Suspected CIA flights may refuel in Nunavut and Greenland
European leaders raise alarm over U.S. transport of terror suspects
European countries have been up in arms: the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is suspected of using Arctic airports, including Iqaluit, to transport secretly arrested terror suspects to clandestine detention centres in Europe, where they may be subjected to abusive interrogation techniques, including torture.
At least one such flight landed in Nunavut to re-fuel en route to European destinations, according to information reported in the Stavanger Aftenblad.
Earlier this month, on Dec. 4, a Saab 340 aircraft, with a serial number of N13UV, left Iqaluit on a flight originating in Montreal, then headed off to Reykjavik, and landed at Sola/Stavanger in Norway the next day.
The Stavanger Aftenblad traced the aircraft in question to Lambert Leasing in Sterling, Virginia, which is located near CIA headquarters in Langley.
Two individuals reportedly left the aircraft and slept over in Stavanger, where some technical problems were fixed. There were no passengers on board the aircraft, which can carry up to 34 people. Avinor, the Norwegian aviation authority, said there were two individuals registered on the plane: the pilot and a second pilot.
The Saab aircraft is built in Sweden, and Saab keeps some of their technicians at the airport in Örebro, not far from Stavanger.
Meanwhile, Greenland’s airport administrative body, Mittarfeqarfiit, admits the CIA may also have used airports in Greenland for refueling. At least one flight is thought to have stopped in Kangerlussuaq in 2003. The flight under scrutiny was apparently registered as a private flight, and had landing rights in Greenland.
“I would take the case very seriously, if information shows secret CIA flights had made refueling stopovers in Greenland,” said Mittarfeqarfiit’s director, Jesper Juhl.
Last week, Finland’s foreign affairs minister, Errki Tuomija, said he is disappointed with information he received from the U.S. about the stopover of a suspected prisoner transport plane at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport in 2003.
Tuomija told the Finnish press agency, STT, that the letter he received from U.S. Secretary Of State Condaleezza Rice was “very general.”
On behalf of the European Union, the U.K.’s foreign secretary, Jack Straw, had formally requested the U.S. to clarify whether planes secretly carrying terrorism suspects had stopped over in Europe.
In a letter sent to Rice, Straw cited possible “violations of international law” by the U.S. and requested the Bush administration to clarify reports and “allay parliamentary and public concerns.”
The issue came to the forefront again as Rice toured Europe last week. In a pre-prepared statement at the beginning of her trip last Monday, she said U.S. intelligence operations had saved European lives and had been conducted in cooperation with European governments.
Rice admitted that the U.S. had flown terror suspects abroad for interrogation.
“Renditions take terrorists out of action, and save lives,” she said. “Such renditions are permissible under international law.”
Rice said the U.S. adheres to the law and does not treat suspects in a humiliating fashion.