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Council of Europe backs up CIA terror camp allegations

Swiss prosecutor Dick Marty has named and shamed those he believes are responsible for allowing secret CIA detention centres in Romania – but the allegations have met with a wall of denial
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     Secret CIA detention facilities of terrorist suspects existed in Romania and Poland between 2003 and 2005, according to a second Council of Europe report to assess allegations of human rights violations, compiled by Swiss prosecutor Dick Marty.
     But all the Romanian political figures named by the report, except President Traian Basescu, have denied the accusations.
     President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso also called the evidence in the document “insufficient”, in an interview with Reuters.
     These detention camps were part of a CIA programme established by the US administration to kill, capture and detain high value terrorist suspects, alleges Marty.
     These activities were unlawful in the USA, so the CIA propositioned some of its strongest allies to outsource its enhanced interrogation of terrorist suspects on foreign soil. They chose Poland and Romania, alleges the report.
     The US Army has a strong bond with these two countries. There is a proposition for a US missile defence shield in the works for Poland and operational American army bases are now present near the Black Sea coast in Romania.
     The report implies that the USA used Romania and Poland as platforms for its torture of terror suspects, rather than undertake this at home.
     Marty has gathered the information from separate “well-placed” sources directly involved in around or with influence over negotiations that led to bilateral arrangements.
     But no individual went on the record to supply information on the so-called ‘black sites’.
     There is also no testimony from any inmates of the alleged camps, or from any CIA agents who interrogated or “tortured” terrorist suspects in Romania or Poland. Marty has also not seen texts of any agreements.
     Marty is not specific on who he suspects the detainees were, but many are suspected to be associates of the Taliban leaders or insurgents from the Iraqi and Afghan conflicts.
     The report does not mention the location of the secret detention centre. It only states that it was a protected zone which no Romanians could enter. The outer perimeter of the areas was between Tulcea and Constanta with 50 km to the east and west. He suspects Mihail Kogalniceanu air base.
     The prosecutor said that local authorities performed purely “logistical” duties such as securing a perimeter around the detention centre. Poland and Romania provided premises, security and secrecy and guaranteed they would not interference.
     One US source quoted in the report gives the impression the military and leadership were motivated by investment cash. “It means a lot if Romanians are gonna get their runways improved, new barracks built and new military hardware,” the individual told Marty.
     In Romania, Marty alleges the activity took place between 2003 and the second half of 2005, with most activity taking place in 2004. The country hosted 'lower intelligence value' terrorist suspects than Poland, but the agency still considered it worthwhile to pursue further investigations of them – including some from Afghanistan.
     On why Poland and Romania were chosen, one high level east European politician involved in programme said: “We are the only two countries who are truly pro-western. But now we are in danger of being seen as an experiment.”
     The Swiss prosecutor paints a picture of a military intelligence system and President that bent over to accommodate every last desire the CIA could anticipate.
     The report suggests that Romania's domestic and foreign intelligence services (the SRI and SIE) may have been kept out of the loop and that the CIA dealt directly with military intelligence and the Presidency.
     He alleges that the CIA spoke to the General Directorate for Defence Intelligence (DGIA) and its sub-unit, the Directorate for Information and Military Representation (DIRM), known as the J2 unit.
     The Romanian Ministry of Defence rejected the accusations.
     The head of the J2 between 2003 and 2005 was General Lieutenant Sergiu Medar, who was a defence attache in Washington DC between 1992 and 1999 and subsequently presidential counsellor to Traian Basescu.
     Marty attacks as responsible for the decision, Medar, Presidents Ion Iliescu and Traian Basescu, Minister of Defence Ioan Pascu (between 2003 and 2004) and Ioan Talpes, presidential advisor on national security issues until the end of 2004.
     The report says that Talpes guided President Iliescu on every decision and issue regarding NATO harmonisation and bilateral relations with the US. Marty “suggested” that Talpes initiated the idea of making facilities on Romanian soil available for US agencies for activities on the war on terror.
     Medar said the report was “totally unprofessional and based on pure speculation” and Talpes called the accusations “stupid”.
     Meanwhile, Pascu asked Marty to “produce his proof or apologise”.
     Former President Ion Iliescu said the allegations were “irresponsible and fantastic”.
     "I didn't receive any information or requests while I was President,” he told RFI Romania.
     Romanians seemed to be willing to work with the Americans and accept honours for their part. “From those involved in the programme... at least one high level group of delegates [who worked in Military Intelligence] from Bucharest accepted personal thanks from President Bush in the Oval office,” reads the report.
     Perhaps the boldest accusation is that Marty suggests that assistance in allowing the USA to hold prisoners on Romanian territory was one of the deciding factors in securing the country's NATO membership, which happened in 2004.
     The US made an appeal to Romania offering “formidable US support” for Romania’s NATO accession as the “biggest prize” in exchange for their help on the so-called War on Terror – the report alleges.
     That Romania traded NATO membership for secret prisons is a potentially embarrassing admission, ahead of the nation’s preparations to hold a NATO summit and President Bush himself in 2008.
     The story on the secret terror camps was broken by the Washington Post in late 2005. Officials told the newspaper that enhanced interrogation techniques, including torture, took place in east European countries that were no longer under Soviet influence. In December 2005, ABC News quoted current and former CIA officers saying that the two CIA secret prisons had been shut down in November 2005, although it could only confirm that these were situated in eastern Europe.
     The officers told the news agency that 11 top Al Qaeda suspects were moved to a new CIA facility in the North African desert.

By Michael Bird

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