CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons

Hardly surprising but doesn’t help much:

The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.

The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.

5 thoughts on “CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons”

  1. Not sure what you mean by “doesn’t help much”? These secret prisons may be a great help in the war on terror. How do we know?

    Also, do you think anyone will be prosecuted for this leak to the Washington Post? (I doubt it too.) This seems a much more serious leak than was the Valerie Plame leak.

  2. Sorry John, I meant in terms of the perception of the US from the rest of the world. Though not that that seems to matter much to the current administration.

    Yup I doubt it..

  3. Not sure what you mean by “doesn’t help much�? These secret prisons may be a great help in the war on terror. How do we know?

    I notice Dickie Waghorne had the same line on Iraq the other day. Iraq may in fact be going swimmingly and be safer than California. How do we know?

    Presumably by coming back to reality. The CIA isn’t running secret facilities just for the hell of it. What’s going on in these places, that they need to hide them from the world? Who’s being held there?

    Also, do you think anyone will be prosecuted for this leak to the Washington Post? (I doubt it too.) This seems a much more serious leak than was the Valerie Plame leak.


  4. In his NY Times article “At a Secret Interrogation, Dispute Flared Over Tactics” dated September 10, 2006 [], David Johnston relied on a Thai military intelligence officer as a primary source, and identified one pivotal figure who was responsible for clearing the extraordinary rendition of Abu Zubaydah to Thailand from Pakistan where he had been seriously wounded and arrested, as well as the tactics used in his interrogation.

    The Thai source indicated that within days, Mr. Zubaydah was being subjected to coercive interrogation techniques — he was stripped, held in an icy room and jarred by earsplittingly loud music — the genesis of practices later adopted by some within the military, and widely used by the Central Intelligence Agency in handling prominent terrorism suspects at secret overseas prisons.

    The rendition itself, and the tactics used to “break” Zubaydah were first cleared by a prominent American lawyer resident in Thailand in private practice but also covertly working with CIA and Department of Justice officials on the thorny legal issue in respect of how best to extract information from Zubaydah while still affording him at least colorable protections under the Geneva Convention.

    The lawyer works under non-official cover as a well-known intellectual property rights attorney in one of Bangkok largest and oldest law firms. He was originally called in to mediate between FBI and CIA officials because the interrogation of Mr. Zubaydah was fraught with sharp disputes, debates about the legality and utility of harsh interrogation methods, and a rupture between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the C.I.A. that has yet to heal.

    According to accounts by three former intelligence officials, the C.I.A. understood that the legal foundation for its role had been spelled out in a sweeping classified directive signed by Mr. Bush on Sept. 17, 2001. The directive, known as a memorandum of notification, authorized the C.I.A. for the first time to capture, detain and interrogate terrorism suspects, providing the foundation for what became its secret prison system. The Bangkok-based lawyer delivered a broad interpretation of the directive and advocated that the CIA use questionable tactics to “break” the witness and extract information from him.

    After Mr. Zubaydah’s capture, a C.I.A. interrogation team was dispatched from the agency’s counterterrorism center to take the lead in his questioning, former law enforcement and intelligence officials said, and F.B.I. agents were withdrawn. The group included the American lawyer, who had been an agency consultant schooled in the harsher interrogation procedures to which American special forces are subjected in their training. Three former intelligence officials said the techniques had been drawn up on the basis of legal guidance from the Justice Department, but were not yet supported by a formal legal opinion.

    In Thailand, the new C.I.A. team concluded that under standard questioning Mr. Zubaydah was revealing only a small fraction of what he knew, and decided that more aggressive techniques were warranted.

    At times, Mr. Zubaydah, still weak from his wounds, was stripped and placed in a cell without a bunk or blankets. He stood or lay on the bare floor, sometimes with air-conditioning adjusted so that, one official said, Mr. Zubaydah seemed to turn blue. At other times, the interrogators piped in deafening blasts of music by groups like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Sometimes, the interrogator would use simpler techniques, entering his cell to ask him to confess.

    “You know what I want,” the interrogator would say to him, according to one official’s account, departing leaving Mr. Zubaydah to brood over his answer.

    F.B.I. agents on the scene angrily protested the more aggressive approach, arguing that persuasion rather than coercion had succeeded. But leaders of the C.I.A. interrogation team were convinced that tougher tactics were warranted and said that the methods had been authorized by senior lawyers at the White House.

    The agents appealed to their superiors but were told that the intelligence agency was in charge, the officials said. One law enforcement official who was aware of events as they occurred reacted with chagrin. “When you rough these guys up, all you do is fulfill their fantasies about what to expect from us,” the official said.

    Whatever the legalities involved, the tactics worked as Mr. Zubaydah had revealed what turned out to be important information, identifying Khalid Shaikh Mohammed — from a photo on a hand-held computer — as the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Zubaydah also identified Jose Padilla, an American citizen who has been charged with terrorism-related crimes.

    What was said to be fascinating by the Thai source, speaking on condition of anonymity, was that the American lawyer would recommend interruption of the harshest interrogation techniques with seemingly small and random acts of kindness, such as offering Zubaydah a Twix candy bar in the middle of rather tense sessions. Ultimately, it was the offer of sweets, combined with the constant exposure to deafening Red Hot Chili Peppers’ music, a favorite band of the lawyer, that caused Mr Aubaydah to cooperate.

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