew.)  

* *("Taeter", as used in the story, means "actors" in the sense of "criminally responsible actors";  a long-running (36+ years) cop show in Germany is "Tatort", literally, "scene of the crime".)  

< Another injustice perpetrated by mandatory minimums | Misplaced Priorities: Cancer of the Attitude? >


Will any of the Ghost Air crews ever be arrested on these warrants?
yes 40%
no 60%

Votes: 5
Results | Other Polls
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    ARD has updated their story, and the NYT's on it (none / 0) (#1)
    by scribe on Wed Jan 31, 2007 at 03:58:46 PM EST
    too.  Here's the link to the Times story, which has been updated at least once as of my writing this update.  I am not going to list the names of the agents for whom the warrants are issued, even though NDR has put them up.  They're in Germany.  I'm not.

    Here's the updated ARD Tagesschau story, translated as before by yours truly:

    The Munich State prosecutor (Part I) has secured arrest warrants for 13 accused CIA Agents.  The agents will face charges of having abused and kidnapped the German Khaled al Masri in January 2004.  Al Masri was taken into custody under suspicion of terrorism in Macedonia and then dragged off the Afghanistan.  After four months in a CIA secret prison he was freed.  Officially, the US is silent on the case, though unofficially many on the US side have conceded that Masri was seized by mistake.  

    The 13 agents of the US-secret service (CIA) now being sought under the arrest warrants are being held responsible for flying al Masri from Macedonia to Afghanistan on January 23, 2004 on a Boeing 737.  It was not only the Munich State prosecutor which has come to be on the trail of the eleven men and two women. ZDF*-research had revealed that the kidnap aircraft bearing the tail number N313P flew from Mallorca to the Macedonian capital Skopje.  

    In the course of their investigation the Spanish police discovered that the aircraft's mission was staged from the Balaeric island's Hotel Mariott Son Antem and found the names and passport numbers [of the perpetrators] there.  The thirteen names were all cover identities.  The ARD magazine show Panorama was able, in the past autumn, to uncover some of the CIA agents and seek them out in their private residences in the US state North Carolina.

    The Prosecutor's office tries with Cover Names

    The arrest warrants from the Munich state prosecutor (part I) are not made out in the already-researched true names of the agents, but rather under their cover names.  The State prosecutor continued, that the further analysis will now concentrate on investigation of the true identities.  Therefore, the arrest warrants presently being sent out are only an intermediate goal/step.  It is certain that the USA will not turn over their secret-service agents.  There also remains the chance that the 13 being sought will be picked up on their arrival in Europe.  But it is also unlikely that, if one of the agents should travel to this side of the Atlantic in the face of the German arrest warrants, they would travel under the already-disclosed (and shown as false) cover names.  

    Lawyer:  the arrest warrants are ,,clarifying act"

    Notwithstanding all this, the lawyer for al Masri, Manfred Gnjidic, says the arrest warrants are a step in the right direction.  It is the first time in the entire case, says Gnjidic to Tagesschau.de, that German authorities have gone against the US side's story.  With this "clarifying act" the prosecutor's office has made clear that the CIA in foreign countries cannot simply do as it pleases and how it pleases.  That (doing as it pleases and how it pleases) has been the nourishing center of the US tactics in the War against Terror, added Gnjidic.

    There are also Italian arrest warrants against CIA Agents.

    The German arrest warrants are not this first issued from European courts in connection with the CIA kidnappings.  In a similar case Italian investigators have issued arrest warrants against 26 CIA agents and five Italians.  These accused are alleged to have responsibility for taking part in the kidnapping of the Islamist Abu Omuar.  In February 2003, Omar was jerked into a car in Milan in broad daylight, brought the US Air Force base Aviano and from there, through the US base at Ramstein Germany, flown on to Egypt.

    Pressure on the transatlantic relationship?

    The investigations of the Italian prosecutors have unleashed possibilities that could adversely affect the relationship between Rome and Washington.  Actually, the course of the investigation was such that the Chief of the CIA detachment in Milan, Robert Seldon Lady, left Italy in a hurry.  After he failed to appear before a preliminary proceeding (sort of an investigative hearing) before an Italian Court at the beginning of January, the authorities permitted a search of Lady's villa in Piedmont.  Also, the cooperation between the Italian military intelligence SISMI and the US services has been disturbed.  (N.B.  there have long been allegations SISMI was the source, or close to it, for the Niger Uranium forgeries, so I can't see how this would make things worse, assuming they are actually worse.)  The former head of SISMI, Nicolo Pollari, has been brought before the Court because of the Omar kidnapping.  Because Pollari will not allow himself to be made a scapegoat, he has already made clear his intention to share his knowledge (with the investigation).

    The consequences of the German arrest warrants against the responsible CIA-agents is presently unclear.  Following upon the prosecutor's office, the Bundesnachtrichtendienst (their intelligence service) put the al-Masri kidnapping "under the loupe".  But thus far carrying out a proceeding on Germany's part carrying a real risk of criminal penalties is something which has not been proven certain. (i.e., I understand this to meand it's not yet clear whether the prosecutor will be able to see this through.)  Thus far in Germany a criminal proceeding such as against Pollari in Italy has been foreclosed/thwarted.

    The Foreign Ministry diplomatically holds itself back.

    Whether this will place an additional strain upon German-American relations is still to be seen.  The Foreign Ministry refused to take a position in response to Tagesschau.de.  Instead, the Ministry said prosecutorial investigations and their results are to be independent of politics.

    - -
    My analysis of the seeming incongruity - that this story indicates the warrants were issued in the cover names while ARD has already been able to find the true identities of the agents and seek to interview them admits of at least two possibilities.  (A) there's a techinical legal problem with issuing a warrant in the real name - like either a lack of connective proof sufficient legally to support a warrant, or a requirement that when a false name is used, that the warrant be issued against the false name with an "a/k/a".  Or (B), political or legal considerations require them to issue the warrants in the false names.

    More importantly is the characterization of this as a "clarifying act".  I read this as a sort of "which side are you on" moment.  On the one hand, they can be tools of the Global Wah on Terrah and just look past this.  On the other, they can apply the lessons learned from their own history and require all legal and moral proprieties be observed.  I think this is another little snowball at the top of the hill.  It was heartening to see them issue the warrants.

    As the Times article notes:

    "This is a very consequential step," August Stern, the deputy prosecutor in Munich, said in a telephone interview. "It is a necessary step before bringing a criminal case against these people."

    *ZDF = Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen, the second TV channel.

    Impressive work on this one Scribe. (none / 0) (#2)
    by Edger on Wed Jan 31, 2007 at 04:41:19 PM EST
    You put a lot of effort into it and I want to reread it again after work, and read your comment #1 update as well (which I havent yet).

    I answered yes to the poll because I suspect that one or more of them may be 'thrown to the wolves' by superiors running for cover down the road. But I'll be surprised if it happens anytime soon. I hope I'm wrong.

    nope, not now or ever (none / 0) (#3)
    by cpinva on Fri Feb 02, 2007 at 10:04:04 AM EST
    in fact, my guess is those warrants will be quietly squashed, after the initial flurry of publicity. further, whoever was stupid enough to issue them will be let to pasture, wondering what happened to his career.

    why? simply put, germany needs us, and our intelligence services. there is a long standing history of cooperation between the cia and german (west) intelligence agencies. they aren't going to let a minor matter like this get in the way.

    you read it here first! :)

    Via Larisa / at-Largely (none / 0) (#4)
    by Edger on Wed Feb 07, 2007 at 04:36:01 AM EST
    Sing baby, Sing: The Italian edition
    Seems former Italian intelligence (SISMI) head, Nicolo Pollari is gonna have to face indictment on role in helping the Bush administration's (intelligence laundry business) kidnapping and rendition project.
     Prosecutors want to try 26 Americans, most believed to be CIA agents, for grabbing Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr off a Milan street in 2003 and flying him to Egypt, where he says he was tortured.

    Italy's former spy chief Nicolo Pollari, who risks indictment on suspicion of aiding the CIA mission, wanted Prodi and Berlusconi to defend him at a preliminary hearing since he says information proving his innocence is classified.


    If she orders a trial, as looks increasingly likely after Tuesday's ruling, it would be the first criminal procedure over renditions -- one of the most controversial aspects of U.S. President George W. Bush's global war on terrorism."

    The case is being closely watched all over Europe, where judicial authorities in several countries are investigating accusations of CIA secret prisons and secret transfers of U.S. terrorism suspects.

    Yep, our ally in the war on terror - Italy, wants to try 26 Americans on charges of kidnapping, while in Germany, a judge ordered that 13 Americans be arrested. So that now makes 39 people (assuming there are no overlaps) who either "pretended" to be CIA or are CIA and were acting on direct orders of Bush administration officials.