by Stephen Grey
Friday June 8, 2007 The Guardian
The CIA operated secret prisons in Europe where terrorism suspects could be interrogated and were allegedly tortured, an official inquiry will conclude today.
Despite denials by their governments, senior Polish and Romanian security officials have confirmed to the Council of Europe that their countries were used to hold some of America’s most important prisoners captured after 9/11 in secret.
None of the prisoners had access to the Red Cross and many were subject to what George Bush has called the CIA’s “enhanced” interrogation, which critics have condemned as torture. Although suspicions about the secret CIA prisons have existed for more than a year, the council’s report, seen by the Guardian, appears to offer the first concrete evidence. It also details the prisons’ operations and the identities of some of the prisoners.
The council has also established that within weeks of the 9/11 attacks, Nato signed an agreement with the US that allowed civilian jets used by the CIA during its so-called extraordinary rendition programme to move across member states’ airspace. Its report states: “We have sufficient grounds to declare that the highest state authorities were aware of the CIA’s illegal activities on their territories.” The council’s investigators believe that agreement may have been illegal.
The full extent of British logistic support for the extraordinary rendition programme was first disclosed by the Guardian, which reported in September 2005 that aircraft operated by the CIA had flown in and out of UK civilian and military airports hundreds of times.
The 19-month inquiry by the council, which promotes human rights across Europe, was headed by Dick Marty, a Swiss senator and former state prosecutor. He said: “What was previously just a set of allegations is now proven: large numbers of people have been abducted from various locations across the world and transferred to countries where they have been persecuted and where it is known that torture is common practice.”
His report says there is “now enough evidence to state that secret detention facilities run by the CIA [existed] in Europe from 2003 to 2005, in particular in Poland and Romania”. Mr Marty has told Channel 4’s Dispatches, in a report to be broadcast on Monday, that the jails were run “directly and exclusively” by the CIA. This was only possible because of “collaboration at various institutional levels of America’s many partner countries”.
He succeeded in confirming details of the CIA’s prisons by using his own “intelligence methods”, which included tracking agents on both sides of the Atlantic, and persuading them to talk. Officials in Poland and Romania have repeatedly denied the existence of CIA facilities or the presence of detainees held by US authorities.
But Mr Marty concluded: “All the members and partners of Nato signed up to the same permissive – not to say illegal – terms that allowed CIA operations to permeate throughout the European continent and beyond …” There was no immediate comment from Nato.
· Stephen Grey presents Dispatches – Kidnapped to Order on Monday June 11 at 8pm on Channel 4.
by Stephen Grey