Visit Citebite Deep link provided by Citebite
Close this shade

Terrorist suspects disappear in CIA's black sites

By Dana Priest in Washington
November 4, 2005

The CIA has refused to comment on reports that it has been hiding and interrogating al-Qaeda captives at secret prisons in eight countries including Thailand and Afghanistan.

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that several Eastern European countries are also believed to house the prisons, known as "black sites", but the names of those countries were withheld at "the request of senior US officials" who said the disclosure might disrupt counter-terrorism efforts in those countries and elsewhere.

The report, which quoted unnamed foreign and US officials, said the CIA had sent more than 100 suspects to the hidden global internment network. The figure was described as a rough estimate and did not include prisoners picked up from Iraq.

About 30 of the prisoners, considered important terrorism suspects, have been held at black sites financed and managed by the CIA in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. More than 70 less important prisoners have been handed over to intelligence services in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Afghanistan and other countries.

The US State Department has issued human rights reports accusing Egypt, Jordan and Morocco of abusing prisoners.

The CIA and the White House have dissuaded the US Congress from asking questions in open testimony about the prisons or their conditions. "Virtually nothing is known about who is kept in the facilities, what interrogation methods are employed with them, or how decisions are made about whether they should be detained or for how long," the paper said.

The covert prison system is "known only to a handful of officials in the United States and, usually, only to the President and a few top intelligence officers in each host country," said the newspaper, which pieced together the "contours" of the CIA detention program over the past two years.

The report went on to say that revelations of widespread prisoner abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq by the military had increased concern among legislators, foreign governments and human rights groups about the opaque CIA system. Such concerns escalated last month when the Vice-President, Dick Cheney, and the CIA director, Porter Goss, asked Congress to exempt CIA employees from legislation already endorsed by 90 senators that would ban cruel and degrading treatment of any prisoner in US custody.

Although the CIA would not acknowledge details of its system, intelligence officials defended the agency's approach, saying that the successful defence of the US requires that the CIA can hold and interrogate suspected terrorists for as long as necessary and without restrictions imposed by the US legal system or even by the military tribunals established for prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.

Two of the prison site locations in Thailand and in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were closed in 2003 and 2004, the report said. Thailand yesterday flatly denied the claims.

A spokesman for the Thai Government, Surapong Suebwonglee, described the report as "a completely groundless" story. "There is no secret al-Qaeda detention site here in Thailand," he said. "Thailand has never permitted detention of any single al-Qaeda suspect in the kingdom since the US Government began its hunt for members of the group in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, World Trade Centre attacks."

The Washington Post

Did you know you could pay less than $1 a day for a subscription to the Herald? Subscribe today.