In the 'war on terrorism' waged by the United States the activities of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) have been in the spotlight of discussions for several years. Such activities include extra-legal renditions of terrorist suspects and their subsequent detention in secret prisons. There are serious allegations that the CIA has used means of torture to interrogate suspects. The humiliating pictures from the prisons at Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib are particularly startling illustrations of the extreme measures taken against some prisoners. The global reach of the CIA's activities also involves European state authorities and other actors. Forms of involvement range from an operational involvement to tolerating, or ignoring, the use of European territory for the purpose of renditions. Some of the detainees used to be European residents before they were transferred to one of those prisons, but the respective European state governments have been hesitant to accept their return. In this paper is argued that there is a tendency for European states to bury their heads in the sand. The potential involvement of European governments in the respective counter-terrorism activities by the US government and, in particular, by the CIA, has not been discussed extensively and both parliamentary and judicial investigations have barely taken place so far. The CIA's activities give rise to the question of what, if any, lessons can be learnt and how, if at all, such incidents might be avoided in the future. This is so far under-researched and the final section of this paper will therefore focus on one aspect only: that the practice of so-called 'extraordinary renditions' and secret detention illustrate serious problems with regard to the accountability and oversight of activities of intelligence services in general, and of foreign intelligence agencies in particular. Assuming that an extreme case sharpens our analytical understanding, what can be learnt from this case in this context?
|Clingendael Security Paper
|Nederlands Instituut voor Internationale Betrekkingen Clingendael