Blackwater confirms flights through Malta, denies involvement in renditions

CIA Renditions
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Private security firm Blackwater USA has confirmed it sometimes flies its security personnel through Malta, but has vehemently denied any participation - through its landings in Malta or anywhere else in the world - in the extraordinary renditions of terrorism suspects practiced by the American authorities.

In a communication with The Malta Independent on Sunday, legal representatives of the American private security firm confirmed, “Blackwater provides training for military and law enforcement and protects US government civilians overseas. Its personnel often fly overseas on sister-company aircraft, including landings in Malta.”
But, the firm’s lawyers added, “None of these flights has ever transported terrorist suspects. Blackwater and its affiliates do not now and have never conducted so-called ‘rendition flights’ of terrorist suspects.”

The firm is currently embroiled in investigations by US federal prosecutors over allegations that personnel travelling to Iraq for duty smuggled weapons into the country that ended up on the black market and eventually in the hands of anti-American terrorist organisations.

Last Sunday Blackwater was in the headlines again when 11 Iraqis were killed in a shooting involving the company’s personnel, who had been protecting a US diplomatic convoy in Baghdad.

The term extraordinary rendition refers to the highly controversial US practice of kidnapping terrorism suspects and secretly transporting them on private aircraft, normally owned by Central Intelligence Agency front companies, to secret prisons in countries where torture is used as a routine interrogation technique.

Making use of European airspace and territory has been the subject of parallel probes by the European Parliament as well as the Council of Europe. But the firm’s denials of participation in such flights run contrary to the findings of the European Parliament’s ‘Temporary Committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners’, which found Malta’s airspace and soil had been used by Blackwater USA subsidiary company Blackwater Aviation for such purposes.

Blackwater had taken exception to an article published by The Malta Independent on Sunday last June, which had reported the EP committee’s findings. The report, the contents of which are being disputed by Blackwater, claimed that Malta had served as a base for company aircraft carrying out renditions.

The EP report underscored that while Malta was found to have been used on at least seven occasions by six different aircraft known to have carried out renditions, the Maltese dynamic in such operations was not extensively investigated due to a shortage of time and the sheer number of countries that had warranted investigation.

As such, the EP committee had only investigated higher profile cases in countries such as Italy, Germany and Poland and stressed its report was “therefore not exhaustive”. It added, however, it was still concerned by stopovers in countries such as Malta.

The EP report, in line with answers given to The Malta Independent on Sunday by Blackwater, claimed the company’s aircraft based in Malta “carry paratroopers and oversized cargo and can operate from short and unimproved runways”. It added that Malta served as a European base for such aircraft.

Blackwater has disputed the contents EP committee’s report and called on the committee to re-examine its findings, saying it was “alarmed by these statements, because they are completely false and defamatory”.

In a letter to the EP committee, Blackwater reaffirmed it has not participated in any rendition flights. Labelling the committee’s assertions as “erroneous and undocumented”, Blackwater took exception to the fact that the committee’s findings were being reproduced in the popular press - including the UK’s Daily Mail, as well as this newspaper.

The letter also states, “the working document erroneously and falsely asserts that Blackwater has been involved in ‘extraordinary renditions’ by referring to five planes owned by Blackwater’s sister companies, then fails to identify the use of any of these planes in such renditions or in stopovers in European Union member states when going to or from ‘suspicious locations’. Such corroboration would be impossible because the assertion is simply false.”

Blackwater has urged the committee to re-examine the working document’s factual assertions and to correct its “obvious and egregious mistakes so that others will not follow in republishing those false and defamatory statements”.

To date, the EP committee has not retracted the findings of its report.


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This page contains a single entry by Marga Lacabe published on 25 de Septiembre 2007 5:15 PM.

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