The Trans-Atlantic Terror Divide
By Kenneth R. Timmerman
FrontPageMagazine.com | April 20, 2007
“Let me be very clear,” CIA Director Michael Hayden told ambassadors
from the European Union last month over lunch at the German embassy.
“My countrymen, my government, my Agency and I believe that we are a
nation at war. We are in a state of armed conflict with al Qa’ida and
its affiliates. We believe that this conflict with al Qa’ida is global
in its scope. We also believe that a precondition for our winning this
conflict is to take the fight to the enemy wherever he may be.”
General Hayden’s frank and detailed presentation to the Europeans was
aimed at defusing tensions created in part by a European Parliamentary
“temporary committee” investigating the CIA’s program of “extraordinary
renditions” of terrorist suspects.
It was also aimed at rebuking those Europeans demagogues, such as
French president Jacques Chirac, who have accused President Bush of
single-handedly creating trans-Atlantic tensions, inciting the Muslim
world, and violating the Geneva conventions and international standards
of human rights.
“Let me advise you to please NOT assume that the current American
approach to the Global War on Terrorism is the product of just one
administration or just this president,” Hayden warned.
The CIA Director revealed that contrary to popular speculation – by the
European Parliament’s own commission, as well as the U.S. press –
“fewer than 100 people have been detained at CIA’s facilities.”
The exposure of the CIA’s so-called “secret prisons” and especially the
complicity of European governments in facilitating the capture of al
Qaeda suspects, prompted the European Parliament to establish its temporary commission in January 2006.
Last June, the lead investigator for the commission - Italian leftist
Claudio Fava – released a huge data dump on the press, exposing the
involvement of twenty-one companies and one bank in what soon became
known as “Air CIA,” the network of private aircraft used to convoy
He also released flight logs, tail numbers, and other information on
the CIA aircraft being run by covert proprietaries – shell companies
set up at great expense to disguise CIA involvement. It was a massive breach of U.S. covert operations, that had the impact of shutting down the whole system of capturing and detaining suspected terrorists in Europe.
Fava is pleased with his accomplishments. At a hearing in Washington this week hosted
by Massachusetts Democrat Rep. Bill Delahunt, he and his colleagues
hectored the Bush administration about “human rights” and “torture” and
the “rule of law.” But not once during the entire two-hour hearing did
he or any of the Europeans pause to say “thank-you, America,” for
helping to keep their citizens safe.
That was a point not lost on California Republican, Rep. Dana
Rohrabacher, who railed against the “anti-American vitriol” of the
“If you doubt our motives, you're welcome to,” Rohrabacher said. “I
know there's a lot of people that hate America. But when the pressure's
on, quite frankly, we have known all along that at times America has to
go it alone, and people will try to find fault with us rather than
trying to at least understand our morality.”
Rohrabacher wasn’t the only one to criticize the European Parliament’s
report. In late February, John Bellinger, legal advisor to Secretary of
State Condoleeza Rice, called it “unbalanced, inaccurate, and unfair.”
In his presentation to the EU ambassadors, which is reported here in
detail for the first time, Gen. Hayden provided the first official
glimpse inside the rendition program.
From its inception in the spring of 2002, “this has been a very
targeted and selective program,” he said. “It is applied only to the
most dangerous terrorists and those who are believed to have the most
valuable information – including information about imminent threats.”
Of the fewer than 100 terrorists detained by the CIA, “significantly
less than half have ever undergone what the President described as
‘alternative procedures,’” Hayden said. “Some believe that physical
pressures or specially authorized procedures constitute the whole or
major part of the interrogation process… This is simply not true.”
For each terrorist, the CIA puts together a “comprehensive
interrogation plan” that is “approved in detail, for each detainee, by
a very senior CIA official.” Since 2004, that official has been the CIA
And contrary to urban legends of rogue operators, CIA interrogators “do
not freelance,” Hayden said. Once the detainees “no longer have
intelligence value, they are turned over to the Department of Defense
to be held as unlawful enemy combatants; returned to their country of
origin; or entered into a legal process to be held accountable for
Perhaps most surprising to the Europeans was Hayden’s description of
the extensive legal review undertaken by CIA lawyers before each and
“We might not resemble the open society we protect in light of our
secrecy, but we certain do in terms of our respect for the rule of
law,” he said. “That is why renditions routinely are carried out with
the knowledge, consent – and often with the assistance – of the country
where the terrorist is located.”
The complicity of the European governments, and their own lack of
transparency, was one of the factors that motivated the European
parliamentary investigation, said Baroness Sarah Ludford,
“What did European governments know and turn a blind eye to?” she said
at a press conference the next day. “European governments haven’t told
us nearly as much as we would like to hear.”
For Claudio Fava, the Italian socialist, the United States had no right
to “abduct” terrorist suspects in Europe or to transport them using
private aircraft or to detain and interrogate them in secret.
“Our question,” he said, “is why these people who are threats to the
United States were not brought to trial in the United States with all
the guarantees of U.S. and international laws?”
The Europeans – just as their idols in the Clinton administration –
believe that terrorism is a manageable threat that is best treated by
lawyers and indictments. Whatever we do, they want us to keep it gentle
enough so that jihadi Muslims will not take it as an attack on Islam.
The Bush administration, on the contrary, believes that terrorism is
not an ordinary crime that can be punished after the fact. September 11
taught them – as it should have taught us all – that there are
circumstances when decisive preventive action against potential threats
becomes the duty of government.
The Europeans – and the Left in America – believe the renditions
program should be abandoned because of occasional “mistakes”-- cases of
mistaken identity of faulty investigation. Courts in Italy and Germany
are now prosecuting former CIA officers for their involvement in legal,
cleared operations that went wrong.
And yet, as the “father” of the rendition program, former CIA officer Michael Scheuer told Congress on Tuesday,
“Not one single al-Qaeda leader has ever been rendered on the basis of
any CIA officer’s “hunch” or “guess” or “caprice.” These are
scurrilous accusations that became fashionable after the Washington
Post’s correspondent Dana Priest revealed information that damaged U.S.
national security and, as result, won a journalism prize for abetting
Scheuer estimated that of just under 100 renditions, just three
involved mistakes. “And if they’re not Americans,” he added, “I really
That was too much for Delahunt, the Massachussets Democrat chairing the
hearing. “That’s very interesting,” he said finally.
“I never got paid, sir, to be a citizen of the world,” Scheuer replied. “Maybe you do… I get paid to protect my countrymen.”
Scheuer’s edgy testimony is worth reading in full.
So are his exchanges with committee Democrats Rep. Jerrold Nadler of
New York and Rep. Ed Markey of Massachussetts, who joined the Europeans
in arguing that the United States government and our intelligence
agencies should step back from extraordinary measures to protect this
country and its citizens.
General Hayden rejected that caution, and said he “had a duty to play aggressively ‘on the line.’”
He reminded the Europeans of what he had told a U.S. Senator, who had
asked him about respect for civil liberties. “I finished by telling the
Senator that I would always play in fair territory but that he could
expect to see chalk dust on my cleats,” Hayden said.
Inside the CIA, visitors can see a sign with a stark reminder, he told the EU ambassadors.
“Today’s date is September 12, 2001. We make no apologies for this
attitude, for our legal definition of the conflict, or… for our
Are we at war, or not? That is the basic question dividing the
Europeans from the United States, but also dividing America itself as
the President continues to struggle with Congress over funding for U.S.
troops in Iraq and the activities of our intelligence agencies.
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