Former CIA station chief arrested in Panama ‘has been released’

Panama-Costa Rica borderBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A former station chief for the Central Intelligence Agency, who was detained in Panama last week for his alleged role in the kidnapping of a Muslim cleric in Italy, returned to the United States on Friday. The US Department of State said Robert Seldon Lady had been released by Panamanian authorities 24 hours after he was detained near Panama’s border with Costa Rica. Lady was the CIA’s station chief in Milan in February 2003, when a team of 23 Americans, most of them CIA operatives, abducted Mustafa Osama Nasr. The CIA suspected the Egyptian-born Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, of working as a recruiter for a host of radical Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda. In 2005, Italian authorities, which had not authorized Nasr’s kidnapping, convicted Lady, along with 22 other Americans, of abduction. The convictions were delivered in absentia, as the Americans had earlier left the country. Washington has refused to extradite them to Rome. Lady was crossing from Panama into Costa Rica at a remote jungle border crossing early on Thursday, when, according to Costa Rican authorities, “a check on his passport triggered an INTERPOL alert”. Following negotiations between Costa Rican and Panamanian authorities, Lady was detained by Panamanian border guards, who alerted INTERPOL and Italy. Late on Friday, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf declined to offer details on the case, but confirmed that Lady was “either en route or back in the United States”. A Panamanian foreign ministry source told Reuters that Lady was released because “Panama does not have an extradition treaty with Italy and because documentation sent by Italian officials was insufficient”. Read more of this post

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Panama arrests ex-CIA chief of station wanted by INTERPOL

Panama-Costa Rica borderBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A retired 21-year veteran of the United States Central Intelligence Agency, who is wanted by INTERPOL for participating in the abduction of a Muslim cleric in Italy, has been detained by police in Panama. Robert Seldon Lady was the CIA’s station chief in Milan in 2003, when a team of 23 Americans, most of them CIA officers, abducted Mustafa Osama Nasr. The CIA suspected the Egyptian-born Nasr, known also as Abu Omar, of working as a recruiter for a host of radical Islamist groups, including al-Qaeda. On February 17, 2003, Nasr was seized in dramatic fashion by a group of CIA operatives in broad daylight in Milan. He was stuffed into an unmarked white van and eventually ended up in Egypt, where he was tortured before being released. Nasr’s case helped raise awareness of the US government’s extraordinary rendition program. Under the controversial program, suspected terrorist operatives were secretly taken to third-party countries where they were subjected to aggressive interrogation techniques. Italian authorities were irritated by Nasr’s kidnapping, which they claimed took place without the consent of the Italian government. There are also reports that the Italian intelligence services were monitoring Nasr at the time and were trying to recruit him as a source, which might explain why they were incensed when the Egyptian was snatched by the CIA without their authorization. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #828

Abdullah ÖcalanBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Chinese researcher charged with stealing US drug. Chinese cancer researcher Huajun Zhao, 42, who has been working in the United States since 2006, has been charged with stealing data and an experimental compound from the Medical College of Wisconsin. The federal complaint accuses Zhao of stealing the compound, C-25, which could potentially assist in killing cancer cells without damaging normal cells. An FBI investigation turned up evidence that Zhao hoped to claim credit in China for discovering C-25. He had already claimed on a research website that he had discovered an unnamed compound he hoped to take to China.
Turkish intelligence to ‘oversee PKK retreat’. Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency, MİT, will oversee the withdrawal of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, according to Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister, Bülent Arınç. Last month, Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the armed Kurdish group that has battled Turkey for 30 years, proclaimed an immediate ceasefire in PKK’s conflict with the Turkish state, which has claimed about 35,000 lives. Speaking on Turkey’s state-run broadcaster, TRT, Arınç said no legislation would be introduced to facilitate the withdrawal, but “certainly MİT will oversee it; security forces will take part in it, too”, he added.
Analysis: Controversial Bush programs continue under Obama. During the George W. Bush years, two of the most controversial elements of what was then called the Global War on Terrorism were the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation (RDI) program and the creation of the prison camps at Guantanamo Bay. Guantanamo Bay and the RDI program are both back in the news now, each for their own unsavory reasons. The Pentagon is requesting nearly $200 million for Guantanamo Bay infrastructure upgrades, including $49 million for a new unit for ‘special’ prisoners. Meanwhile, participation in the CIA’s controversial RDI program has resulted —for at least one person— not in prosecution or professional sanctions, but rather in a promotion.

Did the CIA exclude Israel from its extraordinary rendition program?

Open Society Foundations report coverBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The most comprehensive non-classified account of the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s extraordinary rendition program has been published by a human-rights advocacy group. It details for the first time the fate of nearly 140 known targets of the controversial program, who were abducted by the CIA mostly during the administration of US President George W. Bush. Under the controversial program, individuals were systematically detained and transferred without due process to countries where the use of torture on prisoners was –in the words of the report– standard practice. The report, entitled Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition, was authored by Amrit Singh, formerly of the American Civil Liberties Union and currently senior legal officer at the National Security and Counterterrorism program at the Open Society Justice Initiative. It concludes that the CIA was able to build and maintain the program with significant assistance from 54 countries, including 13 in Africa, 14 in Asia and 25 in Europe. The long list of countries that willingly cooperated with the CIA’s extraordinary rendition practices includes Canada, Denmark, Australia, Finland, Mauritania, Romania and South Africa. It even includes countries that are known to have had tense relations with Washington in the past decade, such as Zimbabwe, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, and even Iran. Certainly, the Open Society Justice Initiative report points to the fact that it is both shortsighted and inaccurate to refer to the Bush administration’s post-9/11 extraordinary rendition program as “an American operation”. It was informed and supported at all levels by America’s North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, as well as by many countries which, for one reason or another, wished to be on the good side of the US. But the list of complicit states is also interesting for what it doesn’t include. Most importantly, it doesn’t include Israel. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #741

Glenn CarleBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►MI6 role in rendition could be concealed in new bill. Libyan government officials Sami al-Saadi and Abdel Hakim Belhaj, who allege that they were taken by rendition by Britain to Libya eight years ago, are expected to begin legal proceedings against the British government and Jack Straw, Britain’s former foreign secretary, next month. However, after pressure from the security services, MI5 and MI6, the British government is preparing to publish a Justice and Security Bill that could allow these cases to be held in their entirety behind closed doors.
►►Aussie spy agency defends new headquarters. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation says its new headquarters in Canberra is not at risk of being spied upon, despite the use of a lot of glass. ASIO director general David Irvine told a senate committee on Thursday it would be impossible for someone with a high resolution camera on the other side of Lake Burley Griffin to spy on the nation’s spies. Australian Greens senator Scott Ludlam had asked whether the design of the “glass palace” could threaten the secrecy of its work.
►►Good interview with ex-CIA officer Glenn Carle. In this interview, Carle, a retired CIA case officer who wrote The Interrogator: An Education, says his former employers have called his publisher asking them to pulp his book; they rang every major network to prevent him going on air. They are, he says several times, “vicious” and have perpetrated a stain on America’s national character.

News you may have missed #712

Abdel Hakim BelhajBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►New US spy satellite could include ‘domestic surveillance. Last week, a new US spy satellite was launched into orbit as part of a secretive military program enabling the surveillance of Earth from space. An official at the Vandenberg base told The Los Angeles Times that the NROL-25 was part of a “national security payload”, which could mean it is to be used for any number of purposes, possibly including domestic surveillance.
►►US steps up intelligence and sabotage missions in Iran. American intelligence agencies are ramping up intelligence and sabotage missions focused on Iran’s nuclear program, according to The Washington Post. Officials from the National Security Agency have increased efforts to intercept email and electronic communications coming from Tehran, according to reports in The Post‘s Sunday edition. The CIA and other agencies have also ramped up sabotage missions in the country, geared toward disrupting Iran’s ongoing nuclear work, the paper reports.
►►MI6 ‘considers paying off’ Libyan official. Britain’s MI6 chiefs allegedly plan to offer more than £1 million ($1.6 million) hush money to a Libyan who claims British spies sent him to be tortured by the Gaddafi regime. The Secret Intelligence Service is scrambling to prevent Abdel Hakim Belhaj releasing details of his case following the revelation that a Labour Party minister sanctioned his extraordinary rendition —contravening UK policy on torture.

News you may have missed #704: Caught-red-handed edition

Zbigniew SiemiątkowskiBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Would be CIA spy uses Tweeter to attack CIA. Lynnae Williams was on track to become a CIA agent. Today, the 35-year-old aspiring journalist and would-be CIA spy uses Twitter to expose what she feels are corrupt and unethical practices by the mysterious organization. In 2009, Williams spent more than three months training to become a CIA spy. She says she was sent to the CIA’s “psychological prison”, a public mental-health hospital in Virginia. There, she says, doctors pushed drugs for schizophrenia and manic depression in a white-walled environment with inedible food. Eventually, the CIA stopped paying her and suspended her security clearance. She’s now looking to sue the agency for wrongful termination. And in the meantime, she’s using BlogSpot and her @wlynnae account to post tweets.
►►US ambassador says Russia is spying on him. US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul suggested yesterday that the Russian government is spying on him. “Everywhere I go [Russian television station] NTV is there”, he tweeted. “Wonder who gives them my calendar? They wouldn’t tell me. Wonder what the laws are here for such things? I respect [the] press’ right to go anywhere and ask any question. But do they have a right to read my email and listen to my phone?”. McFaul also posted on his Twitter feed yesterday: “When I asked these ‘reporters’ how they knew my schedule, I got no answer”.
►►Poland ex-spy boss charged over CIA prison. Zbigniew Siemiątkowski, the former head of Poland’s foreign intelligence service faces charges of illegal detention and use of corporal punishment at an alleged secret CIA ‘black site’ used to house high-ranking terrorism suspects. Investigators allege the spy boss exceeded his powers and breached international law through the use of “unlawful deprivation of liberty” and “corporal punishment” against prisoners of war.