U.S. Must Also Hold Officials Accountable For Their Role In Illegal Program, Says ACLU
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NEW YORK – A Spanish prosecutor has asked a judge there to authorize the arrest of 13 CIA agents for their alleged role in the Bush administration's "extraordinary rendition" program. The agents are accused of participating in the rendition of Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen who was kidnapped in 2003 and flown to a CIA-run "black site" in Afghanistan, where he was secretly detained and tortured for months before being abandoned on a hillside in Albania. He was never charged with a crime.
El-Masri has thus far been denied any remedy in the U.S. In 2005, the American Civil Liberties Union sued former CIA Director George Tenet and other unnamed CIA agents for their roles in El-Masri's abduction and abuse, but the case was thrown out when the government claimed it would expose "state secrets."
The Spanish request is not the first time foreign prosecutors have sought to hold the CIA liable for the rendition program. In January 2007, a German court issued warrants for the 13 CIA agents suspected of involvement in El-Masri's rendition. In November 2009, an Italian court convicted 23 Americans for the extraordinary rendition of a Muslim cleric who was kidnapped in Milan in 2003.
The ACLU has long called for the U.S. to hold officials who authorized and carried out illegal rendition and torture accountable for their actions.
The following can be attributed to Steven Watt, staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program:
"The initiation of legal action in Spain against CIA agents for their role in the 'extraordinary rendition' program underscores the need for the United States to do the same. As other countries put U.S. actions under the spotlight, this country can no longer turn a blind eye to crimes committed by its own officials in the name of the American people."