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Evidence Allegedly Found of Secret CIA Prisons in Europe

DW staff / AFP (tt)January 9, 2006

Swiss intelligence services are allegedly in possession of proof that the US has detained terror suspects in secret prisons in various European countries. The CIA is irritated.

The US never denied the existence of alleged detention centers in EuropeImage: dpa

A fax sent by the Egyptian foreign ministry to its embassy in London stated that more than 20 Iraqis and Afghans had been questioned at a US-run base in Romania, a Swiss newspaper reported on Sunday.

SonntagsBlick said the Swiss secret services obtained a copy of the fax which revealed that the Egyptian embassy in London "learned from its own sources that 23 Iraqi and Afghan citizens had been questioned at the Mikhail Kogalniceanu base in the town of Constanza on the Black Sea coast."

Mihail Kogalniceanu Luftwaffenstützpunkt
Romania was not a transit point for al-Qaeda captives, according to Romanian officialsImage: AP

The newspaper quoted a report written by the Swiss fefense ministry which said Egypt believed there were "similar centers in Ukraine, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bulgaria."

The Swiss ministry reacted to the report with a statement saying it would open an investigation into how the information was leaked. However, because the report is meant to be secret, the ministry refused to comment on its contents.

Categorical denials

A senior officer at the Mikhail Kogalniceanu base categorically denied the report on Sunday.

"I have been working at this base since 1995 and I have never been aware of such an operation," officer Dan Buciuman said.

He added that the base was open to "anyone who wants to carry out an investigation."

Amid protests from European governments that their airports are being used by the Central Intelligence Agency to transport suspects, the United States has not denied the existence of alleged prisons in eastern and central Europe and elsewhere, but has refuted allegations that it uses torture to obtain information.

Just in time

US television network ABC reported in December that the US had held 11 senior members of the al Qaeda network in Poland but that they were evacuated to North Africa shortly before US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice toured Europe that month.

CIA Flug nach Rumänien
The US wants permanent military bases in RumaniaImage: AP

During a stop in Bucharest, Rice signed an agreement with Romania to establish permanent US military bases in the country, the first ever in a former Warsaw Pact state.

The new US military presence will have its headquarters at Mikhail Kogalniceanu.

CIA: Enough is enough

Reacting to the recent media reports about the CIA's secret prison network for terror suspects and last month's disclosure that US President George W. Bush authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on the telephone calls of some Americans without court warrants, the CIA is reportedly stepping up its efforts to plug the intelligence leaks.

Porter Goss, the director of the CIA
CIA director Porter GossImage: AP

According to Time magazine, CIA director Porter Goss is redoubling efforts to prevent agents from divulging the spy agency's secrets to the media, and also plans to clamp down on former spies publishing books about their covert careers.

Citing an anonymous former senior Central Intelligence Agency official, Time, in a report to hit newsstands this week, said on its Web site that CIA officials told employees during a meeting last week that leaking had gotten out of control and needed to stop.

The report added that a new clampdown on leakers had been launched, supported by a team of "mostly retired" agents contracted to scan the news media for possible leaks of classified material and to try to find the leakers responsible.

According to the report, Goss is also worried about the potential impact of the leaks and insider books on the agency's security and clandestine operations.

"You don't want people who sit down with an (intelligence) officer in confidence to be concerned it will end up in the guy's memoirs in a year or two," one anonymous intelligence official told Time.