Questions Still Remain About Shannon's Role in Guantanamo

Originally published in Irish Examiner, 19 Jan 2014

It's been revealed (Amy Goodman, Democracy Now) that a secret CIA "Black Site" prison existed within Guantanamo in which prisoners may have been tortured and subjected to mind altering drugs. 

A book by a former US sergeant at Guantanamo, Joseph Hickman, raises claims that three prisoners alleged to have committed suicide in 2006 may have died instead due to torture.

Mani al-Utaybi, and Yasser al-Zahrani from Saudi Arabia were already approved for release.

A review of Ali Abdullah Ahmed's case revealed "no evidence of terrorist involvement".

In 2008, Murat Kurnaz, a former detainee revealed in his memoir, that all the other prisoners at Guantanamo concluded the three detainees had been killed.

Ireland Should Respond to Charlie Hebdo Attacks by Ending its Support for Wars Linked to Terrorism

As Europe comes to terms with the recent brutal acts of violence in Paris, Shannonwatch calls for measured and responsible responses from governments, religious leaders and others in positions of influence. In keeping with this call, their monthly peace vigil at Shannon Airport this Sunday 11th January called for an end to the US military use of the airport and demonstration of a more positive neutrality from Ireland.

"We unequivocally condemn the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices and the killings that took place in Paris in the past week" said a Shannonwatch spokesperson. "There is no justification for such violence".

"Incidents of extreme and unjustified violence, combined with discrimination and racism, are occurring with increasingly regularity in societies in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the Western world. The atrocities committed in France the most recent example but there has also been a significant increase in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia across Europe, as well as anti-Christian attacks and persecution associated with conflicts in several Middle Eastern states".

Assignment of Irish soldiers to NATO Associated Mission in Afghanistan Cannot be Justified

The Peace and Neutrality Alliance and Shannonwatch have expressed serious concerns that the Irish Government have decided to continue with the assignment of seven Irish soldiers to a NATO associated mission in Kabul Afghanistan. It was a serious mistake by previous governments to send Irish troops to serve with the NATO ISAF occupation mission in Afghanistan from December 2001 up to 31 December 2014, because having Irish soldiers serving with this NATO occupation force is a clear breach of international laws and norms of neutrality. The Government cites UNSCR 1386 as justification for its decision but the UN itself has been in breach of its own charter by approving the subsequent military occupation  of Afghanistan following the invasion and overthrow of the Afghan Government in October 2001 by a US led coalition that did not have UN Security Council to engage in this war of aggression.

Ministers who had Concerns about CIA Renditions and Shannon Must Help Address past Mistakes

Shannonwatch note the concerns that two former Irish ministers had in relation to the CIA's torture and renditions programme, as reported in the Irish Times of 22 December (2014). The Ministers in question are Dermot Ahern who was Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Michael McDowell who was Minister for Justice, when a report by Dick Marty for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe identified Ireland and Shannon as a CIA stop-over point. Nonetheless they failed to take decisive action at the time, other than to ask the US government if they were taking prisoners through Shannon.

Given what they now know about the brutal and systematic nature of CIA torture, former ministers Ahern and McDowell should now reveal the full extent of their concerns, and enable a proper investigation of the CIA's use of Shannon Airport to get under way.

Dáil Questions and Answers - Government Still Denying Shannon Involvement in Renditions

CIA rendition plane N478GS caught on camera in Shannon on 8th Mar 2008

There were plenty of references to Shannon Airport in the Dáil over the last two weeks. These were all linked to what Shannon is becoming best known for - its support for torture and war.

The coverage followed the release of the US Senate report on CIA torture on Dec 9th. This provided shocking confirmation of the extent to which torture was part and parcel of CIA operations for many years. It revealed that use of torture in secret prisons run by the CIA was even more extreme than previously known, and that it included appalling practices like forced rectal feeding, sleep deprivation and threats to the families of detainees. Immediately following its release, the CIA director John Brennan admitted that the CIA programme "had shortcomings and that the agency made mistakes". This is one of the understatements of the decade but it still shows that the cat is well and truly out of the bag when it comes to CIA brutality and illegality. So given the overwhelming evidence that their rendition planes used Shannon Airport, surely it would be reasonable for the Irish Government to admit mistakes were also made here in Ireland too? Maybe they might finally initiate the long overdue investigation of Ireland's involvement in CIA torture?

Irish Involvement in NATO Missions is not Contributing to Peace

The Irish Defence Forces have a total of 442 soldiers serving overseas in 14 different missions with the UN, EU, OSCE and NATO. This amounts to a scattergun approach and is exposing Irish soldiers to undue risks in some inappropriate missions.

Missions such as the NATO force in Afghanistan are arguably making war not peace, and the dangers to Irish soldiers in Kabul will be significantly increased with the withdrawal of most other foreign troops.

Warplanes and Santa Clause Flights Side by Side at Shannon Airport

It was cold wet windy day at Shannon Airport today as Shannonwatch and Veterans for Peace Ireland activists held their usual monthly peace vigil from 2pm to 3 pm. The airport was quiet initially except for a special Ryanair series of Santa Clause flights for children and adults along the West Coast of Ireland. However, this festive peaceful spirit changed at about 14.45 when the sound of a heavy turbo prop aircraft coming in to land indicated that all was not so peaceful. It was a familiar sound to Shannonwatch peace activists and as expected it turned out to be a US military warplane. This particular one was a Hercules KC130T tail number 162786, belonging to the U.S. Marine Corps.

The KC130T is a multi purpose aircraft whose functions include mid air refuelling of other military aircraft. It was being protected by an Irish army patrol, which you can see on the right hand side of the picture below. U.S. soldiers can also be seen examining and maintaining the aircraft.

US Senate Report on CIA Torture Shows its Time for the Irish Government to Act

Shannonwatch are appalled at the shocking revelations about CIA torture of detainees in the US Senate intelligence committee report released on Tuesday Dec 9th. Details of the methods used, the extent of the torture and the scale of lies and deceit from a government agency are even worse than was already known. Ireland's complicity has already been documented by other reports, but given this new information it is now well past time for a full investigation of the role played by Shannon in the brutal and illegal interrogation undertaken by the CIA in the past decade.

"Since George Bush authorised the use of torture after 9/11, Shannon Airport has been a part of the global torture networks operated by the CIA" said John Lannon of Shannonwatch. "This has been well documented by a range of international bodies but yet the Department of Foreign Affairs continue to pretend Ireland is not implicated in rendition or torture. They base this on assurances from the US government that no prisoners were transported through Irish territory. But we know now that the CIA and the US government lied about their torture programme."

Ireland likely to continue to participate in NATO-led Mission in Afghanistan

It seems clear from the language used by the Minister for Defence this week in response to a parliamentary question from Clare Daly TD that the Government is planning to send further Irish soldiers to Afghanistan with the planned NATO follow-on mission. If they do that, the soldiers will be exposed to even greater danger than at present due to withdrawal of most of the NATO forces and the increased attacks by Afghan insurgents.

Shannonwatch is opposed to any such decision, and will make its position on this clear to the government. We encourage others to do the same, and hope that Dublin-based activists might even be able to make their opposition known through protests and placards outside the Dail. This needs to be done as soon as possible to influence the government decision so it is hoped that small daily protests could be undertaken at lunchtime, starting next week.

Vision Airlines - Back in the Air Bridge War Business at Shannon?

Vision Airlines Boeing 767, registration N661CS at Shannon on 3rd December

On Wednesday 3rd December, on the way to Ennis District Court where TDs Clare Daly and Mick Wallace were appearing as a result of their efforts to promote peace, Shannonwatch stopped off at the airport and photographed two US warplanes. One was a US Navy Hercules C-130T registration 164993/BD and the other was a C-40 (also US Navy). Coincidentally this is the same type of aircraft that were at Shannon airport on the day that Clare and Mick Wallace went in to do their search and investigation.

Tucked away at Gate 42, which is where the chartered aircraft that transport US troops through Shannon normally park, Shannonwatch also spotted a white Boeing 737, registration N661CS. This is owned by a Texas company called Spectre Air Capital LLC but is operated by an airline called Vision Airlines. The name may not mean a lot to people who watch planes come in and out of Shannon but for a period between 2005 and 2010 their jets averaged two flights a week from Dulles, Virginia to Iraq and Afghanistan. These flights were linked to the US government's "Air Bridge Program" which assisted the flow of military personnel, equipment and materiel needed to support the war in Afghanistan and the continuing operations in Iraq.