Rice reassures NATO allies on CIA prisons
Thu Dec 8, 2005 10:48 AM ET163
By Mark John and Saul Hudson
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European allies of the United
States said on Thursday they were satisfied with new
assurances by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that
U.S. treatment of detainees was within international
The issue has dogged her European tour, with reports
in the media the CIA has run secret prisons in east
Europe and covertly transported detainees in its war
against terrorism. Rights groups say incommunicado
detention often leads to torture.
Rice said the United States had done nothing unlawful
but stressed that governments could not afford to be
more open on issues such as detention and movement of
suspects, saying intelligence matters could not be
"Intelligence and the gathering of intelligence and
the use of intelligence is something that ... is very
often misunderstood, because intelligence by its very
nature is done in a closed environment," she told a
Rice had repeated her defense of U.S. practices at a
dinner late on Wednesday for NATO and EU foreign
ministers on the eve of a one-day NATO meeting.
Several emerged satisfied after what a source
described as a frank but respectful exchange.
"We have received quite clear answers concerning
airspace and overflights, and that there will be no
cruel or inhuman treatment inside or outside the
United States," Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot
said. "All the fields have been covered."
"I think NATO and EU ministers were able to raise
their concerns that we should not diverge from one
another on the interpretation of international law,"
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told
"Secretary Rice promised that international agreements
are not interpreted any differently in the United
States than they are in Europe. That, at least, is a
good statement," he said.
NO TOUGH QUESTIONS
A senior U.S. State Department officials said
ministers had avoided pressing Rice on specific
questions about alleged U.S. practices, such as
running secret prisons in Europe, and had instead
sought assurances about the treatment of detainees.
Even then, he said, European governments had not asked
about specific tactics, such as whether the United
States uses waterboarding, meant to make a detainee
feel he is drowning.
"Rather than focus on specifics, the conversation is
more about the underpinning concern of how detainees
are treated," he said.
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said the
ministers' discussion on Wednesday had improved the
"It cleared the air," he told a news conference,
adding that Rice had been "on good form" during the
European allies have shown little appetite for a
head-on confrontation with Rice over allegations which
could explode in their faces if any complicity emerged
on their part.
Rice sought to deflect criticism of U.S. policy before
leaving for Europe on Monday, saying that European
intelligence agencies had helped Washington extract
information from suspects and urging allies to see "we
are all in this together".
In Kiev on Wednesday she announced that the United
States had explicitly banned its interrogators around
the world from treating detainees inhumanely, a policy
shift made several weeks ago but not spelled out by a
top official until Wednesday.
The New York-based campaign group Human Rights Watch
said in a statement the policy shift was inadequate
because she failed to address allegations the CIA runs
secret prisons or ruled out certain interrogation
techniques, such as waterboarding.
(Additional reporting by Sebastian Alison)