Howard's End: Secret Visitors May Be Kidnappers
The U.S. Government is using US-registered Gulfstream V jets to secretly transport dozens of people suspected of links to terrorists to countries other than the United States, bypassing extradition procedures and legal formalities. The same type of jets which secretly flew into Queenstown airport last Saturday putting that community in a spin over clandestine CIA activities. Maree Howard writes.
According to Scoop's intelligence sources the CIA is plucking people with suspected terrorist links from countries such as Indonesia and transporting them to other countries where they can be subjected to interrogation tactics - including torture and threats to their families - that are illegal in the U.S.
In some cases U.S. intelligence agents remain closely involved in the interrogation.
Sources tell Scoop that after Sept. 11, these sorts of movements have been occurring all the time. "It allows us to get information from terrorists in a way we can't do on U.S. soil," the source said.
In one example, the CIA informed Indonesia's State Intelligence Agency that Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni was an Al Qaeda operative who had worked with Richard Reid, the Briton charged with trying to detonate explosives in his shoes on and America Airlines flight from Paris to Miami last December.
The CIA provided information about Iqbal's whereabouts and urged Indonesia to apprehend him.
Two days later he was in the hands of Indonesian intelligence agents and two days after that - without a court hearing or a lawyer - he was hustled aboard an unmarked U.S. - registered Gulfstream V jet parked at a military airport in Jakarta and flown to Egypt. He remains in custody in Egypt where he has been interrogated by U.S. officials but there is no word of his legal status.
His situation resembles that of other Islamic activists who have been taken into custody in cooperation with the CIA and spirited away to unknown destinations.
U.S. officials would not comment on evidence linking Iqbal to Reid and Indonesian operatives say U.S. officials did not detail any alleged involvement with terrorism other than to say he was connected to Reid.
"The CIA asked us to find this guy and hand him over and we did what they wanted, " an Indonesian official said.
Singapore and Malaysia have been pushing for more regional cooperation.
U.S. CIA agents are known to have worked with various intelligence agencies in Africa, Central Asia and the Balkans, and have sent dozens of suspected people to other countries for interrogation.
Which makes the clandestine arrival in Queenstown of the two Gulfstream V jets with more than 30 secret service agents on board all the more mysterious - and worrying.
Rumours abound in Queenstown with the media and photographers escorted from the grounds surrounding Millbrook resort where it is thought there might be some kind of high-powered security conference taking place. It has been established that they are CIA.
Tourists taking scenic photographs are also being bailed-up and briefly interrogated by agents wearing ear-pieces while a black CIA surveillance style van is parked near the resort.
Rumour has it that the agents are also living-it-up eating at some of the top Queenstown establishments.
The group flew in to Queenstown airport in the two Gulfstream V jets direct from an unnamed destination on Saturday. Apart from that nothing is known - and no-one is telling.
Nevertheless, the U.S. is by-passing laws in its fight against terrorism and spiriting people away for interrogation outside of U.S. laws. It is to be hoped that New Zealand has not become part of that ring.
Then again, perhaps the CIA agents are in Queenstown on a diversionary trip on their way home to the U.S. as a reward for the transportation job they've done in other countries.