Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Secret CIA Prisons Moved From Europe to North Africa

Secret CIA Prisons Moved From Europe to North Africa
Secret CIA Prisons Moved From Europe to North Africa
Barbara Ferguson, Arab News

WASHINGTON, 7 December 2005 — The United States held captured Al-Qaeda suspects at two secret CIA prisons in eastern Europe until last month when the facilities were shut down after media reports of their existence, ABC News reported Monday, citing current and former CIA agents.

Eleven Al-Qaeda prisoners who were held in Eastern Europe were relocated “to a CIA site somewhere in North Africa,” say reports, adding that the US scrambled to get all of the suspects off European soil before US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived in Europe yesterday.

Germany, Hungary, Italy, Morocco, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden have all been used as prison “transit camps.” The US has neither confirmed nor denied the existence of the secret prisons, as reported by the Washington Post last month.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended US treatment of terrorism suspects before leaving for Europe, but would not respond to allegations that the CIA has run secret prisons in Eastern Europe. She insisted, however, that the US does not use torture.

The underlying question to all this remains: Why was this information of secret CIA prisons and flights leaked?

“Leaks usually happen for one of two reasons, either there is a deliberate effort to manipulate public opinion, so it’s done with the full sanction of the government authorities, or there is a fundamental policy disagreement on an issue, and those who think that the policy is wrong leak it,” said Larry Johnson, a former CIA intelligence officer and State Department Counter Terrorism officer. Johnson, who spoke to Arab News by telephone, said he believes the CIA officers involved with the secret prisons fear they may ultimately be held accountable for their actions.

“Valerie Plame’s leak is an example of the first kind; the CIA prison leak is an example of the second. Clearly some of those involved in this link are CIA officers who fear that they will ultimately be blamed as the master minds and implementers of this policy.

“The CIA does not set the policy. The president, the secretary of defense, and the vice president set the policy,” said Johnson. “The CIA implements the policy, but when they carry out a policy that runs afoul of international law, they feel vulnerable.”

The problem is accountability, he said. “Nobody in the White House or the Department of Defense, at a senior level, is being held responsible for these actions.”

Johnson said their vulnerability is not without reason: “The lesson of Abu Ghraib is: Don’t trust these guys to stand by their men.”

Recently the former commander of Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq, Brig Gen Janis Karpinski was demoted. Nine junior US soldiers also have been charged in connection with the abuse at the prison in late 2003, and seven of them have already been convicted. The verdict came at the end of a hearing in Kaiserslautern, Germany.

Another top US commander at Abu Ghraib also was recently reprimanded and fined $8,000. The US Army found Col. Thomas Pappas guilty of two counts of dereliction of duty, including that of allowing dogs to be present during interrogations. Col Pappas was in charge of military intelligence at the prison near Baghdad.

Aside from the vulnerability of CIA officers, Johnson said what is going on in prisons there “is reprehensible.”

Asked to comment on reports that the CIA prisons in eastern Europe have been closed and moved to North Africa, Johnson slammed the secret detainee prison policy.

“Shifting these prisons to Africa is reprehensible. It is incumbent upon the CIA officers to determine through interrogation on whether a person has knowledge or is a mere foot soldier who got caught up in the battle. If we start saying all things are justified, it would be difficult for us to make the moral argument that we are somehow different from the former Soviet Union or Communist China.”

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