16. CIA Kidnaps Suspects for Overseas Torture and Execution

by Project Censored
Published: Updated:


Weekend Australian
February, 23, 2003, p. 1
Title: Love Letter Tracks Terrorist’s Footsteps
Author: Don Greenlees

World Socialist Website: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/mar2002/cia-m20_prn.shtml
March 20, 2002
Title: U.S. Oversees Abduction, Torture, Execution of Alleged Terrorists
Author: Barry Grey

Original U.S. Source: *

The Washington Post
March 11, 2002, pg. A01
Title; U.S. Behind Secret Transfer of Terror Suspects”
Authors: Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Peter Finn, W.P. Foreign Service, March 11, 2002, pg. A01

Faculty evaluator: Noel Byrne
Student Researcher: Sarah Potts

Corporate media coverage:
Pittsburgh Post – Gazette, 3/17/02, A-4

US agents are involved in abducting people they suspect of terrorist activities and sending them to countries where torture during interrogation is legal, according to US diplomatic sources. Suspects are shipped to allied countries where they are denied legal assistance and imprisoned without any specific charges made against them. The prisoners have been taken to countries such as Egypt and Jordan (whose intelligence agencies have close ties to the CIA) where they can be subjected to interrogation tactics, including torture and threats to family, which are illegal in the United States.

One of the abductees, Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni was believed by the CIA to be an al-Qaeda member with possible links to Richard Reid, the American Airlines shoe bomber. In January, 2002 the CIA provided Indonesian intelligence officials with information that lead to Iqbal’s arrest. A few days later, the Egyptian government requested that Iqbal-who had carried a passport for Egypt as well as Pakistan-be extradited in connection with terrorism, although they did not specify the crime. Indonesian agents quickly took him into custody, and two days later, without legal hearing or access to a lawyer, Iqbal was put on board an unmarked, US-registered Gulfstream V jet, arranged by the CIA, and flown from Jakarta to Egypt.

Indonesian government officials told local media that Iqbal had been sent to Egypt because of visa violations. However, a senior Indonesian government official told reporters that revealing the US role in Iqbal’s case would have prompted criticism from Muslim-oriented political parties in the region. “We can’t be seen as cooperating too closely with the United States,” he said. Nevertheless, the official confirmed that, “This was a US deal all along. Egypt just provided the formalities.”

According to one US diplomat, “After September 11th, these sorts of movements have been occurring. It allows us to get information from terrorists in a way we can’t do on U.S. soil.”

Although such “movements” have intensified since 9/11, the U.S. has long been involved in this practice of kidnapping. These abductions, known to those in the business as “rendition,” violate local and international extradition laws as well as internationally recognized human rights standards. According to the Post’s sources, from 1993 to 1999, suspects were rendered to the U.S. from a variety of countries, including South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, and the Philippines. US officials have acknowledged some of these operations, but the Washington Post’s sources say that dozens of other covert renditions occurred, the details of which remain cloaked in secrecy.

Some documented cases include reports of suspects being interrogated, tortured, and even executed. In 1998, US agents apprehended Talaat Fouad Qassem, the reputed leader of an Egyptian extremist organization, in Croatia. Qassem had been traveling to Denmark, where he had been promised political asylum. Egyptian lawyers say that the US agents removed Quassem to a US ship stationed off the Croatian coast. On board, he was questioned by the agents before being taken to Cairo, where a military tribunal had already sentenced him to death in absentia.

Also in 1998, five members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad were taken into custody by Albanian police working in tandem with CIA agents. The five suspects were interrogated for three days before being shipped to Egypt on a CIA-chartered plane. The U.S. alleged that this group of people had been planning to bomb the US embassy in Albania’s capital. Two of the five people were put to death.

*The details of this covert and illegal abduction campaign were brought to light in the U.S. by a Washington Post article printed on March 11, 2002, entitled, “U.S. Behind Secret Transfer of Terror Suspects.” The article cites various U.S. and Indonesian officials (sources unidentified by name) recounting and commenting upon these violations. Although the article appeared on the Post’s front page, the story was picked up by only one other corporate media source in the U.S., and the Post itself – as of this writing – has not followed up its own story with any new information.

UPDATE BY AUTHOR DON GREENLEES: One of the unanswered questions is what happened to Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni after he was handed over to the CIA and taken to Cairo? US officials have refused to comment on the case. Indeed, there is still no official confirmation that he was ever placed in the custody of the CIA for extradition to Egypt. Was his interrogation conducted by U.S. or Egyptian personnel? Was he, in fact, ever taken to Egypt? Even alleged terrorists are presumably entitled to some protection under the law. In Madni’s case, it has not been possible to determine his fate. Rumours circulated among non-US Western intelligence agencies earlier this year that Madni had died in interrogation. US officials in Jakarta, requesting anonymity, have denied that allegation.

Given the secrecy surrounding Madni’s capture in Jakarta and handover to the CIA, it is reasonable to assume he is not the only alleged terrorist to have been placed in the custody of US officials and taken to a third country for interrogation, where the absence of civil rights and US legal protections could afford interrogators more freedom. Soon after the article on Madni appeared in The Weekend Australian, The Washington Post ran an article suggesting there were other cases of individuals being detained by the CIA and sent to countries where interrogation could be more easily carried out. The subject justifies further inquiry. Without the guilt of suspects having been legally ascertained, detentions are clearly open to abuse. How long will suspects be held and on what grounds? What restraint exists on the conduct of the interrogations? These are questions of interest to civil libertarians everywhere, particular in countries where non-democratic rulers could use the crackdown on terrorism as a means of sidelining critics.

The Weekend Australian article also sought to highlight the performance of the Indonesian authorities in dealing with the threat of terrorism. The absence of adequate law enforcement and the lack of co-ordination between law enforcement agencies, the weakness of immigration controls and the reluctance of the government to take legal action against extremist elements who have broken the law continue to make Indonesia vulnerable to entry by international terrorists. Madni’s success in entering Indonesia is seen as evidence of this weakness. But a consistent concern of pro-democracy groups in Indonesia is whether many of the hard won civil freedoms of the past four years could be eroded as Jakarta comes under pressure to improve its contribution to fighting potential terrorist threats.