Libya says missing CIA prisoner "committed suicide"

By Stephen Grey

ONE of the most important members of the Al Qaeda captured by the CIA in the months after 9/11 has been found dead in an alleged “suicide” in a jail in Libya, according to the country’s news media.
Ibn Al Sheikh al Libi, a former Al Qaeda camp commander, was controversially sent by the CIA to Egypt as part of the agency’s “extra-ordinary rendition” program and was allegedly subject to extreme torture, returned back into CIA custody, and then transferred onwards to Libya.
Described by former CIA director George Tenet in his 2006 autobiography as “the highest ranking al-Qa’ida member in U.S. custody” just after 9/11, al Libi was captured by the CIA before the agency had established its own secret prison program. And he was one of a handful of the most senior Al Qaeda leaders in US custody that were sent for interrogation at the hands of foreign countries. (more…)

On the trail of torture

UPDATE: Binyam Mohamed returned to the UK on February 23, 2009

(Published in the Sunday Times, Feb 8, 2009)
by Stephen Grey and David Leppard

Prisoner No 1458 at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, woke up each day last week in his solitary cell and waited for the inevitable: the arrival of a team of guards to take him down the corridor in shackles to be painfully force fed through a tube.
This was not another attempt to extract a confession, but an attempt to keep Binyam Mohamed alive. The 30-year-old former resident of Notting Hill, west London, was continuing his hunger strike against what he sees as failed promises to set him free. When he last saw his lawyer two weeks ago, his arms, she said, stuck out of his 6ft body “like little thin twigs”.
Although previously accused by US authorities of plotting a terrorist attack on American soil, Mohamed has not been charged with any crime. His former military prosecutor declared a month ago that he presented no threat to either America or Britain.
After losing almost 50lb in weight, and wasting further by the day, he was probably in no state to be told or even to care that two High Court judges in London last Wednesday were appealing for the public release of “powerful evidence” that might help prove his astonishing claims of mistreatment to be true. The issues at stake, said the British judges, were nothing short of the lofty interests of “law, free speech and democratic accountability”.
Involved shocking allegations of extreme mental and physical torture at the behest of America’s CIA, it is a case that has threatened to embarrass the new administration of President Barack Obama, whose inaugural speech included a pledge to halt such activities, as well as to shed an unwelcome spotlight on what exactly the British government knew and kept secret about potential crimes committed by its closest ally. (more…)

Frontline World – Extraordinary Rendition -Trailer

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Frontline World – Extraordinary Rendition – Preview 2

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The agonizing truth about CIA renditions

Published on Salon.com

The fate of prisoners secreted away under the Bush administration is in some ways worse than even Hollywood has portrayed.

By Stephen Grey

Nov. 05, 2007 At 3:44 p.m. on Jan. 24, 2004, a luxury Boeing 737 business jet operated by the Central Intelligence Agency landed at Kabul Airport in Afghanistan. Onboard were its flight crew, eight members of a CIA rendition team and a blindfolded prisoner who was shackled by his wrists and feet.

The behavior of the prisoner, a German citizen named Khaled el-Masri, concerned the CIA team leader onboard. According to an agency insider, the leader sent word to Washington that “there was something strange about el-Masri. He didn’t behave like the others they’d captured. He was asking: Is he the right guy?”

Within days it emerged that el-Masri was indeed the wrong man. It was a “100 percent case of mistaken identity,” said another former agency official. Yet, despite this discovery, el-Masri spent 18 weeks in solitary confinement in a CIA “black site,” or secret prison used by the United States in its war on terror. He is still waiting for an apology or an explanation.

The case of el-Masri — whose lawsuit against the CIA has been dismissed by U.S. courts on the grounds of protecting “state secrets” — caused a huge controversy within the CIA at the time of his capture. A five-month standoff between employees at the Counterterrorism Center and others in the clandestine service led then director George Tenet to step in. “On at least this occasion, Tenet made the right choice,” a source told me. “He ordered the release of a man who was clearly not a terrorist.” (more…)

Frontline World – Preview

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Coming soon – Frontline World: Extraordinary Rendition

COMING SOON – FRONTLINE WORLD -
“EXTRAORDINARY RENDITION” -
BROADCAST DATE PBS NOVEMBER 6th.
PBS PRESS RELEASE:
FRONTLINE/World INVESTIGATES THE CIA’S CONTROVERSIAL”RENDITION AND TORTURE” PROGRAM
“They pushed me down onto the floor of the van. There was blood everywhere, on my hands, my knees,” Egyptian cleric Abu Omar tells FRONTLINE/World reporter Stephen Grey about being snatched off the street by the CIA.

“As we drove along, I started to choke.… It felt like I was dying. Then I disappeared from history.”

“Somebody came, removed the hood, removed the cuffs and left me in the shackles,” Bisher al-Rawi, a longtime British resident, says of his arrival at an infamous secret CIA “black site” in Afghanistan.

“And that was the ‘Dark Prison.’… It was a very, very cold place. … You had some sort of odd voices, not music, playing on speakers. … You had people coming to check you were alive—not OK, but alive. … [For] the duration of the dark prison I had shackles on. I just took it as it came.”

These are among the voices of CIA “ghost prisoners” speaking for the first time on U.S. television as part of FRONTLINE/World’s Extraordinary Rendition, an international investigation by the award-winning journalist Stephen Grey of the United States government’s controversial, extralegal detention and interrogation program, airing Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2007, at 9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings).
Grey, the former head of investigations at The Sunday Times of London and the author of the acclaimed book Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Rendition and Torture Program (St. Martin’s, 2006), was one of the first journalists to uncover the secrets of the CIA rendition program.
In recent weeks, President Bush has publicly defended CIA interrogation methods as legal, despite charges from within his own administration that CIA treatment of “ghost prisoners” was “abhorrent.”
Initially, as Grey and others discovered, key terror suspects were transferred by the CIA to countries like Egypt and Jordan, where many believe the United States was “outsourcing torture” to foreign intelligence services. The Bush administration claims it insisted that the countries who accepted the CIA’s rendered prisoners would not use torture.
“You can say we asked them not to do it,” says Tyler Drumheller, the former head of CIA operations in Europe, about these assurances the prisoners would not be tortured.

“But when you turn someone over to another country you can’t say to them, ‘This is how we expect you to treat them.’ … If you know that this is how this country has treated people in the past, you have to be honest that that is going to be a part of it.”

As the rendition program grew, and the White House drew up controversial legal authorization for secret detention and “enhanced interrogation techniques,” such as water boarding, the CIA began maintaining its own “black sites” for “high-value” terror suspects.
One of these black sites, it was revealed this summer, was in Poland. Another was near an air strip in eastern Romania where the CIA began to interrogate prisoners themselves.
“There wasn’t a bed, just a mattress and blanket and a bucket to urinate and defecate in,” says Mohammed Bashmillah, who was tracked down by Grey in Yemen a year after his release by the CIA without charge.

“We were chained by our legs for a period of about a month after our arrival. When they called us for interrogation, they bound us by the hands and legs, and covered our heads.”

In September 2006, after a number of public disclosures and a key Supreme Court decision, President Bush was finally forced to acknowledge the existence of the secret rendition program. He announced the emptying of the CIA’s black sites and the transfer of high-value detainees to Guantanamo Bay, where they would face military tribunals.
But Grey and others have shown that dozens of known detainees, including so-called high-value prisoners, remain unaccounted for.
Then in early 2007 Grey discovered more secret flights—this time in the Horn of Africa on planes chartered by the Kenyan government. Fatma Chande, the wife of a suspected member of Al Qaeda, tells Grey she was picked up by the Kenyans, she believes, on behalf of the Americans.

“The police tried to force me to admit my husband was a member of Al Qaeda. I
told them he was just a businessman. They kept banging on the table. They
threatened to strangle me if I didn’t tell them the truth.”

The CIA says this wasn’t a U.S. operation, but Jack Cloonan, a veteran FBI officer with deep experience on terror cases before and after 9/11, told Grey:

“It’s called plausible deniability. The agency and the bureau are not going to
admit that they were witting of this at all, … but they probably were the power
brokers behind the scenes pushing this forward. … This new era of going onto the
African continent and outsourcing [interrogation], I think, is frankly new.”

Now, as the fate of many rendered men remains uncertain at Guantanamo Bay, and many others remain unaccounted for, President Bush has reportedly signed a new executive order. Its secret contents, many believe, have reauthorized the CIA to once again render terror suspects to black sites where “enhanced” interrogation techniques are applied.
“The program is back on,” Stephen Grey says. “The people in the CIA are pretty reluctant about it, but they’ve got their orders, and until America finds a way of actually bringing people to trial in a courtroom, people in the CIA have got very little alternative to holding them in these black sites secretly or rendering them to allies who will do their bidding.”

Preacher seized by CIA tells of torture in Egypt

AN EGYPTIAN preacher who was seized by the CIA in daylight on a Milan street has revealed the details of 14 months of torture to which he says he was subjected after his “extraordinary rendition” to Egypt.
Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, known as Abu Omar, described how Egyptian interrogators stripped him, shackled his arms and legs in a crucifixion position and then beat him and gave him electric shocks. He claimed they had twice attempted to rape him.
Now living in Alexandria, Nasr, 44, walks with a limp, is deaf in one ear and bears scars.
Last Friday the trial opened of 26 American defendants accused of kidnapping him on February 17, 2003, in an operation prosecutors say was coordinated by the CIA and Italian intelligence. None of the US defendants, a number of whom were identified by aliases, attended.
Nasr fled Egypt in 1988 after he was accused of being a member of Gama’a Islamiya, an Egyptian militant group that later carried out terrorist attacks. He denied the allegation and was granted political asylum in Italy. When he disappeared he was walking to midday prayers at a radical mosque where he was a part-time preacher.
He became a “ghost prisoner”, his arrest and detention confirmed to nobody. “I was out of history. My lawyer searched prisons all over Egypt and no one could find a trace of me,” he said. (more…)

London student’s jungle war escape led to ‘rendition’ trap

Sunday Times, June 10, 2007, by Stephen Grey.

A BRITISH student who was caught up in fighting in Somalia has described how he fled for his life only to be arrested as a suspected Al-Qaeda member and then rescued by a British consul from a secret operation to transfer terrorist suspects to Ethiopia for interrogation.
Reza Afsharzadagen, 25, from north London, was among hundreds of refugees forced to flee battles last December between Islamic radicals who had seized power in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, and Ethiopian soldiers trying to install a rival United Nations-backed government.
After dodging bombs from American warplanes deployed in support of the Ethiopians and trekking through jungle for 13 days, Afsharzadagen reached safety in Kenya. But there he was detained as a suspected terrorist and questioned for nearly a month without being charged.
He and three other British Muslims who were arrested – Shahajan Janjua, Hamza Chent-ouf, and Mohammed Ezzoueck, all from London – were eventually returned home and cleared of any suspicion of terrorist activity after the intervention of the Foreign Office. (more…)

DISPATCHES – Monday JUNE 14, 2007

“Kidnapped to Order
Channel 4, UK, Monday, June 11, 2007 at 8PM UK

Dispatches exposes a new phase in America’s dirty war on al Qaeda: the rendition and detention of women and children. Last year, President Bush confirmed the existence of a CIA secret detention programme but he refused to give details and said it was over. Dispatches reveals new evidence confirming fiercely-denied reports that many of the CIA captives were held and interrogated in Europe. Those prisons may now be closed but the programme is by no means over, it’s just changed. A new front has opened up in the Horn of Africa and America has outsourced its renditions to its allies.Reporter Stephen Grey (author of Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Programme) investigates America’s global sweep for prisoners – obtaining exclusive interviews with former detainees who claim they have been kidnapped and flown halfway across the world to face torture by America’s allies.The film opens with an examination of the most notorious rendition story to date – the kidnap of Egyptian cleric Abu Omar. This month in Italy the trial opens of twenty-five CIA officers accused of snatching Omar from the streets of Milan in broad daylight and flying him to Cairo four years ago. Grey travels to Egypt to secure an exclusive interview with Omar who defies the warnings of his interrogators not to speak publicly about his treatment. He details the torture that was inflicted upon him in his fourteen-month detention and the number of other ‘ghost detainees’ he encountered – people who are being held in secret, without charge.The film then turns to Pakistan – one of America’s most significant allies in the ‘war on terror’. Since 9/11, the state’s intelligence services have apprehended over a five hundred people as terror suspects. Grey investigates what happens to the ‘disappeared’ amid claims that America pays Pakistan a bounty for every suspect they capture. Turning his attentions closer to home, Grey gains exclusive access to an official European investigation which has found evidence that CIA prisons housing al Qaeda suspects have also existed in Europe and reveals the interrogation techniques that have been used against such high-value prisoners. The Bush administration claim such techniques stop short of torture but Grey discovers that many in the CIA disagree and are concerned that using them may leave them open to criminal proceedings in the future and make the evidence gained inadmissible in a trial – preventing terrorists from being convicted in court.Dispatches then examines the new battleground of America’s war on terror – the Horn of Africa. Grey travels to Kenya, and Ethiopia to investigate allegations of mass renditions involving women and children – where prisoners thought to have al Qaeda connections have been illegally transferred from country to country for imprisonment and interrogation. Grey uncovers evidence of secret rendition flights on which suspects were flown from Nairobi into war-torn Somalia – a state with no effective law or government. Amongst the suspects were women and children – he hears a first-hand account from one Briton who was on one of the flights who describes being beaten, interrogated and finding himself in a prison cell opposite a woman and a five-year-old boy. Another woman who was rendered to Somalia describes being flown on to Ethiopia with other women and children – where one pregnant woman gave birth to her child whilst in detention.Dispatches questions the legality and effectiveness of America’s rendition programme and asks whether the way detainees have been interrogated will undermine the legal process to bring real terrorists to trial and conviction.

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Operation Snakebite

OUT IN PAPERBACK updated edition, OPERATION SNAKEBITE (UK) and INTO THE VIPER's NEST (USA edition) is the story of British and American involvement in the conflict in Helmand, Afghanistan Frontline combat, strategic chaos, political intrigues, the truth about the enemy, and a tale of true heroes .... in the most dangerous place on earth.

The Latest Reviews

"Devastating … It explains why the world's most sophisticated armed forces are being defeated by the world's least sophisticated"- Simon Jenkins, Books of the Year 2009, The Times Literary Supplement

"One of the most courageous and important pieces of reporting of the Afghanistan campaign"- General Sir Richard Dannatt

"Grey tells the story with immediacy, drama and sometimes anger. A gripping and moving narrative"- Soldier Magazine

"magnificent ... a meticulously reconstructed account of the battle for Musa Qala ... frequently more vivid than any film .... confers immense authority ... "- Misha Glenny in the Mail on Sunday

"exemplary...an uncommonly vivid portrait of battle, matched by sharp investigation of purposes, intrigues and cock-ups... " - Max Hastings in the Sunday Times

"superb .... captures the grit and the gore, the exhaustion and emotion, the killing and the dying, the horrors and the heroism... a fine piece of war reporting ..."- Raymond Bonnner in the The Guardian.

"Excellent" - (Daily Telegraph)

"Exceptional"- (New Statesman)

"Fascinating"- (Financial Times)

"enthralling and unvarnished .... a persuasive and thoughtful account of an unwon war" -Glasgow Herald

Illustrated with 8 maps and 65 colour photos. Join the facebook page

Synopsis

In December, 2007, Stephen Grey, reporting for the Sunday Times, was under fire in Afghanistan, ambushed by the Taliban. He was amidst the biggest UK-led operation fought on Afghan soil since 9/11: the liberation of a Taliban stronghold called Musa Qala. Taking shelter behind an American armoured Humvee, Grey turned his head to witness scenes of carnage. Two cars were riddled with gunfire. Their occupants, including several children, had died. Taliban positions were pounded by bullets and bombs dropped on their compounds. A day later, as the operation continued, a mine exploded just yards from Grey, killing a British soldier.

Who, he wondered in the days that followed, was responsible for the bloodshed? And what purpose did it serve A compelling story of one military venture that lasted several days, Operation Snakebite draws on Grey's exclusive interviews with everyone from private soldiers to NATO commanders. The result is a thrilling and at times horrifying story of a war which has gone largely unnoticed back home.