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Sources Tell ABC News Top Al Qaeda Figures Held in Secret CIA Prisons

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Investigation/story?id=1375123 EXCLUSIVE: Sources Tell ABC News Top Al Qaeda Figures Held in Secret CIA Prisons 10 Out of 11
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 6, 2005

      EXCLUSIVE: Sources Tell ABC News Top Al Qaeda Figures
      Held in Secret CIA Prisons

      10 Out of 11 High-Value Terror Leaders Subjected to
      'Enhanced Interrogation Techniques'

      Khalid Shaik Mohammed, the operational planner for
      Sept. 11, is among those allegedly being held in
      secret prisons. (AP Photo)

      Dec. 5, 2005 — Two CIA secret prisons were operating
      in Eastern Europe until last month when they were shut
      down following Human Rights Watch reports of their
      existence in Poland and Romania.

      Current and former CIA officers speaking to ABC News
      on the condition of confidentiality say the United
      States scrambled to get all the suspects off European
      soil before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
      arrived there today. The officers say 11 top al Qaeda
      suspects have now been moved to a new CIA facility in
      the North African desert.

      CIA officials asked ABC News not to name the specific
      countries where the prisons were located, citing
      security concerns.

      The CIA declines to comment, but current and former
      intelligence officials tell ABC News that 11 top al
      Qaeda figures were all held at one point on a former
      Soviet air base in one Eastern European country.
      Several of them were later moved to a second Eastern
      European country.

      All but one of these 11 high-value al Qaeda prisoners
      were subjected to the harshest interrogation
      techniques in the CIA's secret arsenal, the so-called
      "enhanced interrogation techniques" authorized for use
      by about 14 CIA officers and first reported by ABC
      News on Nov. 18.

      Rice today avoided directly answering the question of
      secret prisons in remarks made on her departure for
      Europe, where the issue of secret prisons and secret
      flights has caused a furor.

      Without mentioning any country by name, Rice
      acknowledged special handling for certain terrorists.

      "The captured terrorists of the 21st century do not
      fit easily into traditional systems of criminal or
      military justice, which were designed for different
      needs. We have had to adapt," Rice said.

      The CIA has used a small fleet of private jets to move
      top al Qaeda suspects from Afghanistan and the Middle
      East to Eastern Europe, where Human Rights Watch has
      identified Poland and Romania as the countries that
      housed secret sites.

      But Polish Defense Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told ABC
      Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross today:
      "My president has said there is no truth in these

      Ross asked: "Do you know otherwise, sir, are you aware
      of these sites being shut down in the last few weeks,
      operating on a base under your direct control?"

      Sikorski answered, "I think this is as much as I can
      tell you about this."

      In Romania, where the secret prison was possibly at a
      military base visited last year by Defense Secretary
      Donald Rumsfeld, the new Romanian prime minister said
      today there is no evidence of a CIA site but that he
      will investigate.

      Sources tell ABC that the CIA's secret prisons have
      existed since March 2002 when one was established in
      Thailand to house the first important al Qaeda target
      captured. Sources tell ABC that the approval for
      another secret prison was granted last year by a North
      African nation.

      Sources tell ABC News that the CIA has a related
      system of secretly returning other prisoners to their
      home country when they have outlived their usefulness
      to the United States.

      These same sources also tell ABC News that U.S.
      intelligence also ships some "unlawful combatants" to
      countries that use interrogation techniques harsher
      than any authorized for use by U.S. intelligence
      officers. They say that Jordan, Syria, Morocco and
      Egypt were among the nations used in order to extract
      confessions quickly using techniques harsher than
      those authorized for use by U.S. intelligence
      officers. These prisoners were not necessarily
      citizens of those nations.

      According to sources directly involved in setting up
      the CIA secret prison system, it began with the
      capture of Abu Zabayda in Pakistan. After treatment
      there for gunshot wounds, he was whisked by the CIA to
      Thailand where he was housed in a small, disused
      warehouse on an active airbase. There, his cell was
      kept under 24-hour closed circuit TV surveillance and
      his life-threatening wounds were tended to by a CIA
      doctor specially sent from Langley headquarters to
      assure Abu Zubaydah was given proper care, sources
      said. Once healthy, he was slapped, grabbed, made to
      stand long hours in a cold cell, and finally
      handcuffed and strapped feet up to a water board until
      after 0.31 seconds he begged for mercy and began to

      While in the secret facilities in Eastern Europe, Abu
      Zubaydah and his fellow captives were fed breakfasts
      that included yogurt and fruit, lunches that included
      steamed vegetables and beans, and dinners that
      included meat or chicken and more vegetables and rice,
      sources say. In exchange for cooperation, prisoners
      were sometimes given hard candies, desserts and
      chocolates. Abu Zubaydah was partial to Kit Kats, the
      same treat Saddam Hussein fancied in his captivity.

      "One of the difficult issues in this new kind of
      conflict is what to do with captured individuals who
      we know or believe to be terrorists," Rice said. "The
      individuals come from many countries and are often
      captured far from their original homes. Among them are
      those who are effectively stateless, owing allegiance
      only to the extremist cause of transnational
      terrorism. Many are extremely dangerous. And some have
      information that may save lives, perhaps even
      thousands of lives."

      Sources tell ABC News that Jordanians, Egyptians,
      Moroccans, Tunisians, Algerians, Saudis, Pakistanis,
      Uzbekistanis and Chinese citizens have been returned
      to their nations' intelligence services after initial
      debriefing by U.S. intelligence officers. Rice said
      renditions such as these are vital to the war on
      terror. "Rendition is a vital tool in combating
      transnational terrorism," she said.

      Of the 12 high-value targets housed by the CIA, only
      one did not require water boarding before he talked.
      Ramzi bin al-Shibh broke down in tears after he was
      walked past the cell of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the
      operational planner for Sept. 11. Visibly shaken, he
      started to cry and became as cooperative as if he had
      been tied down to a water board, sources said.
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