ACLU Files Landmark Lawsuit Challenging CIA’s “Extraordinary
Rendition” of Innocent Man
Companies that Owned and Operated Airplanes Used in CIA Kidnapping
Also Named in Lawsuit
El-Masri v. Tenet
The American Civil Liberties Union today announced the first ever lawsuit against
former CIA director George Tenet challenging the CIA’s abduction of a
foreign national for detention and interrogation in a secret overseas prison.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Khaled El-Masri, an innocent German citizen
victimized by the CIA’s policy of “extraordinary rendition.”
“Kidnapping a foreign national for the purpose of detaining and interrogating
him outside the law is contrary to American values,” said Anthony D. Romero,
Executive Director of the ACLU. “Our government has acted as if it is
above the law. We go to court today to reaffirm that the rule of law is central
to our identity as a nation.”
The lawsuit charges that George Tenet and other CIA officials violated U.S.
and universal human rights laws when they authorized agents to kidnap El-Masri,
and that his unlawful abduction and treatment were the direct result of an illegal
CIA policy known as “extraordinary rendition.”
The lawsuit also charges that the three corporations that owned and operated
the airplane used to transport El-Masri to detention in Afghanistan are legally
responsible for assisting in the violation of his civil and human rights. These
corporations supplied the aircraft and provided the personnel used in the illicit
transportation of El-Masri, knowing that the transfer was illegal, according
to the ACLU.
“The CIA’s policy of extraordinary rendition is a clear violation
of universal human rights protections,” said Steven Watt, the ACLU’s
primary human rights advisor on the case. “Snatching Mr. El-Masri off
the street and hiding him away in a secret prison was illegal under American
and international law. Keeping him imprisoned after his innocence was established
was immoral by any standard.”
According to the ACLU lawsuit, El-Masri, a 42-year-old German citizen and father
of five young children, was forcibly abducted while on holiday in Macedonia.
He was detained incommunicado, beaten, drugged, and transported to a secret
CIA prison in Afghanistan, where he was subjected to inhumane conditions and
coercive interrogation. El-Masri was forbidden from contacting a lawyer or any
member of his family. After several months of confinement in squalid conditions,
he was abandoned on a hill in Albania with no explanation, never having been
charged with a crime.
According to the ACLU, soon after El-Masri was flown to Afghanistan, CIA officers
realized that they had abducted, detained, and interrogated an innocent man.
Tenet, former director the CIA, was notified about the mistake, yet El-Masri
remained in detention for two more months.
“I am asking the American government to admit its mistakes and to apologize
for my treatment,” said El-Masri. “Throughout my time in the prison,
I asked to be brought before a court but was refused. Now I am hoping that an
American court will say very clearly that what happened to me was illegal and
cannot be done to others.”
El-Masri had planned to be present at the press conference announcing the filing
of this lawsuit, and to visit Capitol Hill to share his account with congressional
aides. However, when his plane landed at Hartsfield International Airport in
Atlanta on Saturday night, he was denied entry to the United States by officials
of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. El-Masri was sent back
to Germany on the next available flight. U.S. officials have provided no reason
for their refusal to admit El-Masri, a German citizen who has never been charged
with a crime.
The issue of CIA clandestine prisons is receiving a lot of attention recently
in the American as well as international press. Much of this attention has been
generated by reports of CIA secret prisons in Eastern Europe and the recent
release of logs detailing flights used by the CIA in “extraordinary rendition.”
The lawsuit, El-Masri v. Tenet, will be filed this morning in the U.S. District
Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
El-Masri is represented by Ann Beeson, Ben Wizner and Melissa Goodman of the
ACLU National Legal Department, Paul Hoffman of Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris
& Hoffman, LLP, Rebecca Glenberg of the ACLU of Virginia, and Victor Glasberg
of Victor M. Glasberg & Associates.
El-Masri v. Tenet
in El-Masri v. Tenet
Rendition Fact Sheet
More information is available online at: www.aclu.org/rendition