For Agency's `Rendering' Teams, A Lavish Overseas Lifestyle;
News for Social Justice Action
Dec 27, 2005 16:41 PST
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IN THIS MESSAGE
* For Agency's `Rendering' Teams, A Lavish Overseas Lifestyle
* White Phosphorous: The U.S. Used It; The U.S. Says It's Illegal
* Iraqis want US out as soon as possible: US commander
[ I tried to come up with some ironic smart-ass
comment on this news story but I can't; I am left
speechless! Massages? $78 bottles of Pesquera
red wine? I feel guilty when I spend $7 for a
six-pack of imported German beer. - Howard ]
For Agency's `Rendering' Teams, A Lavish Overseas Lifestyle
By JOHN CREWDSON
December 25 2005
MILAN, Italy -- When the CIA decides to "render"
a terrorism suspect living abroad for
interrogation in Egypt or another friendly Middle
East nation, it spares no expense.
Italian prosecutors wrote in court papers that
the CIA spent "enormous amounts of money" during
the six weeks it took the agency to figure out
how to grab a 39-year-old Muslim preacher called
Abu Omar off the streets of Milan, throw him into
a van and drive him to the airport.
First to arrive in Milan was the surveillance
team, and the hotels they chose were among the
best Europe has to offer. Especially popular was
the gilt-and-crystal Principe di Savoia, with
acres of burnished wood paneling and plush
carpets, where a single room costs $588 a night,
a club sandwich goes for $28.75, and a Diet Coke adds another $9.35.
According to hotel records later obtained by the
Milan police investigating Abu Omar's
disappearance, two CIA operatives managed to ring
up more than $9,000 in room charges alone. The
CIA's bill at the Principe for seven operatives
came to $39,995, not counting meals, parking and other hotel services.
Another group of seven operatives managed to
spend $40,098 on room charges at the Westin
Palace, a five-star hotel across the Piazza della
Repubblica from the Principe, where a club sandwich is only $20.
A former CIA officer who has worked undercover
abroad said those prices were "way over" the
CIA's allowed rates for foreign travel.
"But you can get away with it if you claim you
needed the hotel `to maintain your cover,'" he
said. "They would have had to pose as high-flying businessmen."
Judging from the photographs on the passports
they displayed when checking into their hotels
and the international driving licenses they used
to rent cars, not many of the Milan operatives
could have passed as "high-flying businessmen."
In all, records show, the CIA paid 10 Milan
hotels at least $158,000 in room charges.
Although the Milan police obtained the hotel
bills of 22 alleged CIA operatives, they say at
least 59 cellphones were used in the weeks
leading up to the abduction. Even allowing for
the possibility that some operatives used more
than one phone, prosecutors believe that a
significant number of operatives remain unidentified.
A senior U.S. official said the agency's
deployment in Milan was "about usual for that
kind of operation." But in December 2001, when
the CIA arrived in frigid Stockholm to transport
two suspected Islamic militants to Cairo, it sent
eight rendition experts to do the job, according
to a Swedish television documentary.
When a rendition team showed up in Macedonia in
January 2004 to collect a Kuwait-born Germany
citizen, Khalid el-Masri, and fly him to
Afghanistan, there were only 11 operatives on the
plane, according to a Spanish police report.
At the beginning of February 2003, with the
abduction still three weeks away, 10 of the
operatives, who presumably had been spending
their days charting Abu Omar's movements as he
walked from his apartment to the local mosque and
back, left Milan to spend the weekend in a hotel
overlooking the harbor at La Spezia, on Italy's Mediterranean coast.
Some male and female operatives shared the same
hotel rooms, records show. Before heading back to
Milan, five members of the group detoured to
Florence, where they checked into the renowned Grand Hotel Baglioni.
Once Abu Omar was safely behind bars in Cairo,
some of the operatives who had helped put him
there split up into twos and threes and headed
for luxury resort hotels in the Italian Alps, Tuscany and Venice.
Hotel records indicate at least two couples on
those trips shared the same rooms. Asked if there
had been some operational or other official
reason for the ultra-expensive hotels and side
trips, the senior U.S. official shrugged. "They work hard," he said.
One expense the CIA did spare the U.S. taxpayers
was the dozen traffic tickets generated when the
agency's rented cars were photographed by police
cameras driving illegally in the city's bus and
taxi lanes. Because the cars had been rented
using false names and addresses, the $500 in
fines was paid by the car rental agencies.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. intelligence
budget has been increased by Congress to an
estimated $40 billion a year, an all-time record.
In their travels around Europe, some of the CIA's
rendition teams gravitated to another vacation
resort spot, the Mediterranean island of Palma de
Mallorca, according to a recent report by a
Spanish police agency, The Guardia Civil.
At least three planes believed to be owned or
operated by the CIA - including a Boeing 737 that
rendered el-Masri to Afghanistan and the
Gulfstream executive jet that Italian prosecutors
say flew Abu Omar to Cairo - made at least 10 stops on Mallorca during 2004.
The Spanish government says it has been assured
by the Bush administration that none of the CIA
planes stopping on Spanish soil had prisoners on
board or otherwise infringed Spanish law. At
least some of the Mallorcan stopovers were used
to take on fuel after arriving from, or before
departing for, the United States.
But according to the Guardia's report, the 737
spent five days on Mallorca in April of last year
before departing for Libya - more time than required for refueling.
Another of the Mallorcan stopovers lasted three
days. There were five two-day visits, and three
others that lasted a single day and night.
The police say most of the passengers on those
flights spent the layovers at two of Palma's most
exclusive hotels, the Mallorca Marriott and the Gran Melia Victoria.
The five-star Gran Melia charges $1,018 a night
for a suite during the month of September, when
several of the stopovers occurred, although it is
not known whether they rented a suite. The $1,018
price does not include breakfast.
At the Marriott, a junior suite goes for $300 a
night, and an executive suite for $325. Access to
the hotel's golf course is $65.
According to the local newspaper, the Diario de
Mallorca, the hotel bills incurred during some of
those layovers included greens fees, massages and
$78 bottles of Pesquera red wine.
Chicago Tribune correspondents Drew Crosby and
Samuel Loewenberg in Madrid contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2005, <http://www.chicagotribune.com/>The Chicago Tribune
White Phosphorous: The U.S. Used It; The U.S. Says It's Illegal
By David Swanson
The U.S. military used white phosphorous as a
weapon in Fallujah, and the U.S. military says
such use is illegal. That's one heck of a fog
fact (Larry Beinhart's term for a fact that is
neither secret nor known). This fact has
appeared in an article in the Guardian (UK) and
been circulated on the internet, but has just not
interested the corporate media in the United States.
It interests Congressman John Conyers,
however. Last week, Conyers released a 273-page
report titled "The Constitution in Crisis; The
Downing Street Minutes and Deception,
Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups
in the Iraq War." This 273-page report covers
many war-related crimes, including the use of
On page 165, following discussion of other crimes
against humanity, the report states: "Finally,
there is evidence that the U.S. Military used an
incendiary weapon in combat known as White
Phosphorus, even though the U.S. Battle Book
states, '[i]t is against the Law of Land Warfare
to employ WP against personnel targets,' and
which would be in contravention of the Geneva and
Hague Conventions and the War Crimes Act."
That's an impressive criminal feat, violating
multiple U.S. laws and international laws at one
shot. But it may be a greater feat of hypocrisy
and irony. After all, this war was supposedly
launched in order to prevent the use of so-called
weapons of mass destruction. While that lie has
been exposed, we now know that WMDs have been
wantonly employed in the course of this war by
the so-called liberators. That fact is not yet
widely known within the United States.
The Battle Book is published by the U.S. Command
and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth,
Kansas, and does indeed contain this sentence:
"It is against the law of land warfare to employ
WP against personnel
As George Monbiot makes clear in the Guardian, a
chemical weapon is illegal, according to the
Chemical Weapons Convention, regardless of
whether the people targeted with it are civilians.
"The Pentagon argues that white phosphorus burns
people," Monbiot wrote, "rather than poisoning
them, and is therefore covered only by the
protocol on incendiary weapons, which the U.S.
has not signed. But white phosphorus is both
incendiary and toxic. The gas it produces attacks
the mucous membranes, the eyes and the lungs. As
Peter Kaiser of the Organisation for the
Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told the BBC, 'If
... the toxic properties of white phosphorus, the
caustic properties, are specifically intended to
be used as a weapon, that of course is
prohibited, because ... any chemicals used
against humans or animals that cause harm or
death through the toxic properties of the
chemical are considered chemical weapons.'"
Blogger Gabriele Zamparini found a declassified
document from the U.S. Department of Defense,
dated April 1991, and titled "Possible use of
phosphorous chemical," which makes clear that the
U.S. military understands white phosphorous to be
a chemical weapon. "During the brutal crackdown
that followed the Kurdish uprising," it alleges,
"Iraqi forces loyal to President Saddam (Hussein)
may have possibly used white phosphorous (WP)
chemical weapons against Kurdish rebels and the
populace in Erbil ... and Dohuk provinces, Iraq.
The WP chemical was delivered by artillery rounds
and helicopter gunships. ... These reports of
possible WP chemical weapon attacks spread
quickly ... hundreds of thousands of Kurds fled
from these two
Conyers' report, on page 102, cites evidence that
the United States used white phosphorous in Fallujah:
"Recent reports coming out of Iraq verify the use
of a weapon called white phosphorus (WP) in
combat. An Italian state broadcaster, RAI,
recently reported that American forces used WP in
Fallujah last year against insurgents. According
to a former American soldier who fought in
Fallujah, 'I heard the order to pay attention
because they were going to use white phosphorus
on Fallujah. In military jargon it's known as
Willy Pete. . . . Phosphorus burns bodies, in
fact it melts the flesh all the way down to the
bone . . . I saw the burned bodies of women and
children. Phosphorus explodes and forms a
cloud. Anyone within a radius of 150 metres is done for.'"
The RAI story reached British readers and
perusers of the internet via a November 8th
article in the Independent by Peter Popham titled
"US Forces Used Chemical Weapons During Assault on City of Fallujah."
It remains unclear when that information will
reach consumers of U.S. television news.
Iraqis want US out as soon as possible: US commander
12/25/05 " Ninemsn" -- -- The top US military
commander admitted Sunday that Iraqis wanted US
and other foreign troops to leave the country "as
soon as possible," and said US troop levels in
Iraq were now being re-assessed on a monthly basis.
The admission by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman
Marine General Peter Pace followed a decision by
the Pentagon to reduce the current level of
160,000 soldiers in Iraq by two army brigades,
which amounts to about 7,000 soldiers.
"Understandably, Iraqis themselves would prefer
to have coalition forces leave their country as
soon as possible," Pace said in a Christmas Day
interview on Fox News Sunday. "They don't want us
to leave tomorrow, but they do want us to leave as soon as possible."
Some US foreign policy experts have expressed
concern that a new Iraqi government emerging from
the December 15 parliamentary elections could ask
American troops to leave, but officials have
dismissed that forecast as unrealistic.
However, an opinion survey conducted in Iraq in
October and November by ABC News and a pool of
other US and foreign media outlets showed that
despite some improvements in security and living
standards, US military operations in the country were increasingly unpopular.
Two-thirds of those polled said they opposed the
presence of US and coalition forces in Iraq, up
14 points from a similar survey taken in February 2004.
Nearly 60 percent disapproved of the way the
United States has operated in Iraq since the war
began in March 2003, with most of those
expressing "strong disapproval," the poll found.
When asked to suggest a timing for the US
pullout, 26 percent said US and other coalition
forces should "leave now," while 19 percent opted
for a withdrawal after the Iraqis formed a new
government based on the results on the December 15 election.
Among those who support a delayed pullout, 31
percent said it should happen after security is
fully restored, while 16 percent favored waiting
until Iraqi security forces can operate independently, according to the survey.
Pace denied the US Defense Department had
prepared a plan that calls for bringing the US
troop level in Iraq below 100,000 by the end of next year.
But he said force requirements in Iraq are being
regularly assessed by the top US military
commander there, General George Casey.
"They do a very, very thorough analysis,
literally once a month, in great detail," Pace
said. "They then determine how many troops they need to get the job done."
But the chairman warned that "the enemy has a
vote" in how fast US troops were being drawn
down, and if attacks intensified, "you could see
troop levels go up a little bit to handle that problem."
Two US soldiers were killed in Baghdad on
Christmas Day by roadside bombs, the military announced.
In a move largely interpreted as the beginning of
a gradual drawdown of US forces in Iraq, US
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced last
week that one infantry brigade from Fort Riley,
Kansas, and one mechanised brigade from Germany
will not be sent to Iraq as initially planned.
The decision will reduce the number of US combat
brigades in Iraq from 17 to 15.
Meanwhile former secretary of state Colin Powell,
who headed the joint staff during the 1991 Gulf
War, said Sunday he was certain there would be
fewer US troops in Iraq a year from now.
"I don't think we can sustain this level of
presence with the force size that we have," he
said on ABC's "This Week" program.
To maintain the pre-election "baseline" of
138,000 troops in Iraq, the US military will have
to dramatically overhaul rules governing
deployments of the National Guard, whose members
make up to 40 percent of the contingent.
Such an undertaking could be politically
unrealistic, according to members of congress.
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