15:32 GMT30 May 2020
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    CIA secret prisons - no holds barred

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    MOSCOW. (Lt. Gen. Gennady Yefstafyev (Ret.) for RIA Novosti) - At the summer session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg, Dick Marty of Switzerland gave a long-awaited report on CIA secret prisons in some European countries.

    Although his report came somewhat late, it is very useful for understanding and improving the current situation. I can wholeheartedly agree with him when he speaks about the need to put an end to terrorism, and to continue fighting it. He made a point that it is important to understand that if terrorists are arrested and sent to secret prisons without investigation or trial, and are subjected to torture, they are bound to evoke sympathy. This is very true. The situation is completely unacceptable and simply shameful for the West, which boasts of its commitment to democracy and human rights.

    We are being told that the CIA is to blame for everything, but this is not quite so. In March 2002 the influential Wall Street Journal ran an analytical piece by the U.S. Department of Defense. It arrived at the conclusion that the authority of the U.S. president to engage in a military campaign overrode any prohibition against torture, whether based on law or agreement. This document accurately reflected President Bush's secret instructions of February 7, 2002: "I...determine that none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan or elsewhere throughout the world."

    This was exactly what Pentagon boss Donald Rumsfeld wanted to hear. He initiated an interdepartmental Special Access Program (SAP). All SAP operations are top secret, and the details are known only to a select few in the Pentagon, CIA, and the White House. Rumsfeld's deputy Stephen Cambone was put in charge of this program and headed its command center in the Pentagon. In theory, the goal of SAP was to set up a system for rapidly gathering intelligence information from those arrested, using the illegal methods of interrogation sanctioned by the U.S. president.

    To quote a well-known Russian politician, "We wanted the best, you know the rest." The program unleashed a chain of hideous crimes, which triggered a wave of international indignation.

    But this is not yet the whole story. Small, top-secret groups were set up to carry out SAP assignments. Their members are working under aliases all over the world. They can cross borders without visas, immediately detain whomever they choose, and interrogate the suspects using whatever methods they want on foreign territory, often with the involvement of local security services. They may send them by U.S. Government-leased Gulf Streams to the CIA's clandestine centers for detainees (i.e. prisons), which, according to American journalists, are scattered all over the world. The Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo prisons are usually not used for this purpose because of their high profile and the importance of keeping the treatment of the detainees and their identities a secret.

    Marty names nine PACE members which have been involved in these activities to varying degrees. In reality, their number is much larger. Significantly, many PACE members, concerned about democracy, have not answered Marty's inquiries about his suspicions. What about the number one fighter of crimes against humanity, the glorious Carla del Ponte? Apparently, this is not her domain because it is not about the Serbs. Or take the democratic Swedes, who handed over to SAP agents two Egyptian political emigrants, Agira and Zery, without trial, investigation, or any decision on extradition. After two years of torture, it was revealed that one of them had nothing to do with Al Qaeda, and the other had left it way back in 1994.

    To sum up, under Rumsfeld's leadership, the U.S. has assembled a group of supermen who are allowed to do whatever they choose without any limits. As the commander of the American base in the Afghan city of Mazar i Sharif said once, a legal advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Defense let him "take his gloves off" and do what he wanted.

    The appearance of these "secret agents" who can decide anyone's destiny is a source of many questions and concerns. Who can guarantee that under the Republican Administration, which lacks all scruples in its choice of means, these stout fellows will not act like cowboys from the Wild West? What if they start blowing up houses, killing diplomats and politicians, and doing other things which make them little different from those they have been ordered to fight?

    We stand for coordinated and resolute efforts against all manifestations of terrorism because we are also victims of acts of terror both at home and abroad. But we share the opinion that it is necessary to draft laws which would limit the illegal operation of security services in Europe, and, still better, in the rest of the world. Today, however, the world community should exert moral pressure on the Bush government in order to compel the U.S. to observe international law, for which it shows no respect either at home or abroad.

    Gennady Yevstafyev worked in the Foreign Intelligence Service, and is now a senior advisor to the Russian Center for Political Studies (PIR Center).

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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