Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Much Bigger Leak to Worry About














The below article from the Washington Post fails to raise a few serious matters; If these are indeed Top Secret CIA prison facilities, than who leaked this secret CIA information to the press? The CIA was very quick to call for an investigation into who leaked the name of Valerie Plame, who was essentially a glorified pencil-pushing paper-shuffling desk clerk at the CIA offices in Washington, claiming that the revelation of her name was a serious "compromise of national security." On the other hand the public revelation of CIA secret prisons seems to me to be a far more serious matter, and a far greater damaging revelation to national security than the entire Joe Wilson - Valerie Plame affair, yet unlike the Plame affair, the CIA is not calling for an independent council to investigate who leaked this far more serious secret to the press. And why are the Democrats failing to call for an investigation into this leak?


THE WASHINGTON POST
“CIA accused of secretly imprisoning terror suspects”


The White House citing security concerns have dissuaded Congress from demanding that the agency answer questions about the conditions under which captives are held.


The hidden global internment network is a central element in the CIA’s unconventional war on terrorism.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al-Qaida captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to US and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.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.

The hidden global internment network is a central element in the CIA’s unconventional war on terrorism. It depends on the cooperation of foreign intelligence services, and on keeping even basic information about the system secret from the public, foreign officials and nearly all members of Congress charged with overseeing the CIA’s covert actions.

The existence and locations of the facilities – referred to as “black sites” in classified White House, CIA, Justice Department and congressional documents – are known to only a handful of officials in the United States and, usually, only to the president and a few top intelligence officers in each host country.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.


Abuse scandals

While the Defense Department has produced volumes of public reports and testimony about its detention practices and rules after the abuse scandals at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison and at Guantanamo Bay, the CIA has not even acknowledged the existence of its black sites. To do so, say officials familiar with the program, could open the US government to legal challenges, particularly in foreign courts, and increase the risk of political condemnation at home and abroad.

But the revelations of widespread prisoner abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq by the US military – which operates under published rules and transparent oversight of Congress – have increased concern among lawmakers, foreign governments and human rights groups about the opaque CIA system. Those concerns escalated last month, when Vice President Dick Cheney and CIA Director Porter Goss asked Congress to exempt CIA employees from legislation already endorsed by 90 senators that would bar cruel and degrading treatment of any prisoner in US custody.

Although the CIA will not acknowledge details of its system, intelligence officials defend the agency’s approach, arguing that the successful defense of the country requires that the agency be empowered to 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.

The Washington Post is not publishing the names of the Eastern European countries involved in the covert program, at the request of senior US officials. They argued that the disclosure might disrupt counterterrorism efforts in those countries and elsewhere and could make them targets of possible terrorist retaliation.

The secret detention system was conceived in the chaotic and anxious first months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when the working assumption was that a second strike was imminent.

Since then, the arrangement has been increasingly debated within the CIA, where considerable concern lingers about the legality, morality and practicality of holding even unrepentant terrorists in such isolation and secrecy, perhaps for the duration of their lives. Mid-level and senior CIA officers began arguing two years ago that the system was unsustainable and diverted the agency from its unique espionage mission.

“We never sat down, as far as I know, and came up with a grand strategy,” said one former senior intelligence officer who is familiar with the program but not the location of the prisons. “Everything was very reactive. That’s how you get to a situation where you pick people up, send them into a netherworld and don’t say, “What are we going to do with them afterwards?”

It is illegal for the government to hold prisoners in such isolation in secret prisons in the United States, which is why the CIA placed them overseas, according to several former and current intelligence officials and other US government officials. Legal experts and intelligence officials said that the CIA’s internment practices also would be considered illegal under the laws of several host countries, where detainees have rights to have a lawyer or to mount a defense against allegations of wrongdoing.


Secrecy surroundings

Host countries have signed the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as has the United States. Yet CIA interrogators in the overseas sites are permitted to use the CIA’s approved “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,” some of which are prohibited by the UN convention and by US military law. They include tactics such as “waterboarding,” in which a prisoner is made to believe he or she is drowning.

Some detainees apprehended by the CIA and transferred to foreign intelligence agencies have alleged after their release that they were tortured, although it is unclear whether CIA personnel played a role in the alleged abuse. Given the secrecy surrounding CIA detentions, such accusations have heightened concerns among foreign governments and human rights groups about CIA detention and interrogation practices.

The contours of the CIA’s detention program have emerged in bits and pieces over the past two years. Parliaments in Canada, Italy, France, Sweden and the Netherlands have opened inquiries into alleged CIA operations that secretly captured their citizens or legal residents and transferred them to the agency’s prisons.

More than 100 suspected terrorists have been sent by the CIA into the covert system, according to current and former US intelligence officials and foreign sources. This figure, a rough estimate based on information from sources who said their knowledge of the numbers was incomplete, does not include prisoners picked up in Iraq.

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