Open Society research assembles long roster of nations willing to help the Bush administration with extra-legal program
© Photograph: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty ImagesGeorge Bush warned that he was keeping track of countries that did not cooperate with the US "war on terror".
After the 9/11 attacks, President George W Bush famously warned the world: "You're either with us or against us in the fight against terror."
It turns out that an astonishingly long roster of countries opted for "with us".
Of pre-2004 European Union states, only three - France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands - apparently sat out the CIA's global kidnap-and-torture program, known as extraordinary rendition, in which suspects were picked off streets and secretly flown from country to country to face harsh questioning and worse.
A new report by the Open Society Justice Initiative
names 54 foreign governments that participated in the CIA program. Countries such as Ireland, Finland and Denmark allowed US agents to secretly transfer terror suspects at their airports. Sweden arranged for suspects to be flown directly to Egypt, where Hosni Mubarak's intelligence-gathering partnership with the US government played out in an unknown number of soundproof cells. The UK government helped with every aspect of rendition, from arresting suspects to submitting questions for interrogation.
European parliament reports have previously detailed trans-Atlantic collaboration on the torture program, the ultimate uselessness of which was reaffirmed by US defense secretary Leon Panetta as recently as this weekend ("I think we could have gotten Bin Laden without that," he said on a Sunday talk show
But by weaving together official letters, testimony from humans rights organizations and other public sources, the Open Society report draws for the first time a picture of near-total cooperation in European capitals with the Americans' extra-legal strategy to crack the al-Qaida network.
The report also assembles the most comprehensive list to date of terror suspects caught up in the CIA program and tracks the fate of each suspect. Afghan Abdel Aziz Inayatullah spent time at a "black site" in Kabul and now is "believed to be in Guantanamo Bay". Libyan Majid Mokhtar Sasy al-Maghrebi was "released in February 2011" after being "arrested in Pakistan in 2003". Pakistani Abdul Karim Mehmood, nephew of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was "captured in Pakistan in June 2004 and is likely to have been held in CIA custody; his current whereabouts are unknown."
The report lists 136 suspects in all. "There may be many more such individuals, but the total number will remain unknown until the United States and its partners make this information publicly available," writes Amrit Singh, a lawyer with Open Society and the author of the report.
Some countries have acknowledged their participation in the CIA program. Italy has convicted officials on criminal charges for their involvement. Canada apologized to Canadian citizen Maher Arar, who was picked up at JFK airport in New York City and flown to Syria, where he was "imprisoned for more than ten months in a tiny grave-like cell, beaten with cables, and threatened with electric shocks," according to the report. Canada, Sweden, Australia and the United Kingdom have issued compensation to extraordinary rendition victims.
Once countries assented to the CIA program, they found their airspace being used frequently for rendition activity. The Danish government has reported "more than 100 flights credibly alleged to be involved in extraordinary renditions had passed through Danish airspace, with 45 stopovers in Danish airports," the report says. A 2007 European Parliament report "express[ed] serious concern about the 147 stopovers made by CIA-operated aircraft at Irish airports that on many occasions came from or were bound for countries linked with extraordinary rendition circuits and the transfer of detainees". Finnish records show 150 landings in Finland by aircraft associated with the CIA program.
Bush warned that he was keeping track of countries that did not cooperate with the US "war on terror." "Over time it's going to be important for nations to know they will be held accountable for inactivity," he said. The Open Society report is a step toward holding nations accountable for their activity, too.