Thursday, April 6, 2006

may? mackay doesn't have the spine ...

Foreign affairs minister may raise issue of alleged CIA flights with U.S.
April 5, 2006,JIM BRONSKILL

Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay says he may very well raise the issue of alleged CIA planes ferrying terrorism suspects around the globe with his U.S. counterpart.

It is the first indication the new Conservative government might have concerns about the Central Intelligence Agency's apparent use of foreign airports. But MacKay's officials insist the minister has no fears that Canadian air facilities are being abused by the intelligence agency.

Civil liberties groups have demanded answers from Ottawa as to whether U.S. intelligence flights are ferrying terrorism suspects through Canada to countries where they may be tortured.

Recently declassified memos say 20 planes with alleged CIA ties had made 74 flights to Canada since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Flight records compiled by The Canadian Press indicate that since mid-2005 alone, at least eight different planes owned by reputed CIA shell corporations have landed at Canadian airports in Newfoundland, Nunavut, Ontario and Quebec.

In a report this week, Amnesty International called on countries, including Canada, to maintain and update a register of aircraft implicated in the clandestine transfer of terrorism suspects.

The rights group also wants governments to require the companies that control these planes to provide detailed information before allowing them flyover or landing rights.

MacKay said Wednesday that while he had not seen the full content of the report he had read summaries and might bring the issue to the attention of the U.S. secretary of state.

I've seen reporting on it, and it is an issue that I may very well take up in discussions with Condoleezza Rice.

Alexa McDonough, NDP foreign affairs critic, urged the government to make it clear Canada will not be complicit in torture.

I'd like to hear a lot stronger statement from the foreign affairs minister, she said. In fact, it's appropriate for the prime minister to make a very unequivocal statement about this.

It has been more than three years since Maher Arar, an Ottawa telecommunications engineer, was detained by U.S. officials during a stopover at a New