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CIA uses secret prisons abroad: report
Updated: 2005-11-03 07:32

The CIA has been hiding and interrogating al Qaeda captives at a secret facility in Eastern Europe, part of a covert global prison system that has included sites in eight countries and was set up after the September 11, 2001, attacks, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

The secret network included "several democracies in Eastern Europe" as well as Thailand and Afghanistan, the newspaper reported, but it did not publish the names of the European countries at the request of senior U.S. officials.

U.S. government officials declined comment on the report, which was likely to stir up fresh criticism of the Bush administration's treatment of prisoners in its declared war on terrorism since the September 11 attacks.

Russia and Bulgaria immediately denied any facility was there. Thailand also denied it was host to such a facility.

U.S. national security adviser Stephen Hadley would not comment directly, but said President George W. Bush had made clear the United States fought terrorism while respecting the law, and investigated allegations of misconduct.

"While we have to do what is necessary to defend the country against terrorists and to win the war on terror, the president has been very clear that we're going to do that in a way that is consistent with our values and that is why he has been very clear that the United States will not torture," Hadley said.

The newspaper, which said its report was based on information from U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement, said the existence and locations of the facilities were known only to a handful of American officials and, usually, only to the president and a few top intelligence officers in each host country.

The CIA has not acknowledged the existence of a secret prison network, the newspaper said.

Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, principal deputy to Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte, declined to comment when asked about the report at a news conference in San Antonio where he delivered a speech about intelligence reforms.

"I'm not here to talk about that," he said.


The Bush administration's policy toward prisoners taken in Afghanistan and Iraq has come under heavy criticism at home and abroad. Inmate abuse at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison was strongly condemned in the Muslim world and among U.S. allies while many have called for more openness about those being held at a U.S. navy base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The Bush administration also faced problems at home. Last month the Senate approved 90-9 an amendment to regulate the Pentagon's handling of detainees with rules for interrogation and treatment, despite strong White House opposition.

Democrats used the new report to attack Bush's policy toward detainees.

"I'm troubled by it," said Sen. Richard Durbin (news, bio, voting record), the second ranking Democrat in the Senate. "It's another element of this administration's policy and the treatment of detainees and prisoners which I'm afraid will come back to haunt us at a future time."

Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee have pushed for more than a year for review of CIA detention, interrogation and the practice of "rendition," under which detainees are snatched from countries abroad and delivered to foreign intelligence services. Democrats say their efforts have been stymied by the Republican majority in the Senate.

"This is one more important area where we're lacking in congressional oversight," said Wendy Morigi, spokeswoman for Sen. John Rockefeller (news, bio, voting record) of West Virginia, the senior Democrat on the committee.


According to the Washington Post, the prisons are referred to as "black sites" in classified U.S. documents and virtually nothing is known about who the detainees are, how they are interrogated or how long they will be held.

About 30 major terrorism suspects have been held at black sites while more than 70 other detainees, considered less important, were sent to foreign intelligence services under rendition, the paper said, citing U.S. and foreign intelligence sources.

The top 30 al Qaeda prisoners are isolated from the outside world, have no recognized legal rights and no one outside the CIA is allowed to talk with or see them, the sources told the newspaper.

The Post, citing several former and current intelligence and other U.S. government officials, said the CIA used such detention centers abroad because in the United States it is illegal to hold prisoners in such isolation.

The paper said it was not publishing the names of the Eastern European countries involved in the covert program at the request of senior U.S. officials who said disclosure could disrupt counterterrorism efforts or make the host countries targets for retaliation.

The secret detention system was conceived shortly after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, when the assumption was another strike was imminent, the report said.

Russia's FSB security service and Bulgaria's foreign ministry denied such facilities existed on their territory. Thai government spokesman Surapong Suebwonglee said, "There is no fact in the unfounded claims."

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