1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Secret CIA prison

December 22, 2009

A parliamentary commission has found that Lithuania allowed the CIA to set up a secret interrogation facility outside its capital, Vilnius. It is unclear, however, whether the US ever used the premises.

A CIA prison in Lithuania
This building near Vilnius was allegedly made available to the CIAImage: AP

A probe commissioned by Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite has confirmed US media reports that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) ran a secret prison outside Vilnius from September 2004 to November 2005.

"[President Grybauskaite's] suspicions have been confirmed, as the committee's investigation found that there were special buildings equipped to function as prisons. They existed and could have been adapted to accommodate detainees," said Grybauskaite's spokesman, Linas Balsys.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite
Grybauskaite ordered the probe after the ABC report surfacedImage: EC/Breydel

At this point, however, it remains unclear whether the CIA actually detained terror suspects in the secret premises. The findings of the probe provide no evidence that the buildings were used as such.

The American Broadcasting Company (ABC) had reported for the first time in August that the CIA had operated a "secret facility capable of holding up to eight terrorism suspects located 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) outside Vilnius."

Heads already rolling

Arvydas Anusauskas, head of the Lithuanian Security and Defense Committee, which conducted the probe, told a news conference that suspicious US flights to Vilnius between 2004 and 2005 were discovered as well, but that it wasn't possible to determine who had been on board because the flights were not inspected.

"There were opportunities to cross the Lithuanian border and there were flights associated with the CIA. One of the important conclusions is that the leaders of the country were either not informed about this or were informed improperly," Anusauskas said.

The investigation found that a select few officers of the Lithuanian intelligence agency were aware of the detention centers and that only one of them was responsible for the coordinaton of the project.

The head of Lithuania's secret service, Povilas Malakauskas, unexpectedly resigned last week, citing personal reasons. It has been widely speculated, however, that he was forced out for not providing adequate answers to the parliamentary probe.

The emblem of the United State Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
The CIA has yet to address the affair publiclyImage: AP

Also last week, President Grybauskaite ordered that the former head of the Lithuanian secret service, Mecys Llaurinkus, be relieved of her current post as ambassador to Georgia.

US to remain strategic ally

Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said that the report's findings were a matter of "great concern," and called for "urgent reforms within Lithuania's security services."

He added, however, that relations with the United States would not be damaged by the results of the probe.

"The US is a strategic ally of Lithuania in all fields, including covert operations and counter-terrorism. This strategic partnership should not be an excuse to adopt essentially Soviet practices and ignore civilian controls and the law," Kubilius said.

US officials have yet to comment on the affair. The US embassy in Vilnius said it was US policy not to comment on intelligence matters.

Editor: Chuck Penfold