The Bastilles of Eastern Europe

According to the Washington Post of yesterday, 2 November 2005, the CIA has a network of secret prisons located in foreign countries, where it holds roughly a hundred prisoners in “dark, sometimes underground cells,” where they are subject to the agency’s infamous “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” and have no legal rights whatsoever. The reporter, Dana Priest, wrote that one prison had been located in Thailand, since closed, and another in Afghanistan, still in operation though relocated. She also noted that at least one of the “black site” prisons had once been “a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe.” The Washington Post decided not to name the Eastern European nations where it had secret prisons, because Washington officials “argued that the disclosure might disrupt counterterrorism efforts in those countries and elsewhere.”

Of course I immediately wanted to know whether any of these Eastern European bastilles might once have held V_clav Havel or his fellow Czech dissidents. The answer seems to be no. In Lidov‚ noviny yesterday, 2 November 2005, a short article offered this reassurance:

According to reliable sources, the facility is not situated on the territory of the Czech Republic. The Minister of the Interior Franti__ek Bublan stated that roughtly a month ago the American government asked Prague whether it would host several individuals held at the Guant namo base, but without success.

“Of course it was a matter of prisoners who had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. We were asked whether we would host several individuals in our country in the asylum process,” said Bublan, explaining that these people would have been threatened in their nations of origin. According to him the Czech Republic responded negatively on account of the many security risks.

Today the news is a bit more definitive. Human Rights Watch has told the Financial Times that they believe the secret prisons are probably located in Poland and Romania, based on their tracking of the registration numbers of airplanes believed to be operated by the CIA. Romanian officials would not comment; Polish ones denied it. Today’s Lidovû(c) noviny repeats the Financial Times‘s reporting, adds that the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza has also named Bulgaria as a participant, and reiterates Bublan’s denial yesterday of Czech participation. LN reports the denials of Polish officials in a bit more detail than the FT does: “It would be an attack on our security, an attack on our nation, and I don’t think such a thing could have happened,” said Zbigniew Wassermann, in charge of secret services in Poland’s new government.

I’m relieved that the Czechs are not touched by the disgrace and wish that I could think as well of my own country.