Former CIA Official Blasts Clinton,

Press, Europeans, on Secret Prisons

Kenneth R. Timmerman
Wednesday, April 18, 2007

 As European parliament members scolded their American hosts at a congressional hearing today on the CIA's "extraordinary terrorist rendition" program, former CIA official Michael Scheuer blasted European governments, the press, and the Clinton administration for "lies" about a counterterrorism program he says he personally authored in the mid-1990s.

Members of a European parliamentary special commission testified for the first time in Congress today about their 16-month investigation into CIA covert operations on European soil, and alleged that some 1,254 previously secret CIA flights may have been involved in conveying al-Qaida terror suspects to alleged "secret prisons" in Europe and elsewhere.

Several European governments have initiated legal proceedings against members of the CIA teams involved in the renditions. A court in Milan, Italy, has issued arrest warrants for 16 alleged CIA officers. All of the suspects except one, Robert Seldon Lady, who is now retired, were identified by pseudonyms in those court cases.

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that CIA Director Michael V. Hayden has jawboned several European diplomats over their handling of the rendition-related court cases, and informed them that "fewer than 100 people had been held in secret 'black site' facilities since the spring of 2002."

 But Scheuer's no-holds-barred testimony provides for the first time an inside glimpse into what previously was one of the CIA's most closely-guarded secrets.  The CIA Renditions program was set up in the late summer of 1995, in order to "take men off the street who were planning or had been involved in attacks on the United States or its allies," Scheuer said. "I authored it, and then ran and managed it . . . until June 1999," he added.

Initially, the CIA never interrogated the terror suspects, but "rendered" them to their home countries where they were wanted for terror-related crimes.

The CIA "warned the president and the National Security Council that the U.S. State Department had and would identify the countries to which the captured fighters were being delivered as human rights abusers," Scheuer said.

 "I have read and been told that Mr. Clinton, Mr. Berger, and Mr. Clarke have said since 9/11 that they insisted that each receiving country treat the rendered person it received according to U.S. legal standards. To the best of my memory, that is a lie," he said.

Samuel (Sandy) Berger was national security advisor and Richard Clarke was the counter-terrorism "czar" at the Clinton White House when Scheuer was running the program.

In previous statements, Scheuer has been critical of the Bush administration for mishandling the war on terror, in particular for the invasion of Iraq. But in today's testimony, he applauded Bush for expanding the rendition program to make it "even more effective."

Scheuer had harsh words for the European governments who have accused the CIA of "kidnapping" rendition targets, calling their accusations "either misstatements or lies by those governments."

"Indeed, it is passing strange that European leaders are here today to complain about very successful and security-enhancing U.S. government counterterrorism operations, when their European Union [EU] presides over the earth's single largest terrorist safe haven, and has done so for a quarter century."

 Scheuer explained that he was talking about the EU's "policy of easily attainable political asylum" and its prohibition against deporting suspects to nations with the death penalty. These policies "have made Europe a major, consistent, and invulnerable source of terrorist threat to the United States," he said.

The former head of the CIA's bin Laden "station" revealed that each rendition required a written brief "vetted by a battery of lawyers at CIA" that explained why the target presented a threat to the United States or its allies. Some operations had been shelved, he said, if the lawyers felt the evidence was insufficiently solid.

"Let me be very explicit and precise on this point. Not one single al-Qaida 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 America's enemies," he said.

Scheuer also blasted Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz.; Jay Rockefeller, D- W.Va.; Lindsay Graham, R-S.C.; and Carl Levin, D-Mich.; for "attack[ing] the men and women of CIA who risked their lives to protect America under the direct orders of two U.S. presidents and with the full knowledge of the intelligence committees of the United States Congress."

The senators fought successfully for legislation last year that imposed strict legal restraints on the ability of the CIA to interrogate terror suspects and specifically outlawed torture. Scheuer said that "both Ms. Priest" and the four senators "have behaved disgracefully, and ought to publicly apologize to the CIA's men and women who have executed the Rendition program."

Scheuer also got in a dig at those who would shut down the program because "mistakes" have been made: "If mistakes were made, I can only say that that is tough, but war is a tough and confusing business, and a well-supported chance to take action and protect Americans should always trump other considerations, especially pedantic worries about whether or not the intelligence data is air tight."

In his sharpest blast of all, Scheuer warned that shutting down the program would "sacrifice the protection of Americans to venal and prize-hungry reporters like Ms. Priest, grandstanding politicians like those mentioned above, and effete sanctimonious Europeans who take every bit of American protection offered them" while seeking to put CIA officers seeking to defend them in jail.

"If the Rendition Program is halted, we will truly be able to say, by paraphrasing the late film actor John Wayne, that war is tough, but it is a lot tougher if you are deliberately stupid."
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