U.S. Interrogations Are Saving European Lives, Rice Says
By JOEL BRINKLEY
Published: December 6, 2005
BERLIN, Dec. 5 - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chastised European
leaders on Monday, saying that before they complain about secret jails for
terror suspects in European nations, they should realize that interrogations
of these suspects have produced information that helped "save European lives
Skip to next paragraph
Pool photo by J. Scott Applewhite
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice read a prepared statement to reporters
before flying to Europe from the Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland.
Video: Condoleezza Rice Defends Tactics
Her remarks were the Bush administration's official response to the reports
of a network of secret detention centers in at least eight European nations,
said to house dozens of terror suspects.
At the same time, she denied that the United States has moved suspects to
these prisons to allow interrogators to use torture. "The United States,"
she said, "does not permit, tolerate or condone torture under any
circumstances." At another point, she said, "The United States does not
transport and has not transported detainees from one country to another for
the purpose of interrogation using torture."
Intelligence gathered from these interrogations, she said, "has stopped
terrorist attacks and saved innocent lives in Europe as well as the United
States." But she declined to offer examples or provide any specific
information to support her assertions. She said any information related to
the prisons was classified. Ms. Rice did not explicitly confirm the
existence of the detention centers, first described in news reports early
last month. But acknowledgment of them was implicit in her remarks. Without
the debate over the covert jails, there would have been no reason for her
"We must bring terrorists to justice wherever possible," she said, "but
there have been many cases where the local government cannot detain or
prosecute a suspect, and traditional extradition is not a good option."
"In those cases," she added, "the local government can make the sovereign
choice to cooperate in" the transfer of a suspect to a third country, which
is known as a rendition.
"Sometimes," she added, "these efforts are misunderstood."
Officials from the White House, State Department and Central Intelligence
Agency labored over Ms. Rice's statement for days and said it would serve as
the basis of the government's official answer to an inquiry from the
European Union - one of a half dozen under way.
Ms. Rice offered her remarks to reporters early Monday, at Andrews Air Force
Base, before setting off for a trip to Europe. The timing, she said later,
was not coincidental. She wanted to issue the statement "before I go to
Europe so if there are questions I can answer them."
Her five-day trip will take her to Germany, Belgium, Ukraine and Romania.
Analyses of flight records of United States government aircraft have
suggested that Romania may have been the site of one covert detention center
but Romanian officials have said that no such facility existed. Ms. Rice
arrived in Berlin too late Monday night to meet with any German officials or
to gauge any reaction to her remarks in Washington.
According to a report Monday night on ABC News, which could not be confirmed
current and former C.I.A. Officers say that 11 top Qaeda suspects have been
moved from secret C.I.A. Prisons in Europe to a new C.I.A. Facility in the
North African desert.
Administration officials, including Ms. Rice on Monday, have repeatedly
maintained since the reports about the secret prisons began that the
government is abiding by American law and international agreements. "We are
respecting U.S. Law and U.S. Treaty obligations," she said several times on
Monday. "And we are respecting other nations' sovereignty."
That is a change in the position of the Bush administration, which has
repeatedly maintained in recent years that American law does not apply to
prisoners held abroad. That is one reason some terror suspects were taken to
Guant�namo Bay in Cuba and to other foreign locations.
Asked about that conflict while speaking to reporters on her plane, Ms. Rice
did not answer directly and instead repeated her statement about respecting
American laws and obligations.
Following the reports of a secret detention policy, the administration has
come under criticism from the United Nations, at least two arms of the
European Union and several European countries. The Europeans say the secret
detention centers would be illegal in their countries. Jack Straw, the
British foreign secretary, wrote Ms. Rice on behalf of the European Union
last week, seeking an explanation.
In Congress, Democrats are calling for an investigation of the prisons and
the treatment of suspects held there, while Republicans are pushing for an
inquiry to determine who in the government leaked the information to the
News reports over the last month have said the C.I.A. began holding dozens
of terror suspects in secret prisons in Europe shortly after Sept. 11. While
the administration has not confirmed the reports, it has also not denied
The mistreatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq as well as
the ongoing debate over the imprisonment of terror suspects at Guant�namo,
have raised questions among Europeans and human rights organizations about
the treatment of suspects held in the C.I.A. facilities, where no one can
visit them or check on their treatment.
Ms. Rice insisted she could not confirm the existence of secret prisons
because that would involve discussion of classified activities. "One of the
difficult issues in this new kind of conflict is what to do with captured
individuals who we know or believe to be terrorists," she said. Many are
essentially stateless, owing their allegiance to the extremist cause of
On her plane later, Ms. Rice expressed impatience with the spiraling
investigations and inquiries.
"Democracies are going to debate these things," she said. "But they need to
debate them not just on one side of the issue - that is, how the actual
activities are being carried out." They should also consider, "are we doing
everything we can to protect innocent lives?"