Washington, Jan. 16: The truth about Anita Uddaiya being flown to the US for questioning may never be known, but her story certainly fits a pattern of illegal rendition of foreign nationals to CIA-run prisons and ghost flights by the intelligence agency that have been a feature of the Bush presidency since the September 11 attacks on America.
Practices by the CIA similar to what Uddaiya, who claims to have seen the terrorists land on November 26, has narrated in Mumbai have caused serious tensions in recent years between the US and its allies such as Germany, Canada and Italy.
But the Bush administration has steadfastly refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing and has persisted with such operations that are clearly illegal under international law.
Sources here that would be in the know if Uddaiyas story is true are not saying anything either on the record or on background about her version of events. But significantly, they are not denying the incident either.
In the most famous case similar to Uddaiyas under the Bush presidency, the police in Macedonia enabled Americans to seize 41-year-old Khaled al-Masri, a German citizen in 2004.
If Uddaiyas story is true, authorities in Mumbai would have been similarly complicit in enabling the Americans to abduct an Indian citizen and fly her out of the country for interrogation.
According to Masri, he was guilty of nothing more than having had a fight with his German wife, after which he headed to the Macedonian border with the intention of crossing over to Albania.
Masri had the misfortune of being an Arab and born in Kuwait, enough grounds five years ago in American eyes to be a terrorist suspect.
He was initially held for three weeks in the Macedonian capital, Skopje, and later flown by the CIA to a prison in Afghanistan. Masri has subsequently deposed that he was beaten, handcuffed, blindfolded and drugged during his interrogation. Of course, in Uddaiyas case, if her story is true, none of this would have been necessary since she was not a terrorist suspect, but merely a witness.
According to The Washington Post, which subsequently detailed the Masri case, the CIA concluded after five months that they had simply made a mistake.
He was flown back to the Balkans, dumped close to where he was found, and told by the US agents to make his way back to Germany.
In 2007, after an investigation announced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and another probe by a committee of the Bundestag, prosecutors in Berlin issued arrest warrants for 13 CIA operatives linked to the kidnapping of their citizen. Of course, the CIA agents will never be brought to book.
In another famous case, the Canadian government agreed two years ago to pay nearly $9 million to Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was seized by US officials at JFK airport in 2002.
After being interrogated for several days, Arar was put on a CIA-hired private jet, shackled, bound, and flown to Syria, where he was tortured for 10 months before being rescued by the Canadian government.