CIA torture haunts America’s European Allies


Across Europe, countries are assessing the ghosts of the past to gauge to what extent their governments and spies were implicit in the CIA torture scandal.

A powerful British parliamentary committee will ask the United States to hand over redacted parts of the report into the CIA released last week. It’s likely to be the first in a long line of European authorities assessing the report.

If parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) saw evidence of such behaviour, it could summon politicians from the left-leaning Labour party, such as former prime minister Tony Blair, who were in power at the time, its chairman, the former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind, said.

He said there was a need to establish whether British spies were complicit in torture or rendition.
“If British intelligence officials were present when people were being tortured, then they were complicit in that torture,” Sir Malcolm told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show.

“That would be quite against all the standards of this country. It would be something that ought to be brought into the public domain.”

The report by the US Senate Intelligence Committee found that the CIA had misled the White House and the public about the extent of its torture of detainees after the September 11 attacks.

Its publication has already raised uncomfortable questions in Poland and other countries identified as being involved in the program about how much their leaders knew.

The British government said it had asked the United States to keep parts of the report referring to UK intelligence activity secret on national security grounds. It insisted it was not covering up anything embarrassing.

Britain’s foreign and domestic security services, known as MI6 and MI5, have for years been accused of colluding in the ill-treatment of suspected militants.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) John Brennan

But the heads of MI5 and MI6 have repeatedly said they would never use torture to gain information, and ministers have also denied knowledge of sending suspects to face torture abroad.

However, a Libyan dissident asserts he and his pregnant wife were kidnapped by US forces in 2004 with the help of MI6 and handed over to Muammar Gaddafi’s government, which tortured him.

A Pakistani man also says he was waterboarded by British special forces in Iraq in 2004, and a former Labour security minister says there may have been “the odd case” when British spies knew of US torture.

Kamil Shah Prisioner

Sir Malcolm said his committee would be asking both the US Senate and the US government to give it access to the relevant parts of the report into the CIA as part of its own inquiry into the work of Britain’s intelligence services.

Poland reviews its rendition role

The disclosure of details about the CIA’s brutal interrogation program could provide new leads for Polish prosecutors investigating how much Poland’s leaders at the time knew about a secret jail the agency was running in a Polish forest.

Former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski, at a joint news conference with former prime minister Leszek Miller, said on Wednesday that he knew about a so-called “black site” for interrogating al-Qaeda suspects, which was based in Poland.

He said the CIA had denied Polish officials access to the site, a villa on the grounds of a Polish intelligence training academy.

He said that while he and Mr Miller knew people were detained there, they were told the detainees were cooperating willingly with US intelligence and would be treated as prisoners of war.

Lawyers for former detainees say however that even if the detainees were treated as prisoners of war – which the lawyers dispute – it is illegal to detain anyone in secret, and Poland had a legal obligation to prevent this happening.

The report’s publication is giving rise to uncomfortable questions in countries that hosted the “black sites” and may complicate future security cooperation with the United States.

“Based on information in the media, the public statements from Mr Kwasniewski and Mr Miller suggest the prosecutors certainly have reason to interview them,” said Mikolaj Pietrzak, a lawyer whose client, Adb al-Rahim al-Nashiri was held at the site.

“Statements they made recently indicate for the first time that they knew people were being held at the site.”

There is already a Polish investigation, launched in 2008, under way into allegations by three men – Mr al-Nashiri, Abu Zubaydah and Walid Bin Attash – that they were held illegally and abused at the CIA facility.

Prosecutors have never revealed who was under investigation. A source close to the investigation has told Reuters it is aimed at Polish officials.

The United States itself has not launched any prosecutions of CIA operatives or others who were involved in the agency’s now-defunct interrogation program over their role.

Mr Kwasniewski said the then-government did what it believed was necessary to protect Poland’s national security. He said they sought assurances from the US that the detainees would be treated in accordance with the law, and asked Washington to close the facility when they became worried that this was not the case.

Questions in Romania and Lithuania

The release of the Senate report has also raised questions in Romania and Lithuania. Names of countries that hosted “black sites” were redacted in the report, but details in the report were consistent with other information relating to CIA detention sites in those countries.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius said on Wednesday he hoped parliament would re-open an investigation, and called on Washington to share relevant information.

A spokesman for Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta said in an email: ”The events mentioned in the US Senate Report about CIA had taken place approx. 10 years ago, under another leadership of Romania, the only one in the position to make comments/statement about these events.”

In addition to the Polish investigation, lawyers for Mr Zubaydah and Mr al-Nashiri brought a case against Poland to the European Court of Human Rights. The court ruled Poland failed to meet its obligations under European law in the case, and ordered it to pay compensation. The Polish government is challenging the judgment.

Tomasz Siemoniak, Poland’s defence minister, told Polish television on Thursday there was a moral in the affair for Poland, one of Washington’s staunchest European allies: “Sometimes you have to say no, even to your best friend,” he said.


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