2 de dezembro de 2006

A CIA portas adentro 

Carta de Ana Gomes, datada de 27.11.2006, enviada a Presidente, Relator e membros do «Steering Group« da Comissão Temporária de Inquérito do PE sobre os voos e prisões da CIA e Pentágono envolvidos no programa ilegal de "extraordinary renditions"

"Dear Mr. President, Dear All

I would like to share with you a summary of the information I have been gathering about Portugal in the context of the work of the TDIP Committee, based both on the EUROCONTROL data and on elements obtained from the Portuguese Government.
From the data provided in reply to my enquiries by the Portuguese Foreign Ministry, with substantive input of Ministries responsible for the oversight of airport controls, a worrying picture is emerging of the role Portugal played in the 'extraordinary renditions' programme since 2001.
In other words, we - as a Committee - need to take a good look at Portugal. The TDIP Committee should consider the information I am presenting and dedicate some time, resources and attention to the upcoming visit to Portugal. I believe it is the credibility of the Committee itself which is at stake here.
As to the information itself:

1. The N379P («Guantanamo Express») and the rendition of ABOU ELKASSIM BRITEL
Italian citizen Britel was arrested in Islamabad and flown to Rabat (where he was jailed and later «disappeared») on 24/25 May 2002 in plane N379P, known as the «Guantanamo Express». Interestingly, this same plane flew from Rabat to Porto on the same 25.5.02. and from there to Washington on 26.5.02.
This is the same plane, by the way, that flew Egyptians Ahmed Aziza and Mohammed Al-Zari to Cairo, handed to the CIA by the Swedish government.
This plane landed at least 13 times in Porto between 25/5/02 and 9/6/05, often staying overnight.
It is confirmed that many of these flights had passengers in them, although the authorities have not yet provided any passenger or crew lists, despite my repeated requests - even when flight logs handed by the authorities explicitly show that passport controls were performed. Some of those cases are:

2. The N379P landed in Porto on 19.5.2003, coming from Cairo.
It was identified as a «foreign state» flight and declared 6 passengers on board. This plane stayed in Porto for three days and proceeded (as a «commercial flight») to Algiers-Kabul-Algiers, landing back in Porto on 23.5.05 - without passengers. Passport controls were performed by the Portuguese authorities before take-off to Algiers, but no passenger lists have been made available.

3. N379P landed in Porto flying between Bagdad and Washington on 29/30 October 2003, with 6 passengers who were tax-exempted at arrival, but were controlled and made to pay tax upon departure. (This, by the way, happened with passengers of several other flights by this and other «civilian commercial planes» passing by Portuguese airports).

4. The N379P landed in Porto on 2.12.2003 coming from Washington, with 5 passengers on board. The next day, it flew to Rabat and from there to Guantanamo. Again, no passenger list has been made available, despite proof of passport controls.

5. N8068V landed in Porto on 17.02.04 coming from Amman, on its way to Washington. It is the the same "Guantanamo Express", but under new number plate. According to EUROCONTROL, this plane had flown (between 14 and 17 February) from Amman to Kabul and back to Amman, before flying to Porto. The flight logs are ambiguous about whether there were passengers on board of this flight or not.

6. The N85VM and the rendition of Canadian citizen ABDURAHMAN KHADRIt is the same GULF IV (later N227SV), one should recall, that took Abu Omar, the Egyptian cleric kidnapped from Milan, from Ramstein to Cairo on 17/2/2003. It also took Mr. Khadr from Guantanamo to Tuzla (Bosnia) on 7 November 2003.
Mr. Khadr has confirmed he is a son of an Al-Qaeda top operative. He was arrested in Afghanistan right after 9/11, when he was only aged 17, and later agreed to cooperate with the CIA with a promise to be released and get back to Canada. Despite that, in Guantanamo, where he arrived while he was still underage, he was subject to torture and degrading treatment. He then was brought to Tuzla (Bosnia) to assist the CIA uncovering jihadists and managed to go back to Canada. Mr. Khadr still has a brother in Guantanamo, who was sent there at the age of 14. His is a case closely followed by the Canada branch of Amnesty International.
Mr. Khadr has stated to Portuguese weekly newspaper EXPRESSO that on the way from
(Bosnia) the plane carrying him landed in Santa Maria (Azores) on November 7, 2003, and someone came into the plane. The documents sent by the Portuguese authorities confirm the stop-over in Santa Maria of plane N85VM, on that night and that there were 6 passengers and 4 crew on board. The authorization for the «commercial reopening» of the airport in an «after hours» period was delivered in a matter of hours. Correspondence with the «handler» SATA mentions the crew is lead by a Captain Colton.

7. The N85VM also landed in Santa Maria several times from 25/7/04 to 31/7/04. Coming from the USA, it flew from Santa Maria-Lybia, Rabat- Santa Maria with 5 passengers, and departed to Guantanamo on 31/7/04 also with 5 passengers.

8. The same GULF IV, but under later number plate N227SV, landed in Lisbon and was stationed in Cascais for 3 days, between 15/5/05 and 17/5/05. It brought 4 passengers. The urgent authorization request by the Portuguese «handler» mentions as purpose «contacts with MOD».

9. The N829MG (or N259SK) and the rendition of MAHER ARAR
This plane landed at least 7 times in SANTA MARIA, from 27/02/03 and 16/07/2003. It passed Santa Maria and stayed overnight when it came back from the rendition of Canadian citizen MAHER ARAR to Amman on 9/10/2002.

10. Plane N313P landed in Porto on 24.08.03 coming from Algiers, and left to Baku on 25.08.03.
(This plane was involved in the rendition of Mr. Khaled Al Masri in another occasion). Although the flight log for arrival indicated that there were no passengers on board, the communication between the company responsible for the flight (Jeppesen Dataplan) and the handler of the flight (Servisair) specifically mentions "6 crew, 12 pax in/0 out". This communication also mentions a «Captain James Fairing» and says «please assist crew to/from Le Meridien Oporto where reservations have already been requested». Captain Fairing's name already came up in the investigation of collusion between the Italian secret services and the CIA in the 'extraordinary rendition'-affair, led by Milan Prosecutor.
As for the Meridien Hotel in Porto, I have been insisting that it provides guest records for those dates, to no avail so far.

11. N8213G - Hercules C130
From 24/1/02 e 26/1/05 this plane landed at least 26 times in PONTA DELGADA (Azores) and 2 times in PORTO.

12. N882Z flew from NYC - Porto - Livingstone on 23/24 December 2004 and Windhoek-Porto-Washington on 1/1/05. With 16 declared passengers on board.

13. Press reports, namely by weekly EXPRESSO, on 28October 2006, that Portuguese Comercial Air Companies AIR LUXOR and YES were hired to transport hundreds of people expelled extra-judicially from the USA, for alleged suspicion of terrorism. I am still expecting reactions from Portuguese authorities.

14. Several civilian/commercial planes listed as involved in the «extraordinary renditions» passed the Airport of Lajes (Azores), a military civilian airport at a Portuguese-American Air Base.

15. Three «ambulance flights» landed at Lajes, including one from Dahkla (Moroccan occupied Western Sahara) to St John's, on 12/11/2003.

16. Evergreen and Polar Air Cargo - companies associated with the CIA - flew regularly to Lajes in flights listed as civilian «technical stop overs».

17. Dozens of US military flights use regularly Lajes every month. I could still not be provided with information on how many of them were headed or came from Guantanamo.

I will, of course, be glad to show anyone the sources of all this information.

II -
Maybe many of these flights are harmless. Maybe not. I believe it is essential to use the TDIP delegation to Portugal in order to clarify many still opaque details.

When going to Portugal, the mission of the TDIP Committee should therefore focus on three elements:

1. Passenger lists and airport controls:
In terms of substance, we should focus on the only kind of information the Portuguese authorities have so far not provided - the passenger and crew lists of all those suspicious flights where passport controls took place. Access to these lists would also be important to assist judicial investigations going on in several countries regarding the crews and other staff involved in 'renditions'. More generally, the contradictory information sent by the different airport authorities (or even by the same authorities at different points in time) seems to indicate that there are some serious gaps in the system. These need to be highlighted;

2. The Azores: as you see, the archipelago seems to be an important point of passage for many suspicious transatlantic flights. I believe it would be extremely useful to visit the airports of Ponta Delgada, Santa Maria, or eventually, if possible, also the Portuguese/US military airport in Lajes, on the island of Terceira. 0ne day of the mission could be dedicated to the Azores.

3. Finally (and most importantly) - officials: taking into account the dates of the great majority of the suspicious flights, it is vital to arrange meetings with those that were politically and technically responsible for the Portuguese secret services, border controls etc. in previous governments, as well.

What follows is a list of names I have already sent to President Carlos Coelho and Rapporteur Claudio Fava on November 14. The point is not meeting all of them, but rather to have a long list of options in the likely case that some will be unavailable to meet us.

Heads of SIS (the Portuguese Internal Intelligence Services) since 2001:
1. Judge José A. Teles Pereira (29.3.2001 - 31.7.2003)
2. Mr. Arménio Marques Ferreira (Assistant Director and Director-General from 1.8.2003 to 29.1.2004 - this period includes the flight through Santa Maria that carried ABDURAHMAN KHADR)
3. Judge Margarida Blasco (30.1.2004 - 13.10.2005)
4. Judge Antero Luis (13.10.2005 - ) - meeting already requested

Heads of SEF (Border Control):
1. Mr. Júlio Pereira (2001 - 2003)
2. Mr. Gabriel Catarino (October 2003 -April 2005)
3. Mr. Manuel Jarmela Palos (April 2005- ) - meeting already requested .

Heads of SEF and DGA (customs) at the airports of Porto and the Azores region (Ponta Delgada, Santa Maria and Lajes)
1. SEF Porto - Ms. Linda Chaves
2. DGA Porto - Ms. Paula Soares

3. SEF Azores - Mr. Francisco Manuel Maldonado Pereira
4. DGA Azores - Mr. Américo Sousa Filipe

Portuguese commanders of the Portuguese/US base in Lajes (island of Terceira, Azores), which also receives civilian flights

Air Base no. 4
1. Colonel Francisco Baptista (2002-2004)
2. Colonel Silvio Sampaio (2006 -)

Azores flight zone
1. Major-General Antunes de Andrade (2002-2004)
2. Major-General Pereira da Cruz (2006 -)

Of course, it would be most useful to meet the person that actually had the political responsibility for both SEF and SIS in the crucial period of 2002-2004:
Mr. Figueiredo Lopes was Minister for Internal Affairs between April 2002 and July 2004.

No investigation on these flights in Portugal would be complete without a meeting with the person politically responsible for the use of the Lajes Base and the Azores flight zone during the period when most suspicious flights took place (between 2002 and 2004): Mr. Paulo Portas, currently a Member of the National Parliament was Minister of Defence from April 2002 to March 2005.

Finally, there are two Portuguese investigative journalists working on this topic - Mr. Micael Pereira and Ricardo Lourenço - who should be heard by the Delegation visiting Portugal.

To conclude, let me remind you that in the case of Portugal we will not be starting from scratch. We can base our investigations on solid evidence, which results from a simple exercise of cross-referencing between the information the Portuguese authorities have sent to the Committee, through President Coelho and to myself, and the EUROCONTROL data and other elements, on the other.

Best regards,

Ana Gomes, MEP

P.S: You will find in attachment a letter and list of questions I am sending today to the Portuguese Foreign Minister, following-up on the response provided to my previous requests for information».

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