OPINION

CIA in Europe?

First we had workers moving from poor to wealthier countries. Then came the capital movements going in the opposite direction. More recently, a new type of movement is haunting Europe: the export of CIA prison camps to third countries, including existing and potential EU members. The political scandal has cast a long shadow on transatlantic relations, forcing many governments – including Britain’s – to demand explanations from their greatest ally. But European pledges of innocence are neither convincing nor reassuring. Firstly, it was not the Europeans who first brought attention to the issue, but a news report in The Washington Post. On Tuesday, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, accused US Vice President Dick Cheney of authorizing questionable detention practices. The next day The New York Times published records of 307 clandestine flights to Europe between November 2001 and summer 2005 that stopped over at Western European airports. Most stopovers were in Germany (94) and Britain (76). The CIA planes are said to have stopped over in Greece 13 times. Moreover, questions remain over the extradition of terrorist suspects by CIA agents to countries not exactly noted for their democratic sensitivities. The point is whether the CIA had the ability and whether it was willing to take the risk of conducting such risky operations without a green light from national governments. Many European nations, including Germany and Italy, have already launched probes into the allegations. Greece’s government spokesman said that all flight regulations were respected. The government should investigate the allegations for the 2001-2005 period, the better part of which it was not in power.