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US pressed Berlin not to arrest CIA agents

The Local · 9 Dec 2010, 14:19

Published: 09 Dec 2010 08:01 GMT+01:00
Updated: 09 Dec 2010 14:19 GMT+01:00

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The information, made public on Wednesday in diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks and first reported by the New York Times, involved Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese origin.

In one of the most notorious examples of alleged "extraordinary renditions" of "war on terror" suspects under the government of former US president George W. Bush, Masri says he was abducted by US agents in Macedonia on December 31, 2003.

Masri said he was held and tortured in a secret US prison in Afghanistan before US agents realized their mistake and released him, five months later, on an Albanian roadside.

"On the first day of my abduction, they told me that I was in a country where there were no laws," Masri said in a radio interview in 2005. "I was hit and humiliated," he added. "I really thought I would never get out of there."

Press reports said that US agents confused Masri with an al-Qaida operative with a similar name and alleged links to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

In January 2007 German prosecutors issued arrest warrants for 13 people in connection with the case after being given a list of names by Masri's lawyer, but this was dropped later that year.

In a February 2007 cable classified "Secret," and titled "Al-Masri case - Chancellery aware of USG concerns," the US deputy chief of mission in Berlin, John Koenig, emphasized to German Deputy National Security Adviser Rolf Nikel "that issuance of international arrest warrants would have a negative impact on our bilateral relationship."

Koening "pointed out that our intention was not to threaten Germany, but rather to urge that the German Government weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the US."

The dispatch was written by William Timken, Washington's envoy to Berlin.

Contacted by AFP on Thursday, the German foreign ministry declined to comment on the leak, but allegations that Washington applied pressure on Berlin are not new, and the case clearly strained US-German relations.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said after a 2005 meeting in Berlin with Condoleezza Rice, at the time US secretary of state, that the case had been "accepted as a mistake by the US government."

Senior US officials later suggested that Merkel had misunderstood Rice, although the secretary of state did not correct the German leader during a press conference where the comments were made.

Story continues below…

The case caused consternation in Germany and prompted a parliamentary enquiry on the extent to which authorities were aware of Masri's rendition and whether Berlin had been asked by Washington to keep quiet.

The enquiry in 2009 cleared the government of having been aware of the alleged kidnapping when it happened, but criticised Berlin for subsequently being insufficiently forthcoming with information about the case.

Masri demanded an apology from Washington and sought $75,000 in damages, but the Supreme Court threw out his case in October 2007. He won €50,000 in damages from Macedonia in 2009.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

11:15 December 9, 2010 by pepsionice
So, there are a lot of resort villas and spas in Macedonia? I lived in Germany and traveled around Europe for almost fifteen years. I can't remember a single advertisement ever....for anyone to come on down to Macedonia for fun and relaxation.

What I do remember was American GI's who were sent to the Balkans for four months, and these Macedonian trips for weekends were arranged. One of my associates who went down for his 120 days, went on the "Fun in Macedonia" trip which consisted mostly of cheap bars and a 2-star hotel. As he said, the last place on Earth that you'd imagine for a vacation was Macedonia.
12:18 December 9, 2010 by PawD
Every ordinary citizen pays for his mistakes... why shouldn't the US Govt also pay for their's? Do they think that the CIA is above the law?

3 cheers to Wikileaks!
12:30 December 9, 2010 by berlineric

I went to Macedonia on vacation. back in 2000. It's an interesting country, with evocative landscapes and historic places, and relatively affordable to boot. And if you've watched CNN International or BBC World, you've seen plenty of ads for Macedonia's tourism sector.

Why the knee-jerk defense of torturers who've gone as far as to admit they made a mistake? These sorts of criminals get away with enough as it is. Bring the lot of CIA criminals to trial.

From a U.S. citizen...
13:14 December 9, 2010 by freechoice
how could they get away with this blatant human rights violation?

can information from wikileaks be used as evidence in a German Court?
14:24 December 9, 2010 by frankiep
I am far beyond sick of the sanctimonious bullshit that keeps flowing out of the US government and from many Americans themselves (and I am saying this as an American). Some of the responses here are perfect examples of the holier than thou, do no wrong, arrogant nature of the prevailing American mentality. The CIA admitted that kidnapping this guy was a mistake; yet make not so veiled threats that the German government should do absolutely nothing about how an innocent German citizen was treated. Taking it a step further, there are actually people here who, despite the admission that this man was innocent and that the CIA was wrong, still insist that the torture he went through was justified simply because he decided to vacation in Macedonia and not in a location they deem "more appropriate". It is honestly becoming harder and harder to say that I am an American and not be ashamed when so many other Americans and the government continually show the world that they think that they are somehow superior beings compared to the rest of the world.
14:45 December 9, 2010 by Beachrider
Well since one sanctimonious American has already been sanctimonious here, there is an opening for this perspective:

- The CIA isn't my favorite representative of American values, either

- The CIA has been given the hideous assignment of locating and addressing terrorists that are roaming the world. I feel comfortable calling them terrorists because they KNOW that they are killing non-involved people based on stereotypes.

- Just like any incorrect prosecution, it is very ugly when the CIA are wrong. I empathize with the affected person.

- Germany chose to not-prosecute the CIA operatives because Germany wants these people to succeed and has extracted something to assure Germans that the government is handling this issue.
00:03 December 10, 2010 by Chicago1996
The US government needs to pay this man restitution. What the CIA did to him was inexcusable. The Supreme Court should be happy that Mr. Masri was only asking for a petty $75,000 in damages. If this kind of thing would have happened to a US citizen, the lawsuit that that person would have filed, would have been in the millions of dollars at a minimum (as it should be). To add insult to injury, the CIA didn¦#39;t even have the human decency to drop him off at a German Embassy, but rather on some roadside in Albania… As for the German government, it needs to start growing a backbone and start defending the rights of its own citizens. German politicians need to stop being a puppet government for a foreign nation that has far too often held an imperial death grip on large portions of the world, all the while lecturing from a bully pulpit about democracy and individual human rights.
01:03 December 10, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Chicago --

Since the US Supreme Court dismissed his case, the US will pay him nothing. If an American citizen were similarly injured and sued the US government, the result would almost certainly be the same. The US government has immunized itself against such lawsuits statutorily. It is virtually impossible to sue the US government or its agents and win.
05:26 December 10, 2010 by proclusian
That the U.S. does nothing and pays no restitution is not surprising -- as Prufrock notes.

But it is especially shameful that the German government bows to U.S. pressure and does not act in defense of its own citizens by carrying out these arrest warrants.

Perhaps I'm being nostalgic, but I can't imagine Schmidt or Brandt not taking action in such a case.
13:52 December 10, 2010 by Beachrider
Just to help clear up the issue on American law, the USA government is immune from civil action unless it expressly permits a given case. The dominant way that people receive civil payments from the USA is that lawmakers or judges allow an exception for the action.
16:40 December 10, 2010 by Chicago1996
To clarify:

I know all about the American legal system and the US Supreme Court; after all, I have been living stateside for about the past 14 years. My point was, the US government should have quietly paid him restitution as a matter of ¦quot;good faith¦quot; for the crimes the CIA has committed against him (even though the Supreme Court threw out the case due to ¦quot;security concerns¦quot;). After all, the CIA routinely pays warlords, drug dealers and corrupt politician millions and millions of dollars for their ¦quot;cooperation¦quot;. I think that a measly 75K payment to a man that was wronged would have been the least that they could do out of simple human decency, regardless of the fact that the Supreme Court dismissed the case or not… I personally believe that the CIA operatives involved should have been charged and brought to trial. It is one thing to arrest someone and shortly after release them because of a mistaken identity, it is quite another to keep someone imprisoned and tortured for a full five months, before it dawned on someone that perhaps Mr. Masri was not the person they were looking for. To me, that is pure incompetence and should be punished to the fullest extent possible. A congressional hearing on the matter wouldn¦#39;t hurt either since I am certain that Mr. Masri¦#39;s ordeal isn¦#39;t the only one of this type.
02:26 December 11, 2010 by Prufrock2010
At the risk of being pedantic, I have prosecuted civil claims against the United States of America for the illegal acts of its agents and employees. As a general rule, the US government enjoys statutory immunity against such claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. sec. 2679. The single exception to this immunity is a so-called Bivens claim, named after the case of Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), in which the Supreme Court held that certain claims could be brought against federal agents in their individual capacities if they were operating outside the course and scope of their employment when they violated the plaintiff's constitutional rights. Even in a Bivens action, while the individual government agent(s) may be held accountable, the government is immunized from liability.

The Federal Tort Claims Act was passed by Congress specifically to shield the US government from liability in all cases, including the one under discussion. A more recent example of its immunity can be found in the disposition of the case of Valerie Plame et al. v. Lewis Libby, Karl Rove, et al., which case was dismissed by the US District Court under the Tort Claims Act, even though Libby had been convicted of obstruction of justice with regard to the outing of Plame as a CIA agent.

I hope this clarifies things a little bit. It is unjust, but the government creates laws to protect itself.
02:59 December 11, 2010 by DieGlocke
Well, It doesn't surprise this US Citizen who read about the poor guy in Pennsylvania who was almost deported because he had a "foreign sounding" name. Yep, pretty astonishing how paranoid the US has become. The real kicker here folks is the guy is indeed a US Citizen and even had his social security card on him. Who even carries that anymore in their wallet?

He was held a an Immigration Customs Enforcement detention center with no access to an attorney, phone call for two days. The US Constitution is being violated everyday in the US. What makes anyone think the US can be taken seriously at all to uphold human rights in any part of the world?

It was in the NY Times on Thursday.
03:42 December 11, 2010 by Prufrock2010
You can thank George W. Bush and Patriot Acts I and II for that, and thank Obama for doing nothing to get them repealed or to prosecute those who systematically violated human rights and committed war crimes. The Constitution has been shredded. And you're right -- the US has forfeited all credibility throughout the world.
12:56 December 11, 2010 by padu
I always wonder how comes US can forever escape unpunished after it committed crimes, while lecturing to everybody it is the greatest in the world.
15:34 December 11, 2010 by raandy
I would think that if the US was so concerned not to have Germany issue arrest warrants for these dupes ,that Chancellor Merkel was in a good position to negotiate a settlement for the wrong the CIA did to Khaled el-Masri.
15:49 December 11, 2010 by storymann
Prufrock2010,,the Patriot act, the drug war ,all have taken away our former rights,,IT use to be in the US that you were innocent until proven guilty ,now the Federal courts say you are "presumed Guilty" by the evidence ,so I would assume that as a defendant you would have to prove you are innocent ,instead of the Gov. proving you are guilty,,is this true????this is what i have read but I am no student of the law.
17:34 December 11, 2010 by Prufrock2010
storymann --

You are partially correct. Since the enactment of the Patriot Acts I and II, the presumption of innocence has been stood on its head. Even before that sorry chapter in American history, the government enjoyed what Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas referred to as "the awesome police power of the state," which always stacked the deck in favor of the prosecution. Now, under the Patriot Acts, the presumption of innocence has largely become a fiction if you are charged with certain crimes under the virtually all-encompassing umbrella of "terrorism." Terrorism is whatever the government says it is. Even more alarming is the fact that persons accused of terrorist-related activities can be held without the right to habeas corpus and can expect to have their confidential communications with their attorney's monitored. More chilling is the fact that attorneys who represent people accused of such crimes can themselves be charged. This is to dissuade attorneys from representing such defendants. Moreover, as in drug cases dating back to the 70s, attorneys have the burden of proving to the government's satisfaction that the money they receive to represent their clients in such cases is "clean," i.e., not derived from any illegal source. How one proves a negative I've never been able to figure out.

Technically there is still a presumption of innocence to the extent that the government still has to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, but the playing field overwhelmingly favors the prosecution. In effect, the defendant must prove his innocence.
21:53 December 16, 2010 by Battle37
To all you whiny Americans, let me remind you we are in a war certain measures such as the Patriot Act were put in place to protect you from terrorists. As an American solider who fought in the war in Iraq, I take great pride in what we are doing, which is keeping the enemy in their own back yard instead of ours. The government is doing whatever it takes to keep its citizens safe and avoid another 9/11 from ever happening again. If you don't like that policy or America then move to Canada because we will never allow the spilling of innocent blood on our soil ever again.
00:53 December 17, 2010 by Prufrock2010
"If you don't like that policy or America then move to Canada because we will never allow the spilling of innocent blood on our soil ever again."

So you prefer spilling innocent blood in Iraq? Maybe you should move to Canada, since what you're spouting is so blatantly un-American. I don't need protection from terrorists. I need protection from moronic jingoists like you.
19:48 December 17, 2010 by Battle37
Prufrock2010 you are a typical uneducated liberal, the only blood we spilled in Iraq was Al Qaeda. Its amazing they let you hippies have dictionaries on the commune trying to catch up with modern times are we? Calling me un- American is an just an obvious ploy by you to hide your inherent weakness for a lack of intelligence, forget Canada its obvious you should be on a deserted island where you make believe how the world is, because you have no concept what is really happening.
22:39 December 17, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Battle37 --

So "the only blood we spilled in Iraq was Al Qaeda."

That is by far the stupidest remark I have ever read or heard -- particularly imbecilic in light of the fact that al Qaeda had no presence in Iraq prior to the American invasion.

Actually, I do have a concept of what is really happening. Fools like you are going around killing innocent people by the thousands under the pretext of "defending democracy." If you are representative of the American fighting force, it is no wonder the US is again getting its ass kicked. Do me a favor, Skippy, and don't pretend to be fighting for me. You are a disgrace to what America says it stands for. You are a disgrace to America and to the human race.
19:49 December 18, 2010 by Battle37
Prufrock2010 - You are pathetic, it's obvious that CNN and NPR does all your thinking for you. They have been reporting that exact same propaganda for years, you liberals need to learn to think for yourselves. Been using the old dictionary again I see trying to hide your mental retardation. Its not working because you must be retarded to be bashing America and the military. A military that sacrifices on a daily basis without reservation for the protection of America and her citizens. Its a shame we have to protect cowards like you. Do America a favor and take your retarded hippie ass to another country. Lastly, if being human means being associated with the likes of you, I gladly stand outside the human race Hooah!
22:30 December 18, 2010 by Prufrock2010
Battle37 --

I don't know why I continue to engage you in dialogue, except perhaps for the amusement value. What you reveal here about yourself is, fortunately, not an accurate picture of the mindset of most Americans, as I'm certain that most Americans who have reached the age of majority have at least completed grade school. It's unfortunate, though, that you go on a German website with the specific purpose of embarrassing yourself, your fellow countrymen and, specifically, American men and women in uniform. I would hope that most of the people who read this thread don't judge all Americans by your example.

Earlier in this thread I attempted to answer a couple of questions regarding the legal impediments to suing the US government for the illegal acts of its agents, and I think I did so succinctly and cogently. I do have experience in that endeavor. That you failed to understand what I wrote speaks volumes about you, just as your name-calling calls your intelligence into question rather than mine. I will let the readers decide which of us suffers from mental retardation.

Incidentally, I live in Germany, not in the US. What country would you suggest I take my "retarded hippie ass" to? Your admission that you "gladly stand outside the human race" merely confirms what the rest of us already know about you. Meanwhile, you are not protecting or defending America or its citizens. You are merely embarrassing it and them. Why don't you do it on a Fox News website instead of a German one and save all of us the embarrassment?
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