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.