Wojciech Czuchnowsk – 2008-09-06 21:06:13
Ostatnia aktualizacja (September 5, 2008) — Politicians of almost all parties in Poland have kept denying whether the CIA illegally held terrorists in secret prisons in Poland.
The first to report about secret Central Intelligence Agency prisons in Europe where alleged Al Qaeda members were held was the Washington Post on 2 November 2005. The story was based on anonymous sources within the CIA.
From Press Reports to Official Inquiries
The history of the article’s publication (Dana Priest won a Pulitzer for it) is dramatic. President George W. Bush intervened when the newspaper was to go to print, asking for certain details — the names of the countries where the detention centres were located, and the names of the prisoners — to be withheld.
On 7 November, Human Rights Watch, the human rights organisation, said the prisoners had been held in Poland and Romania, among other places. In December, ABC News reported the names of twelve terrorists who had supposedly been held in Poland, among them Khalid Sheik Mohammad, the mastermind of the World Trade Centre attack.
At the same time, European press reported on a whole ‘global network of secret CIA prisons’, mentioning countries not only in Europe, but also in Africa and the Middle East. Newspapers wrote about EU governments cooperating with the Americans and handing terrorist suspects over to them. The whole story was presented in Ewa Ewart’s BBC documentary about secret landings of CIA airplanes in Europe. EU institutions started investigating the matter.
Three reports were drawn up confirming the prisons’ existence in Poland and Romania: the Council of Europe’s (June 2006), the European Parliament’s (November 2006), and the European Commission’s (November 2007). All three were based on circumstantial evidence and anonymous sources.
President Bush’s Admission
In September 2006, President George W. Bush admitted that the US had indeed used facilities in countries — members of the anti-terrorist alliance. He refused to name the countries. He denied whether the detainees had been tortured.
Poland was named most emphatically by the New York Times in a June 2008 report that described in detail the interrogations at the military intelligence training centre in Stare Kiejkuty in northeastern Poland. It even stated the name of one of the interrogators — Deuce Martinez.
The report’s author, Scott Shane, talked to a number of former CIA officers. According to them, the Polish prisons was ‘the most important one’ for the CIA. ‘Many’ Al Qaeda terrorists were held there for months.
According to the report’s author, Khalid Sheik Mohammad was tortured. Special interrogation tactics, such as sleep deprivation, frigid temperatures, fear, pain, simulated drowning – were used about one hundred times on Mr Muhammad over two weeks.
Europe Reprimands Poland
In Poland, politicians from all sides consistently denied the existence of alleged ‘CIA prisons’.
‘This is groundless slander’, then PM Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz (PiS) said in 2006.
‘No secret CIA prisons existed in Poland, whether during my term or before that’, President Lech Kaczy_ski stressed in June 2007.
‘Poland and the US have had long cooperated on intelligence matters. But the prisons never existed’, ex-president Aleksander Kwa_niewski reiterated last week.
Also Civic Platform deputies familiar with Polish-US intelligence cooperation joined in the denials. ‘This is an attempt to challenge the very basis of the fight against terrorism with lies’, deputy Pawe_ Gra_ said in 2006. PO-recommended MEP Barbara Kudrycka (presently the Minister of Science) successfully lobbied for the information about a ‘secret detention centre’ in Stare Kiejkuty to be removed from the European Parliament’s report.
Some Polish officials refused to testify before the Parliament’s committee of inquiry. The Polish government also refused to hand over a list of CIA-operated aircraft that landed in Szymany near Kiejkuty in 2002-2005.
The European Parliament committee said the Polish government had been ‘grossly’ uncooperative, and the delegation of the committee members had been ignored by both cabinet and parliament. The Polish press joined in the politicians’ denials, not doing much to find out whether the allegations were true, and in some cases actually defending the government’s position.
Both the politicians and the press were acting under the pressure of the argument that investigating the matter more closely could expose Poland to a terrorist attack.
Today, they repeat the argument in unofficial conversations, but they admit that, following the Europarl and global media reports, continuing to hide the truth makes no sense.
Zbigniew Siemitkowski, head of the Intelligence Agency in the SLD administration in 2002-2004, as one of few Polish politicians, has inside knowledge about what went on in Kiejkuty. He appeared before the Europarl committee, but testified that the agency he headed has done nothing illegal.
Today he also says he is sworn to secrecy. ‘And that’s what I’ll tell the prosecutors too’, he tells Gazeta.
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