By Humphrey Carter THE on-going investigations into the activities of CIA snatch squads in Europe by European governments and the media in the United States have revealed not only the identities of some 69 CIA agents involved but also their training and spending patterns.

According to the Chicago Tribune and information it has ascertained from Spanish and Italian police, CIA agents involved in the suspect covert “rendition” operations (the alleged snatching of terrorist suspects and transportation on private jets through European airports to holding camps for questioning) spent small fortunes in either the build up to an operation or on rest and recuperation breaks in between missions.

While CIA planes are known to have used Palma airport on at least 10 occasions last year, it has yet to be confirmed whether or not the planes were carrying CIA “prisoners.”

The Bush administration has assured Spain that none of the planes stopping in Palma and elsewhere in Spain had prisoners on board, that they had not infringed Spanish law and that the Majorca stop overs were to re-fuel flying to and from the United States.

However, according to the Tribune both a Boeing 737 and a Gulfstream jeet which used Palma were involved with two alleged rendition operations.
The 737 was apparently used in January last year when a rendition team collected a Kuwaiti-born German, Khalid el-Masri, and flew him to Afghanistan while the Gulfstream was used to pick up a Muslim preacher called Abu Omar in Italy and fly him to Cairo.

What is more, according to the Guardia Civil, the 737 spent five days in Palma in April 2004 before departing for Libya. Another two Majorca stop overs lasted three days, there were five two-day visits and three others that lasted a day and a night and the CIA teams spent much of their time staying at two of Palma's most luxurious hotels.

In fact, Milan and Palma appeared to be the CIA's special operations teams' favourite rest stops. It appears that the CIA operatives on the rendition missions were allowed to run up bills way over the permitted budget in places like Palma because they were some of the agency's most experienced members. The CIA drew on experts from its paramilitary unit which is largely made up of former Special Forces, serving CIA intelligence officers as well specialists in surveillance, communications and behavioural sciences to form its special operations teams used to fly around the world on board a fleet of “private” CIA aircraft apparently picking up wanted suspects.