Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

Why the CIA's secret flights irk Europeans

(Page 2 of 2)

Another European official says that while the controversy has tended to die down in Europe, it could revive as national parliaments begin reviewing findings by inquiry commissions set up after revelations first came out last winter. The diplomat, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the topic, notes that Germany, for example, will hold parliamentary hearings on May 11, "when the government has to say what it did and didn't know."

Skip to next paragraph

The diplomat echoes Donfried's interpretation of Secretary Rice's words as implying that governments knew to varying degrees what the CIA was doing. "It's absolutely true that at the time [of the first revelations last winter] there were no flat-out denials," the diplomat says.

For its part, the CIA has responded to the European Parliament report by reiterating that transferring international terror suspects - a practice known as "rendition" - has been CIA policy for decades. But it denies undertaking what is called "extraordinary rendition," or the transfer of suspects to third countries where torture is known to be used.

Donfried says the "varied spectrum" of European treatment of terrorism issues is another explanation for the muted official response to the findings. She notes that France is "very tough" on suspected terrorists: Despite a very public falling-out with the US over Iraq, France has remained one of the US's closest collaborators on intelligence and fighting international terrorism.

European officials have also shied away from taking a "holier than thou" approach with the US as differences have been over-ridden by a sense of facing a common enemy - especially as Europe has been hit by terror attacks carried out by Islamist extremists.

But European countries still are more apt to see the fight against terrorism as a police and intelligence matter and eschew calling it a "war" as the US does. Cooperation, however, has tended to overcome such philosophical disputes.

Before German Chancellor Angela Merkel's first official visit to the US last January, she sharply criticized the US for keeping the detention facility in Guantánamo, but once in Washington she dropped the public rebukes. German officials say she brought up the issue with President Bush, but insisted that she was speaking "not from some moral high ground but in the hopes of seeing the US live up to its values," as one official with knowledge of the meeting says.

That overarching "we're in this together" sense appears to be growing, even as reports such as this week's from the European Parliament cause periodic outcries.

As one example, former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar is calling for NATO to adopt the battle against Islamist extremism as one of its central objectives. Mr. Aznar says NATO should assert its identity as an alliance of democracies with a wider vision than Atlantic security, and decide at its next summit in December to collectively address global terrorism.