Sunday, January 15, 2006

Herzinger on Europe and Human Rights

Since the beginning of this blog I have linked to Richard Herzinger's essay "Whisky für die Taliban" ("Whisky for the Taliban", as you might guess) in Die Zeit. Beginning with a scene from Monty Python's Life of Brian, he reminds Europe of what distinguishes Western civilization from the culture in which the Taliban or al-Qaida thrive. If you read German, you must read this piece.

Herzinger has also kept a blog "Ideen und Irrtümer" at his various places of employment: at die Zeit, at the blog site of Die Weltwoche, and now at Die Welt am Sontag.

On December 25, 2005, he had a posting on the double standard concerning human rights that Europe employs when criticizing the U.S. for its policies. He concludes his blog entry thus:

Where, then, were the storms of protest when Spain, with the explicit approval of the E.U. and in knowing disregard for the humanitarian rules it set up for itself, deported African refugees to Morocco, where torture is a matter of course? Where was the storm of outrage when the Moroccans abandoned many of these refugees in the desert without shelter or provisions, thus leaving them to certain death? And where, by the way, are the protests of the "Stop the Wall" activists, who oppose the Israeli border fence, when it comes to the European border facilities, adorned with barbed wire and razor blades, intended not to keep out suicide bombers but rather desperate economic refugees?

It is difficult to avoid the impression that the high humanitarian standard that the Europeans parade about so demonstratively applies only so long as their own interests are not affected. In that case, they transgress against [the standard] without compunction. Maxeiner&Miersch have compiled a small exhibit from the European list of sins in this connection.

One of the external articles he links to reports on criticism of the U.N.'s anti-terror policies by a center-left politician Ehrhart Körting (Interior Senator for Berlin from the SPD). Here it is:

Körting: U.N. Violates Human Rights

24. December, 1:55 PM

Berlin's Interior Senator Körting accuses the U.N. of human rights violations. One a person is registered as a terror suspect, there is no chance to defend onesself.

Ehrhart Körting (SPD), the interior senator of Berlin, has accused the United Nations of human rights violations in the world-wide search for terrorists. For people who are entered on the U.N. lists as terror suspects, there is "insufficient legal protection", said Körting to the Tagesspiegel. Being placed on this list is tantamount to a "verdict". The bank accounts of such a person are locked, without the chance for appeal at the United Nations.

Since the end of 2001, the U.N. Security Council keeps a list of terror suspects. The lists are continuously kept up-to-date with the help of German intelligence officials. According to the Tagesspiegel, actual suspects are listed there, but also people who purely coincidentally bear the same name.

Banks, government offices, and even the employment office help in the identification [of the suspects]. "There is no legal opportunity to have one's name removed from the list", said Körting. This violates the principle of human worth, which is enshrined in the U.N. Charter. The Federal Government therefore must lobby for the preservation of legal protection.

And your point was ... ?

Melanie at Just a Bump in the Beltway posted without comment a couple of stories about the BND scandal: one from the Independent, and one from the Boston Globe. In the comments, "Paul in Mexico" opines that "the Germans sure voted against their own self interest when they elected this ultra-right wing nut, did they not?"

The blog advertises itself as presenting a left-wing point of view. E.g., Melanie in a different posting faults the Senate Judiciary Committee for not inquiring further into Alito's CAP membership. So I have to wonder what her purpose was in posting the two news stories on the BND. From what I've read, the Germans have been the staunchest opponents of the war in Europe. The goverment under which the alleged assistance to the U.S. was given was a coalition of the Green party and the center-left Social Democrats, and arguably the most anti-American government in the post-war period. It doesn't appear to me that the conservatives and the libertarians are tarnished by this scandal at all. Absent her actual commentary on the reports, I have to assume that she was being fair-minded by reminding us that the European left can be hypocritical, too.

Paul in Mexico's comment, however, makes little sense to me. Was he under the mistaken impression that the scandal reflects badly on the CDU/CSU? Or did the stories of the potential scandal for the SDP and Greens make no impression on him, such that he could only mention the right-wingnut Angelika Merkel? Or is he perhaps just being sarcastic?

Saturday, January 14, 2006


Die Zeit, one of the very best news periodicals I know of, has blogs. One blog is "Beruf Terrorist [Profession Terrorist] The Enemy of all the World", by Jochen Bittner. I haven't followed his blog, but I decided to check it to see if he had anything to say about the BND scandal. I wasn't disappointed. Here it is in English:

What did Steinmeier know? (January 12, 2006)

The tip of the iceberg has in the meantime many names: Khalid el-Masri, Reda Seyam, or even"Curveball". It is slowly becoming clear what the extent of the German-American hanky-panky was and probably still is in the so-called War on Terror. Today the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the ARD [television] magazine "Panorama" are reporting that during the Iraq war agents of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) delivered target coordinates to American bombers.

In retrospect, the chasm between actual German foreign policy and high-flown red-green rhetoric about human rights is so wide that it makes the onlooker dizzy.

Yes, one is inclined exclaim in revisionist fashion, "Who has betrayed us...?"

But of all the questions that are asked in such cases, one poses itself with the very highest urgency. It is:

What did Steinmeier, Fischer, and Schröder know?

What did the former head of the Federal Chancellor's Office and the present foreign minister know, what did the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor know about that informant to the BND, whom the Americans called "Curveball"? Before the war, this Iraqi provided to German intelligence services the decisive reports about alleged mobile bio-weapon labs of Saddam's regime (die ZEIT reported on several occasions). He served as Colin Powell's start witness in the Security Council for Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program. In the BND, in whom "Curveball" had confided, this man was considered a total crackpot. However, the "peacepower" [pun on "superpower"] Federal government apparently lacked the backbone to share this assessment with the world before the Iraq war.

What did these three know of the practice of CIA abductions? It must have been clear in the Federal Chancellor's office at the latest after the case of Reda Seyam (die ZEIT reported) that the Americans would not shy away from hauling off German citizens. Could the later abduction of el-Masri have been prevented by a corresponding diplomatic intervention?

What did the Federal Chancellor's office know about the visits of German intelligence officers in the Guantánamo internment camp? What did they know about the cooperation of the BND with the American military during the Iraq war?

Enough. Cheap references to "certain gray areas" that there are in the anti-terror battle will no longer do. Steinmeier, Fischer, Schröder, and also Ernst Uhrlau, until now the coordinator of intelligence services in the Chancellor's office, must explain themselves. Preferably before they are called in front of an investigative committee.

Here is Dr. Bittner's bio from his blog:

Dr. Jochen Bittner, born 1973, studied law and philosophy. He gained journalistic experience with the Kieler Nachrichten, the FAZ and Die Welt. During a stay in Belfast he authored the book Ein unperfekter Frieden - Die IRA auf dem Weg vom Mythos zur Mafia (An Imperfect Peace: The IRA on the Path from Myth to Mafia; with Christian Ludwig Knoll, R.G. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main, 2nd ed. 2001). After that he worked as a research associate of the chair for constitutional law and jurisprudence of the University of Kiel, where he earned a doctorate on the topic of the concept of the legal system. Since 2001 Jochen Bittner has been the editor of the politics department of die ZEIT. He deals with the areas of terrorism and intelligence services, among others.

High points of SZ article

The Cliff's Notes, so to speak. We shouldn't assume that this one article provides a complete picture.

  • The information for the SZ article and the ARD program segment came from a high-ranking German security official, and from at least one Pentagon source.
  • Two BND staffers stayed in Baghdad and provided the U.S. military with information.
  • The cooperation was explicitly approved by Ernst Uhrlau (coordinator of intelligence services in the Chancellor's office) and August Hanning (president of the BND).
  • Unnamed sources in security circles said ["Aus Sicherheitskreisen hieß es ..."] it was a political decision of the SPD/Green government.
  • The German security official said that it wasn't a decision by a department head.
  • The BND mission was to inform the Americans of targets that shouldn't be bombed.
  • U.S. sources paint a different picture: the BND provided direct support in the acquisition of targets.
  • At American request, a BND staffer personally inspected a target area in Mansur where Saddam Hussein was said to be in a motorcade. Two buildings were then bombed, and twelve people died.
  • BND staffer awarded American decoration along with the pilot of the Mansur mission.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Parity among dictators

There is a certain logic in these statements by Hans Blix, but it strikes me as perverse. He seems to take it for granted that the world must live with a cartel of blackmailers.

LONDON, December 9 (IranMania) - The European Union has scope to offer Iran more incentives in exchange for guarantees that Tehran will not build nuclear bombs, former head of the IAEA nuclear watchdog Hans Blix said, according to AFP.

Blix, who has also been the UN's chief weapons inspector in Iraq, said North Korea had obtained more concessions than Iran from Europe.

"I am not convinced that the EU has offered sufficiently interesting things to the Iranians," Blix told AFP on the sidelines of a seminar on nuclear policy in Stockholm.

Iran had been told that it "could expect World Trade Organization membership, access to spare parts for Boeings, and a fuel supply guarantee", Blix said.

"But when you compare these things that have been offered to Iran with what has been offered to North Korea, I am not sure that one is at the negotiations' end," Blix said.

Süddeutsche on BND scandal

Here is a translation of part of the first article I found about the emerging scandal in Germany about the assistence given by the BND, the German federal intelligence agency, to the U.S. in the Iraq war. This is about half of the article.

We all knew that Schröder was a demagogue, but if it turns out that he approved the BND's assistance to the Amis in their illegal and immoral incursion into Saddam's Iraq, then this hypocrisy seems likely to tarnish his reputation somewhat, given that he based his popularity on anti-Americanism to a great extent.

Secret Cooperation

BND helped Americans in Iraq War [12.01.2006]

In spite of official repudiation by the Federal Government of the military strikes, the German intelligence services is supposed to have supported the U.S.A. in the reconaissance of bombing targets. The Chancellor's office was informed.

By Hans Leyendecker and Wolfgang Krach

The Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) supported the American troops in Spring 2003 during the Iraq war, and possibly even helped identify bombing targets.

According to the information of the Süddeutsche Zeitung and of the ARD television magazine "Panorama", at least two members of the BND remained in Baghdad during the entire war and supplied the U.S. military with information. The cooperation was explicitly approved by Ernst Uhrlau, then intelligence service coordinator in the Chancellor's office, and August Hanning, then president of the BND.

A high-ranking German security official who wishes to remain anonymous, told the SZ on Wednesday that two BND agents had found refuge in the French embassy after the German embassy had been vacated on March 17, 2003--three days before the start of the war. The BND staffers continued their work during the war.

In addition, there was eooperation with the U.S. intelligence service Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). On the level of intelligence services "there was to be no speechlessness". "The situation in Baghdad was virgin territory for the BND", added the official.

On Wednesday, the word in intelligence circles was that the decision to cooperate with the Americans had been a "political decision" of the Red-Green federal government. Publicly, the government of Federal Chancellor Gerhard Schröder had always maintained that it rejected the Iraq war, and that it therefore also didn't participate in it.

The high-ranking intelligence official said that the leadership of the BND decided after consultation with the Chancellor's office to continue its cooperation with the Americans during the war. "That was not a decision of some division head". Part of the assignment of the BND was to report targets that should not be bombed to the Americans. This "non-targeting of hospitals or embassies" was one of the assignments of the BND in Iraq. The U.S.A. had requested this assistance.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Hans Blix interview in Svenska Dagbladet

Melchior presents for your edification and delectation a translation of an article in the Svenska Dagbladet excerpting an interview with Hans Blix, conducted by the Swedish news agency TT. There was one word ("partsinlaga", pl. "partsinlagor") I wasn't sure how to translate. Lexin translates it as a legal term "party writing", adding to the Swedish meaning also the English gloss "figuratively 'pleading one's own case'". I chose to render it "self-justification", which may be too idiomatic, but I'm not sure there is a good but more literal English equivalent. I found the word used in a way compatible with that translation in this book review.

Blix is trying to sound reasonable and even-handed, but the things he fails to mention (or at least the things that aren't included in this brief write-up) suggest to me that he is far too blasé about the threat Iran poses. The Iranian president's repeated calls for the obliteration of Israel are not even noted, much less the "asymmetrical" situation in which Israel must defend itself.

Han Blix Critical of the Iran Debate

Too many self-justifications, threats, and bad arguments dominate the debate about Iran's nuclear program, says Hans Blix, the former head of the international nuclear energy organization IAEA.

To get control of the problem he wants to see a broad solution for the whole region.

"It would be desirable if Iran didn't continue with its program to enrich uranium. It [the program] will have the effect of raising the political temperature in the Middle East", said Blix to TT.

At the same time, Blix lacks a free and critical examination of the question and believes that the debate consists chiefly of self-justifications.

"It is correct as the Iranians say that they have the right to enrich uranium according to the non-proliferation agreement. But one isn't compelled to make use of all the rights one has in the world. Sweden has ten nuclear reactors and we don't enrich uranium, but rather we import it instead, because it is cheaper. It surely ought to be cheaper for Iran as well," says Blix.

"On the other side, those on the West's side say that Iran has oil, there is no reason to have nuclear power, therefore it must be for weapon purposes. But Mexico also has oil, and the USA, and Russia. That is a bad argument. It is true that Iraq for a long time flouted its commitment to the IAEA to report its program for the enrichment of uranium. But was the only conceivable reason that they were trying to make weapons? Could they perhaps been afraid of sabotage from abroad?"

The threats that have been advanced against the Iranians, for example to bring the matter before the UN Security Council, will mostly have the effect of strengthening the hardline regime in Tehran. And even if the matter were to be brought before the security council, he doubts that sanctions will be an option, because the IAEA has not yet been able to establish that Iran has transgressed against the non-proliferation agreement.

Instead, Blix raises the possibility that the USA's UN ambassador John Bolton is perhaps driven by other concerns:

"Could one fear that Mr. Bolton, who is no great friend and admirer of the UN, wants to demonstrate that the Security Council is impotent, and that in that case someone else, someone stronger, ought to do something about the matter?"

Hans Blix nonetheless believes that not even Washington desires any real "blossoming" of the conflict with Iran as long as the war in Iraq continues. [Blix] himself would like to see a broader solution for the whole region--including Israel, which is believed to have up to 200 nuclear weapons.

"It is completely legal for Israel to produce plutonium because they aren't members of the non-proliferation agreement. There should be some advantage in all states in the Middle East to agree neither to produce plutonium nor to enrich uranium," said Blix to TT.


Monday, January 02, 2006

Translation of Michael Scheuer interview in Die Zeit (part V)

Part 5 of Die Zeit's interview with Michael Scheuer.

Completed: 01:24 CST.

ZEIT: Mr. El-Masri says that he was tortured. He was in a CIA prison in Afghanistan.

Scheuer: If he was in a CIA prison, he was certainly not tortured. Period.

ZEIT: But he claims that he was.

Scheuer: That doesn't surprise me. Maybe he wants to see some money. Everybody wants that.

ZEIT: He further maintains that a German interrogated him in Afghanistan. How is that possible?

Scheuer: I don't know if that is true. It's possible. Our government and our intelligence agencies do try to help NATO allies. If Germans interrogated him, then that suggests that the Germans believed that they could learn something from him.

ZEIT: How many such cases of European Muslims are there?

Scheuer: Not very many, because the Europeans don't usually cooperate. Therefore we tried to get these people when they weren't on European soil.

ZEIT: El-Masri was surprised that the American interrogators knew details from his daily life. This knowledge could only come from German intelligence agencies. Or did the CIA spy in Germany?

Scheuer: I am certain that such information didn't come from us. If we had information about El-Masri's activities in Germany, then they came from one of the German agencies. And that suggests that it was more than just a rumor or a suspicion that led to his arrest.

ZEIT: What is the future of the extraordinary renditions?

Scheuer: The program is probably dead. Because of the leaks, the revelations, and the criticism. And for those who bear responsibility in the intelligence agencies, the effect is sobering. None of those who ordered us to act as we did now admits it.

The questions were posed by Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff.

Zum Thema:
Michael Scheuer left the CIA in November 2004 after 22 years of service. From 1995 to 1999 he led the unit that hunted Osama bin Laden. From 2000 he was one of the counter-terrorism leaders in the CIA. During his service there he wrote a critique of American anti-terror policy (Imperial Hubris). Within the CIA Michael Scheuer is regarded as someone who "fouled his own nest" [idiomatic expression "Nestbeschmutzer"]. He lives with his family in Virginia.

Translation of Michael Scheuer interview in Die Zeit (part IV)

Part 4 of Die Zeit's interview with Michael Scheuer.

Completed: 00:30 CST. Updated: 00:49 CST.

ZEIT: Why was the cooperation so changeable, apart from the question of capital punishment?

Scheuer: Churchill said in the late 1930's: the Europeans always hope that the aligator eats them last. As long as the target of the terrorists was the United States, many in Europe were asking themselves why they should endanger themselves together with America.

ZEIT: How do that work when you wanted information in one of your cases? Let's say, from your German colleagues?

Scheuer: Sometimes there was just no answer. Sometimes some of the questions were answered. Sometimes the response was: we don't have much. Here is the little bit that we do have. There was just a lot of hemming and hawing.

ZEIT: Has that changed since the attack of 2001?

Scheuer: Yes, completely. But even after the attacks in New York, Madrid, and London, there is still this belief in Europe that they shouldn't get too involved. This idea that you only endanger yourself if you support the Americans.

ZEIT: The invasion of Iraq gave many adherents to that point of view.

Scheuer: The Iraq invasion without a doubt broke the back of our whole anti-terrorism operation. And in the long term, the war will certainly have the effect that a second generation of well-trained fighters, European Muslims and European converts, will return to Europe. The first generation came in the 1990's from the Balkans and Chechnya.

ZEIT: There's the case of the German-Syrian Mohammed Haydar Zammar, who had connections to the so-called Hamburg Cell, that prepared the attack on the World Trade Center. The German justice system could bring no proof of a crime. The CIA seized the man in Morocco and took him to Syria. How am I supposed to imagine cooperation with the Germans in such a case?

Scheuer: It would surprise me if there wasn't someone in the German intelligence service who was informed, though perhaps after the fact. In Washington there is a lot of fear of the Europeans' criticism. That may sound odd in light of this president, but it's still true.

ZEIT: Could it perhaps be the other way around? That German intelligence informed you where the man went when he left Germany?

Scheuer: Nothing is impossible, but I have no reason to suppose that.

ZEIT: The new Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble let it be known that the interrogation of Zammar in Syria had yielded useful results. Is that correct?

Scheuer: That is the case for the entire "extraordinary renditions program". It strikes me as dishonest of the Europeans to critizes this operation so strongly. Because all the information from the interrogations, everything that that had to do with Spain, with Italy, with Germany, with France, with England, was passed on. And if you were to ask the intelligence agencies of those countries, they would say: the information that we received from the "extraordinary renditions program" of the CIA helped us.

ZEIT: So the Germans were the beneficiaries of your methods?

Scheuer: Of course.

ZEIT: The German Interior Minister has spoken in Parliament of three cases, in which German officials abroad were in the prisons with the German citizens. Would it be an exaggeration to say that the CIA is doing the dirty work for us Germans?

Scheuer: As I said: some criticism strikes me as hypocritical.

ZEIT: Would you rule out the possibility that mistakes were made and the wrong people were seized?

Scheuer: I am certain that there were mistakes. Clausewitz talked about the fog of war. Right now we are in the middle of it. If mistakes were made, reparations should be paid.

ZEIT: One of these cases appears to concern a German citizen, Khaled El-Masri, who was apprehended in the Balkans, brought to Afghanistan, and months later was released in the Balkans.

Scheuer: There you have a symbol for the confusion in a war. He would certainly not have been apprehended if there had been no dubious information.

ZEIT: The case seems more to be a symbol that it is better to entrust such questions to the police, prosecutors, and courts and not to the CIA.

Scheuer: If you want to consider Al-Qaida as a matter of criminal prosecution and then wait until we've lost, then you are correct. However, we are in a war. And the sooner we remove such matters from the realm of criminal prosecution and get them under the rules of the Geneva Convention, the better it will be for America, for Europe, and also for the Germans. If these people are prisoners of war, there is no legal process.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Translation of Michael Scheuer interview in Die Zeit (part III)

Part 3 of Die Zeit's interview with Michael Scheuer.

Completed: 23:02. Updated: 23:05 CST.

ZEIT: And since that time?

Scheuer: Fewer and fewer countries are taking these people back. That's why most are in American hands. Naturally the number climbed. We are talking about hundreds, certainly not thousands.

ZEIT: One of your earlier colleagues is quoted with the remark that "extraordinary renditions" are "an abomination".

Scheuer: If it's an abomination to defend America, then this critic would feel right at home in the left wing of the Democratic Party. I think it's more of a matter of lack of courage to handle the dirty work onesself.

ZEIT: Internal critics claim that the program went out of control after 2001.

Scheuer: The process of getting the approval of the lawyers for an operation is to this day a tortuous process. Europeans should not underestimate the crippling nature of American system of government.

ZEIT: What has changed legally since 2001?

Scheuer: Well, because we detain the people ourselves now, we are no longer such Pharisees [the English may well have been "hypocrites"]. You have to credit the Bush administration for behaving a little more courageously and doing its own dirty work. And in the newspaper I read that there are so-called "improved interrogation techniques". That sounds as if one can now be a little rougher than before.

ZEIT: How do you explain that people died while being detaind by the CIA?

Scheuer: I don't know anything about that. I just read about it in the newspaper.

ZEIT: There are reports of seriously abused people, even pictures ...

Scheuer: As far as I understand the new interrogation methods, none of them should lead to deaths. If there were deaths, then I would assume that there was an excess. And of course that isn't okay.

ZEIT: Apparently there were hundreds of CIA flights crossing Europe. Why was that necessary?

Scheuer (laughs): Somehow surreal, all that. The CIA operates throughout world. We transport people, equipment, and money around theglobe. If you want to supply the CIA in Iraq, you have to fly and refuel over Europe. That doesn't mean that in each of these planes is a "bad guy".

ZEIT: If I understand you correctly, you find the outcry in Europe amusing?

Scheuer: Very amusing, really.

ZEIT: Why do you need prisons in Eastern Europe?

Scheuer: I'm not sure there are any. It would surprise me.

ZEIT: I had hoped you would reveal where they are.

Scheuer (lacht): I'll go along with Franklin Roosevelt D. and say: I think they are in Shangrila. Just this much: I don't know why we would need such prisons. We have sufficient capacity elsewhere, especially in Iraq and Cuba. I knew nothing about these prisons in Eastern Europe when I was in the Agency. That doesn't necessarily mean anything. Perhaps I didn't need to know. And if there were any, then I can only assume that our European allies believed that they were supporting an operation that protected them as well as us.

ZEIT: How did the cooperation work with European allies, especially with Germany?

Scheuer: Before 2001, variable at best. I don't believe that Germany is among our best allies. The Italians were always good, the British somewhat. The fundamental problem in Europe is of a basic sort: the immigration and asylum laws have have made the establishment of a hard core of terrorists who have been convicted elsewhere, and who are now citizens of European states. In addition, no-one can be deported to a country that has capital punishment.

ZEIT: The attitude to the death penalty has hindered cooperation?

Scheuer: Not just hindered. It was like a barrier. Out of principle we didn't work in Europe. There are agreements from the Cold War, according to which we can't state any operations in Europe. The CIA is bound to those to this day. We simply went to those places where it worked. There is no sense in banging your head against a wall.

Translation of Michael Scheuer interview in Die Zeit (part II)

Part 2 of Die Zeit's interview with Michael Scheuer.

My translation of part 1 here.

Completed at 20:45 CST. Updated at 23:23 CST.

ZEIT: Didn't you have concerns about torture in these countries?

Scheuer: No my job was to protect American citizens by taking Al-Qaida people off the street. The Executive branch of our government have to decide if they consider that hypocritical. This operation was 90% a huge success and only 10% a disaster.

ZEIT: In what did the disaster consist?

Scheuer: Everything was made public. Now the Europeans will help us a great deal less, because they have to fear that everything will be in the Washington Post. And then there is this blowhard in the Senate, John McCain, who practically concedes that the CIA tortures. All completely false. But that's how the whole program was destroyed.

ZEIT: Why did you take these people to their home countries instead of the the U.S.? Couldn't you have kept these people more safely under lock and key?

Scheuer: It was always a case of violent crime. We had little doubt that these countries would not let anyone go. And we didn't bring them to the U.S. because President Clinton didn't want us to.

ZEIT: Why not?

Scheuer: Our leadership didn't want to treat them like prisoners of war, but rather as criminals. At the same time they feared that it wouldn't be possible to gather enough evidence to hold up in court.

ZEIT: Is that so difficult?

Scheuer: In order to convict someone in the United States, an American officer of the law has to read him his rights when he is arrested. In foreighn countries that is impossible. Second, the agents have to certify in court that none of the confiscated documents was modified. If no-one can swear to that, the court automatically refuses to accept them. Thus it becomes almost impossible to get a verdict.

ZEIT: On the other hand: How can have insufficient evidence for a court but at the same time feel certain enough to apprehend someone in a foreign country? Doesn't the operation become illegal and illegitimate for that reason alone?

Scheuer: No, there are arrest warrants in their home countries for most of these people. Even if we don't like the Egyptian or Jordanian justice system, it is still a justice system. We were simply helping to return people to their home countries, so that they could be punished for crimes they committed abroad.

ZEIT: The CIA sees itself as a global police force?

Scheuer: No, we are an arm of the U.S. government that has as its mission the protection of Americans. We would have preferred to bring these people to America as prisoners of war. In any case, Osama bin Laden declared war against us twice, 1996 and 1998. But President Clinton simply didn't that. Nr did Präsident Bush. Both assumed that we would legitimize members of Al-Qaida if we treated them as prisoners of war. But that's nonsense. Bin Laden and his fighters are heros in the Islamic world. Nothing that we could do would confer greater legitimacy than they already had. Anyway, it is simpler to make the Egyptians and Jordanians do the dirty work.

ZEIT: Human rights played no role in the Clinton administration?

Scheuer: The CIA raised this question. People aren't treated in Cairo the way they are in Milwaukee. The Clinton administration asked us: Do you believe that the prisoners will be treated according to the standards of the local laws? And we said: yes, [we are] fairly certain.

ZEIT: So the Clinton administration didn't want to know that precisely what went on there?

Scheuer: Exactly. The CIA officials in charge were pretty certain from the that in the end we would take the blame. And you yourself notice: in this debate we hear not a word from Bill Clinton, Sandy Berger, or Richard Clarke.

ZEIT: What laws were broken?

Scheuer: I really don't know. No American laws in any case. The CIA does have the right to break any law except an American one--just like any intelligence agency. And abroad we always acted with the approval of the local officials.

ZEIT: CIA anti-terror boss Cofer Black said after the 9/11 attack that now "the gloves are coming off". What did that mean internally in the CIA?

Scheuer: A great deal more pressure for results. And we began to house the people in our own facilities--in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in Guantanamo. The Bush administration wanted to hold these people themselves, but they made the same mistakes as the Clinton administration in that they didn't treat them like prisoners of war.

ZEIT: How many people did you catch?

Scheuer: I don't know exactly. Shortly before the attack in September 2001 CIA director George Tenet told Congress that it had been approximately 100 up to that time. The operations that I lead personally got barely 40 persons. One hundred seems far to high to me.

Translation of Michael Scheuer interview in Die Zeit (part I)

This is my translation of part 1 of 5 of Die Zeit's interview with Michael Scheuer. You can find this part of the interview in German here. As I forgot to mention earlier, I was apprised of this interview by Captain Ed.

Forward to Part II.

"The CIA has the right to break any law"

Does the US intelligence service have the right to kidnap suspected terrorists? Michael Scheuer, one of those chiefly responsible [for that policy], gives answers for the first time.

DIE ZEIT: You helped develop the system of renditions at the CIA. Terror suspects were apprehended outside the U.S. and turned over to other countries. Were these "extraordinary renditions" a success from the point of view of the CIA?

Michael Scheuer: Absolutely. For a decade it was the United States' most successful anti-terrorism program.

ZEIT: Why?

Scheuer: Because the goals were so clearly defined. First, we wanted to identify the members and contacts of the terror-group al-Qaida and put them in jail. Those in fact who had either taken part in an attack on the United States or who were possibly planning an attack. Second, papers and electronics were to be confiscated. It is being claimed in the media that we had apprehended and hauled off people on the basis of some suspicions, in order to interrogate them. But that isn't right.

ZEIT: You didn't want to interrogate?

Scheuer: If it was possible to interrogate, we considered that the icing on the cake. We just wanted the man and his documents.

ZEIT: Why?

Scheuer: We knew from experience that aggressive interrogations that border on torture don't work. People say whatever the interrogator wants to hear. Either the people lied or they gave us precise but outdated information.

ZEIT: Who invented the system of "extraordinary renditions"?

Scheuer: President Clinton, his security advisor Sandy Berger, and his terrorism advisor Richard Clarke tasked the CIA in Fall 1995 with destroying al-Qaida. We asked the President: what should we do with the people we've apprehended? Clinton: that's your concern. The CIA objected: we aren't prison guards. We were again told that we should solve the problem somehow. So we developed a procedure, and I was a member of this task force. We concentrated on al-Qaida members who were wanted in their home countries or who had been convicted there in absentia.

ZEIT: How did you decide who should be apprehended?

Scheuer: We had to present a huge amount of incriminating evidece to a group of lawyers.

ZEIT: Lawyers? In the intelligence services?

Scheuer: Yes, lawyers everywhere. In the CIA, in the Justice Department, in the National Security Council. We developed our list of targets under their supervision. Then we had to catch the person in a country that was prepared to cooperate with us. Finally, the person had to come from a country that was prepared to take him back. A terribly cumbersome process for a very limited group of targets.

ZEIT: Why did countries want to cooperate with you on their own territory? Couldn't they have dealt with it themselves?

Scheuer: They believed that only America was threatened. And that they would themselves only become targets of terror if they arrested suspects. If we hadn't gotten the ball rolling, no-one would have done it.

ZEIT: Your partner countries wanted the CIA to do the work for them?

Scheuer: Yes, but they had no interest in holding these people in their own country. The CIA itself didn't apprehend or imprison anyone.

ZEIT: Excuse me?

Scheuer: That was done by the local police or the local intelligence service. We always remained in the background. The U.S. government is full of cowards. It doesn't permit the CIA to operate independently at all.

ZEIT: Did the interrogations take place in the destination countries?

Scheuer: We always submitted our questions in writing.

ZEIT: The CIA was never present at the interrogations?

Scheuer: Not that I ever heard. The lawyers forbade us from that.

Michael Scheuer in Zeit about special renditions

Just read about Scheuer's interview in Die Zeit concerning the special renditions. The Zeit site (sorry for the rhyme) is having problems at the moment, so I couldn't get the full article. Here is one page I was able to get and translate. I hope to be able to do more tomorrow.

ZEIT: Mr. El-Masri says that he was tortured. He was in a CIA prison in Afghanistan.

Scheuer: If he was in a CIA prison, he certainly wasn't tortured. Period.

ZEIT: But he claims he was.

Scheuer: That doesn't surprise me. Perhaps he wants to see some money. Everyone wants that.

ZEIT: He further claims that a German interrogated him in Afghanistan. How is that possible?

Scheuer: I don't know if that is correct. It is possible. Our government and our intelligence services are trying to assist NATO allies. If the Germans interrogated him, then it seems reasonable that the Germans thought they could learn something from him.

ZEIT: How many such cases are there with European Muslims?

Scheuer: Not very many, because the Europeans mostly don't cooperate. That's why we tried to get these people when they weren't on European soil.

ZEIT: El-Masri is surprised that the American interrogators knew details from his daily life. This knowledge can come only from German intelligence services. Or did the CIA spy in Germany?

Scheuer: I am certain that such information didn't come from us. If we had information about El-Masri's activites in Germany, then it came from one of the German intelligence services. And that makes it probable that it was more than a rumor that led to his arrest.

ZEIT: What is the future of the "special renditions"?

Scheuer: The program is probably dead. Because of the leaks, the publications [of details], and the criticism. And for those who bear responsibility in the intelligence services, the effect is sobering: none of those who ordered us to act in the way we did will now admit it.

The questions were posed by Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff.

On this topic:

Michael Scheuer left the CIA in November 2004 after 22 years of service. From 1995 to 1999 he led the unit that hunted for Osama bin Laden. Since 2000 he was one of the head terrorist-fighters at the CIA. While he was still serving at the CIA he wrote a critique of the American anti-terror policy (Imperial Hubris). Since that time Michael Scheuer has come to be regarded in the CIA as "one who fouls his own nest" [idiomatic expression "Nestbeschmutzer"].