Saturday, 13 December 2014

Governments red-faced over ‘black site’ expose

US Senate report on CIA torture scheme sparks denials

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Guanyu said...

Governments red-faced over ‘black site’ expose

US Senate report on CIA torture scheme sparks denials

13 December 2014

Three days after the planes ploughed into New York’s tallest towers, a secret message went out to CIA stations overseas. Start making a list of potential detention sites, it said.

In time, the Central Intelligence Agency would establish a clandestine archipelago of “black sites” in countries including Thailand, Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania.

A long-awaited report by the Senate Intelligence Committee released this week details how the CIA selected the prison sites, the multi-million-dollar inducement payments it made to countries that hosted them, as well as the extent to which their locations were kept secret from US ambassadors, Congress and even the president.

The initial call for “input on appropriate locations for potential CIA detention facilities” was issued on Sept 14, 2001, at the direction of Mr Cofer Black, who was chief of the agency’s Counter-terrorism Centre in the years leading up to the attacks.

The agency’s first black site would be in Thailand. It was set up to interrogate the recently-captured Al-Qaeda facilitator Abu Zubaida. But the decision was made without input from the National Security Council at the White House, the State Department, the US ambassador in Thailand or even the CIA’s station chief in that country.

The decision to bypass so many layers set a precedent the CIA would follow repeatedly. The Thailand site was approved by then President George W. Bush, according to the Senate study, but it would be “the last location of a CIA detention facility known to the president or vice-president”.

Almost immediately, there were tensions with the Thai government.

The Thai officials who had approved the CIA plan were suddenly replaced by others who objected to the deal and demanded that it be closed “within three weeks”. CIA lobbying got Thai officials to relent, but by November, the information had leaked.

The CIA closed the Thailand site in December 2002, after getting no significant new information from Abu Zubaida despite harsh interrogation.

On Thursday, however, a senior Thai official flatly rejected the “black site” claim. “Thai officials do not do these kind of actions,” said Mr Suwaphan Tanyuvardhan, a minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Abu Zubaida and another detainee were moved to a facility in Poland, hidden behind a two-storey villa on a Polish military training base north of Warsaw.

Other prison locations include the basement of a government building in Bucharest, and a riding stable in Lithuania. Detainees were moved from site to site, as the agency sought to hide the facilities’ locations and true purposes from officials overseas and in Washington.

The Senate report also cited other cases in which the CIA struck deals to build secret prisons in additional countries and instructed foreign officials “not to inform the US ambassador there”. To smooth ruptures with host governments, the CIA doled out millions of dollars in subsidies.

After Sept 11, the CIA took custody of 119 detainees. At the start of 2006, it had 28 left at just two remaining sites - in Afghanistan and Lithuania.

The agency released some of its remaining prisoners to at least nine countries. It then moved the rest to Cuba shortly before President Bush publicly acknowledged the programme for the first time on Sept 6, 2006, and declared the black sites empty.

Separately, Malaysia’s Special Branch director has denied that the country was involved “extraordinary rendition”, or secret detention and moving suspects to undisclosed prisons, as revealed by the Senate report.

Cooperation with the CIA is restricted to information sharing and training, Datuk Seri Akhil Bulat was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insider yesterday.