Germany Sends CIA Arrest Warrants to Interpol

by Kevin Jon Heller

Der Spiegel has an interesting article today about Germany’s decision to forward to Interpol arrest warrants for 10 CIA agents involved in the kidnapping and extraordinary rendition of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen. Not surprisingly, the U.S. is unhappy about the decision, which means that the agents will now be hunted internationally:

The German investigation into what exactly happened to the German citizen Khaled el-Masri, and who was responsible, is becoming an increasingly prickly thorn in the side of Germany-US relations. Indeed, after a Munich court issued arrest warrants against 13 CIA agents at the end of January for complicity in his kidnapping and subsequent torture, high-ranking US diplomats sought to convince the German government not to expand the search for the perpetrators internationally, German government sources have told DER SPIEGEL.

Following the Jan. 31, 2007 issuing of the arrest warrants, US diplomats spoke with foreign policy advisors of German Chancellor Angela Merkel to express Washington’s displeasure that the case was being forwarded to Interpol, the international police organization that facilitates policing cooperation among 186 member countries — including the US and Germany. In addition, a representative of the US Embassy in Berlin likewise visited the Germany justice ministry to speak with the official in charge of international legal issues.

Despite the diplomatic offensive — and despite misgivings in Berlin — the government agreed to forward the case to Interpol on Feb. 21. Were they to have honored the US request not to get Interpol involved, it would have been a first in German history. Now, Interpol is searching for 10 of the 13 agents involved with the aim of arresting them and extraditing them to Germany for trial.


Washington has done little to conceal its displeasure at these investigations. Just last week, John Bellinger, a legal advisor to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, criticized a recent European Parliament report on renditions. Calling it “unbalanced and unfair,” Bellinger also suggested that the US would not comply with extradition requests from Italy should they be made. “I do think these continuing investigations can harm intelligence cooperation,” he said. “That’s simply a fact of life.”

It’s good to see Germany defending el-Masri’s rights, given that U.S. courts have uncritically accommodated the Bush administration’s desire to conceal its responsibility for his torture. Just last week, the Fourth Circuit upheld dismissing el-Masri’s lawsuit against the U.S. government on the basis of the state secrets privilege, even though his case relied on information that has been public for months. It’s also entertaining to hear John Bellinger complain that the European Parliament’s renditions report is “unbalanced and unfair” after the Bush administration completely refused to cooperate with the investigation. Now as always, the administration’s position is simply “trust us.” Fortunately, the rest of the world has long since stopped doing so.

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