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US admits to wrongful detention


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I'm not sure if this was posted already. I guess the hits just keep on coming with this administration. I just wonder if Osoma has already won?

U.S. Admits Wrongful Detention, German Chancellor Says

Secretary Rice Declines Comment as European Tour Continues

By Glenn Kessler and William Branigin

Washington Post Staff Writers

Tuesday, December 6, 2005; 12:33 PM

BUCHAREST, Romania, Dec. 6 -- The Bush administration admitted it wrongfully abducted a German citizen on suspicion of terrorism, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday after a meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Berlin.

Rice declined to comment on the specifics of the case of Khaled Masri but said she pledged to Merkel that "when and if mistakes are made, we work very hard and as quickly as possible to rectify them."

Merkel said "the American administration has admitted [Masri] had been erroneously taken." Her statement appeared likely to escalate scrutiny of the administration's policy of secretly whisking terrorist suspects away to clandestine detention centers in other countries for extrajudicial interrogations, a practice known as "rendition."

Masri, 42, who was born in Kuwait to Lebanese parents and moved to Germany 20 years ago, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. federal court in Northern Virginia claiming he was held captive and tortured by U.S. government agents after he was mistakenly identified as an associate of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers, the Associated Press reported. Masri is being represented in the lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"I am asking the American government to admit its mistakes and to apologize for my treatment," Masri said in a statement. "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."

In Washington, President Bush refused to discuss the rendition program or secret detention centers Tuesday, stressing that covert operations are needed to protect Americans. He repeated his previous denial that U.S. authorities engage in torture. He made the comments to reporters after a meeting at the White House with the visiting director of the World Health Organization.

Asked if his administration has any plans to change its policies on rendition and the detention centers, President Bush said, "First of all, I don't talk about secret programs, covert programs, covert activities. Part of a successful war on terror is for the United States of America to be able to conduct operations -- all aimed at protecting the American people -- covertly."

He added, "We abide by the law of the United States, and we do not torture." Nor does the United States "render to countries that torture," Bush said. "That has been our policy. And that policy will remain the same."

Bush said America's enemies want to strike the country again, "and the American people expect us to, within our laws, do everything we can to protect them."

In Berlin, questions about media reports concerning secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe, CIA rendition practices and the Masri case dominated Rice's news conference with Merkel.

After her meeting with Rice, Merkel said Tuesday, "I'm happy to say we have discussed the . . . case, which the government of the United States has of course accepted as a mistake."

Rice may face more questions about CIA practices at a news conference Tuesday night in Bucharest during a visit designed to highlight an agreement with Romania to provide a military base for U.S. troops.

Aides traveling with Rice said she did not admit any errors concerning the Masri case during her meeting with Merkel, and they professed to being initially puzzled by Merkel's remarks.

But a senior administration official traveling with Rice said U.S. officials have in the past informed the German government that Masri had been released from detention because there was no sufficient intelligence to justify keeping him in custody.

The official said Masri was initially detained because of suspicions that his passport was bogus.

Masri, a married father of five, says he was arrested while trying to enter Macedonia on a holiday trip after taking a bus from his hometown of Neu-Ulm, Germany, on New Year's Eve, 2003. He says he was stopped at the border by Macedonian authorities, who confiscated his passport. After being detained for more than three weeks, he says he was handed over to people he believed to be CIA operatives, then was flown to Afghanistan. After four months in captivity there, he was flown to Albania in late May 2004, and subsequently returned to Germany.

His lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., alleges that in Afghanistan he was subjected to "torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment," as well as "prolonged, arbitrary detention." The suit seeks damages of at least $75,000.

Named as the main defendant in the lawsuit is George J. Tenet, the former director of the CIA.

Branigin reported from Washington.

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