Thursday, November 03, 2005

A New European Gulag

We've known for quite some time that the CIA was operating its own secret prison network, in which terrorist suspects were arbitrarily and indefinitely detained, and even tortured, to further the interests of the US's "war on terror". What we haven't known - with the exception of Guantanamo and a few facilities in Afghanistan - is where they are. Today, the Washington Post has a major article shedding more light on the CIA's private gulag. And the biggest shock is where it's located:

The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.

The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.


The Eastern European countries that the CIA has persuaded to hide al Qaeda captives are democracies that have embraced the rule of law and individual rights after decades of Soviet domination. Each has been trying to cleanse its intelligence services of operatives who have worked on behalf of others -- mainly Russia and organized crime.

So, having struggled for fifty years to bring human rights to Eastern Europe, the CIA is now undoing all of that. Wonderful.

The Washington Post knows which countries are involved, but aren't naming names on the request of the Bush administration, who argue that "disclosure might disrupt counterterrorism efforts in those countries". Given that they admit that the CIA's internment practices and "enhanced interrogation techniques" (such as waterboarding) are illegal in several of the host countries, that's hardly surprising. Public exposure has already forced the closure of the Thai centre, and that's in a country where torture is rife; imagine what would happen in a decent country. The closure of the torture-centre is the least of their worries; people would be prosecuted...

And there's no question that people deserve to go to jail over this. The Washington Post's sources talk candidly about the use of "interrogation" techniques that would be easily recognisable to Torquemada. And they've already led to at least one verifiable death:

The largest CIA prison in Afghanistan was code-named the Salt Pit. It was also the CIA's substation and was first housed in an old brick factory outside Kabul. In November 2002, an inexperienced CIA case officer allegedly ordered guards to strip naked an uncooperative young detainee, chain him to the concrete floor and leave him there overnight without blankets. He froze to death, according to four U.S. government officials. The CIA officer has not been charged in the death.

The US is used to be a decent country. It has laws on its books outlawing torture by US nationals anywhere in the world (see 18 USC 113C - AKA the federal anti-torture statute). It is long past time they actually started applying them.


I'd love to know how this story was uncovered. So much for secrecy.

Posted by Muerk : 11/03/2005 10:48:00 AM

The CIA leaked it out of disgust. Read the last page...

I really want to know which parts of "New Europe" are colluding in this, and its shameful that the WP chose not to reveal the information.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 11/03/2005 12:54:00 PM

I got that it was leaked, I just would love the details of that leak. I should have been more specific.

And I too agree with you re: not specifying the countries with the underground CIA prisons. I don't think it's shameful of WP exactly, but I do think it stinks of some very serious pressure applied and that's shameful.

I wonder what the EU makes of all this.

Posted by Muerk : 11/03/2005 02:05:00 PM