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The Case of the Missing CIA Transcripts: German Intelligence Agency 'Misplaces' Kurnaz Files

Important documents relating to the case of German-born Turkish citizen Murat Kurnaz have disappeared. Germany's BND intelligence agency is reported to have misplaced transcripts of CIA interrogations that could have finally exonerated the former Guantánamo inmate.

Everyone knows how easy it is to misplace things when you move house. Amid all the chaos of packing and unpacking, important documents can easily go astray. But for German-born Turkish citizen Murat Kurnaz, the apparent loss of a document by German intelligence while changing headquarters could have far-reaching consequences: the lost file would reportedly have cleared his name.

"The Kurnaz Affair" depicted on a float at Dusseldorf's carnival parade Monday, with Kurnaz's trademark long beard strangling German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Intelligence documents that could have cleared Kurnaz once and for all have reportedly disappeared.
DPA

"The Kurnaz Affair" depicted on a float at Dusseldorf's carnival parade Monday, with Kurnaz's trademark long beard strangling German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Intelligence documents that could have cleared Kurnaz once and for all have reportedly disappeared.

According to a report in Tuesday's edition of the German daily Berliner Zeitung, the German Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) misplaced transcripts of CIA interrogations of Kurnaz which could have cleared him of all accusations of being a dangerous Islamist and of having links to the Taliban or al-Qaida.

The Turkish citizen, who was born and raised in the German city of Bremen, was arrested in Pakistan in 2001 and held in a US prison in Afghanistan before being transferred to Guantánamo. He was eventually released in August 2006.

A parliamentary investigative committee in Berlin is currently looking into the Kurnaz case and, in particular, into whether the German government prevented his release in 2002 after the US had already decided he didn’t pose any security risk.

The Berliner Zeitung claims to have seen a confidential transcript of the questioning of a BND official by the committee at the beginning of February, during which the loss of the documents was mentioned. According to the testimony, at least one of the three German intelligence agents who visited Kurnaz in Guantánamo in September 2002 had read the CIA transcripts in preparation for the trip.

Another BND official, who is acting as an advisor to the parliamentary committee, said that the intelligence agency had no idea of the whereabouts of the transcripts. "With respect to these documents, unfortunately I have to say: We don’t know what happened. The agency moved from Munich to Berlin and during the move a considerable number of files were destroyed. Unfortunately we don’t know what precisely happened to these files."

The missing files include transcripts of over two dozen interrogations of Kurnaz by CIA agents between February and the summer of 2002. They are vital for the work of the committee in order to clarify how much the German intelligence agencies and the German government knew about the alleged danger posed by Kurnaz.

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is currently under intense pressure to explain why the German government prevented Kurnaz's release in 2002 when it was offered by the Americans. At the time, Steinmeier was chief of staff to Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and was closely involved in the case. He has defended himself by saying that Kurnaz was deemed a security threat by Germany.

However, the BND officials who were questioned in February by the parliamentary committee have contradicted this account, saying that neither they nor the Americans could find any evidence to link Kurnaz to terrorists or terrorist organizations. Steinmeier is due to appear before the parliamentary committee on March 8.

smd/spiegel/afp/dpa

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