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The Ghost of Philip Agee By: Kenneth R. Timmerman
FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Ghost of Philip Agee rides again.

The former CIA operations officer who made a second career out of “exposing” CIA undercover operatives and operations in the 1970s and the 1980s may not be dead yet, but his legacy lives on.


It has been picked up by a left-wing European parliamentarian from Sicily named Claudio Fava.


Agee’s scandalous book, Inside the Company: CIA Diary, was published in 27 different languages and exposed the names of more than 250 covert operations officers. Agee was stripped of his U.S. citizenship in 1979 His actions prompted Congress to pass the Intelligence Identities Protection Act in 1982.


Soviet intelligence files published by former KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin and Christopher Andrew in The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB, revealed that Agee received help from the KGB and from Cuban intelligence in his efforts to undermine the CIA and expose CIA covert operations. Today, Agee lives in Castro’s Cuba.


Claudio Fava has not needed to go so far afield. His anti-CIA operation has been funded and championed by the European Parliament.


Since January 2006, Fava has been the driving force behind the European Parliament commission to investigate CIA “secret prisons” and extraordinary renditions in Europe.


On Tuesday, Fava’s commission released a draft report that vigorously condemned the United States for apprehending terrorists on European soil and transporting them to “secret prisons” around the world.


The report called for the closure of the U.S.-run interrogation and detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “and for European countries to accept the return of their citizens and residents who are being held illegally by US authorities.” It also “revealed” (revealed?) that the governments of eleven European who granted landing rights and provided intelligence and police assistance to the CIA in apprehending suspected terrorists “were aware” of what they were doing.


One would certainly hope so.


Fava is a former journalist, in addition to being a leading member of Democrats of the Left, which is allied to Italy’s Socialist party. Those skills stood him in good stead as he compiled an impressive and compelling investigative file on CIA covert operations in Europe that he released to the public on Tuesday.


His draft report called on the European parliament to issue a resolution that “condemns extraordinary rendition as an illegal and systematic instrument used by the United States in the fight against terrorism,” while chastising European countries for “the acceptance and concealing of the practice.”


Instead of taking the war to the terrorists, Fava and his EP colleagues apparently believe that the United States should return to the Clinton era and send lawyers knocking on terrorists’ doors with subpoenas.


Fava and his fellow commissioners traveled to Macedonia, the United States, Germany, Britain, Rumania, Poland and Portugal in their quest to expose CIA covert operations.


In a hearing earlier this year, his Commission released detailed flight logs of hundreds of secret CIA flights used for renditions, as well as the tail numbers and registration information on twenty-five civilian aircraft used by the CIA to transport terrorist detainees. They also named the CIA proprietaries that owned or operated them.


These are considered some of the Agency’s most highly-valued secrets. Shell companies used for covert operations “cost us a fortune to set up,” a former CIA operations officer told me. “And now it is going to cost us a fortune to replace them.” If indeed they can be replaced, which is questionable.


Fava revealed that since October 2001, the CIA has operated “at least 1,245 flights… into the European airspace,” and  chastised European governments for “relinquishing their control over their airspace and airports by admitting flights operated by the CIA.”


On Wednesday, Fava followed up by releasing complementary information that lazy reporters could take straight to the Pulitzer prize committee as a demonstration of their investigative prowess.


One of his follow-on reports provided a descriptive data base of the CIA front companies and suspect flights, which Fava claimed were tied to the transportation of terrorist suspects.


In the French-language introduction to the report, Fava explained that the CIA needed to use civilian aircraft rather than military planes, “in order to reach places where military aircraft would have been considered suspect.”


Shell companies were used to disguise CIA ownership of the planes, which then were then managed and operated by real companies, many of them in the air charter business.


Knowing that the attention span of most journalists is limited, Fava kept his crash course in exposing CIA covert operations short and to the point. Then he got into the business of naming names.


Some of the CIA fronts were typical inside jokes. There was Premier Executive Transport Service (PETS), Rapid Air Trans (RAT), and Devon Holding and Leasing (DHL). I doubt any of them will be used for much in the future, except perhaps to manage the retirement account of CIA cover-girl Valerie Plame.


Fava then broke down the 1,245 flights country by country. 336 CIA flights to Germany, 170 to Britain, 147 to Ireland, 91 to Portugal, 68 to Spain, 64 to Greece, 57 to Cyprus, 21 to Romania, and 11 to Poland, all of them detailed with the aircraft tail numbers and all.


He said that he obtained flight logs for the secret flights from EUROCONTROL, a non-profit agency that controls European air traffic, and the FAA. (Why in the world the FAA cooperated with the Euro-inquisition is beyond me.)


Members of Fava’s commission have been publicly critical of the U.S., but never before in such harsh terms.


Their report called on all European countries that have not already done so to “initiate independent investigations into all stopovers made by civilian aircraft carried out by the CIA” since 2001, and called for a review of existing European anti-terrorism legislation “to avoid any repetition” of the CIA extraordinary renditions.


The Europeans also gave a nod to Congressional Democrats, by “welcom[ing] the announcement by the incoming majority in the U.S Senate”  that it intended to hold hearings on rendition and CIA secret prisons.


In addition to its harsh criticism of the Bush administration, the report also went after Bush allies in Europe, including former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.


It singled out several European Union officials by name for stonewalling the investigation.


Top EU official Javier Solana was guilty of “omissions and denials” in his declarations to the committee, the report said.


EU Counter-terrorism coordinator Gijs de Vries was noteworthy for “the lack of credibility of his statements” to the commission, which suggested he be fired and his position be eliminated.


EUROPOL director Max-Peter Ratzel also incurred the commission’s ire for his refusal to testify, “especially since it appears that liaison officers, notably from the U.S. intelligence services, have been posted to his office.”


Current and previous NATO secretaries general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Lord Robertson took it on the chin for slighting the commission. Particularly galling to Fava and his fellow commissioners was NATO’s refusal to provide the classified minutes of the Oct. 4, 2001 NATO decision to activate the mutual defense clause of the NATO treaty at the request of the United States, thus triggering European assistance in the war on terror.


There is a pattern here.


Fava and his colleagues would like to shut down CIA covert operations. They would like Europe to pursue criminal investigations of CIA officers involved in the renditions, as Italy is now doing, even though their actions were clearly coordinated with European intelligence services.


Investigate, expose, criminalize, disband.  It’s a one-way ticket to unilateral disarmament.


All during the 1980s and the 1990s, the Europeans were deaf to entreaties from countries such as Egypt, who begged them to enforce arrest warrants on exiles wanted on terrorism charges at home.


These were the type of people the CIA has been picking up off the streets and “rendering” to their home countries.


Pretty, it is not. But it is necessary.


The enemy understands our weaknesses, and has understood that Europe’s strong political asylum laws provide a convenient shield for them to continue their jihadi activities.


Now that he has exposed the secret operations of U.S. intelligence, perhaps Claudio Fava could spend similar time and effort to expose jihadist cells operating in scores of cities across Europe?


Clearly, Fava is a talented investigator. Now, perhaps, he can show us who’s side he is on.


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Kenneth R. Timmerman was nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize along with John Bolton for his work on Iran. He is Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, and author of Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (Crown Forum: 2005).

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