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10 Dec, 2014 10:02

Hush money: CIA paid Poland to host its secret prisons and detainees

Hush money: CIA paid Poland to host its secret prisons and detainees

The CIA paid at least a million dollars to Poland for it to host secret prisons, where it incarcerated alleged 9/11 terror suspects, according to the recent US torture report.

Warsaw had initially tried to halt the transfer of suspects, but after a generous offer, it suddenly became more “flexible.

READ MORE: Senate accuses CIA of torturing prisoners, overstepping legal boundaries

Although redacted, the US torture report doesn’t name Poland, calling it just the “Country”. Details such as the names of the detainees transferred to the country and the time they arrived at the CIA “black site” match the European Court of Human Rights ruling on the existence of a CIA "black site" in Poland.

“In December 2002, the two individuals then being detained by the CIA in [the] Country (Abu Zubaydah and 'Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri) were transferred to [the] Country,” says the report.

According to the report, the agreement to host a CIA detention facility in the Country “created multiple, ongoing difficulties between [the] Country and the CIA.”

screenshot from CIA torture report

Poland then proposed a "Memorandum of Understanding" covering the relative roles and responsibilities of the CIA, but the agency refused to sign the document.

“Four months after the site began hosting CIA detainees, [the] Country rejected the transfer,” says the document.

Warsaw rejected the transfer of Khalid Shaykh [Sheikh] Muhammad, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

READ MORE: Facing justice: UN, HRW, Amnesty call for prosecuting US officials for torture

However Poland’s decision was “reversed” only after the US ambassador “intervened” with Warsaw.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill.(AFP Photo / T.J. Kirkpatrick)

“The following month the CIA provided $ X million to [the]Country's [officials]” and the “political leadership, indicated that [the] Country was now flexible with regard to the number of CIA detainees at the facility,” says the report. The sum was redacted in the report.

The document states the detention facility was closed, as had been previously agreed, in 2003.

Years later, Polish officials were "extremely upset" at the CIA's “inability to keep secrets.” Polish authorities were also "deeply disappointed" that they hadn’t been warned before President George W. Bush publicly acknowledged the program’s existence in 2006, says the document.

The US acknowledged the presence of facilities outside US jurisdiction, but didn’t identify the exact locations of them.

On Wednesday, the country’s ex-President Aleksander Kwasniewski (in power 1995 –2005), confirmed that Poland agreed to CIA “black sites”, but didn’t authorize the torture of prisoners. This is the first time a Polish leader has admitted that the country had secret CIA detention centers.

Reuters tried to reach a Polish government spokeswoman by phone and email, but she didn’t respond.

The document doesn’t name the “US ambassador” to Poland who was mentioned in the report. But at the time Christopher Hill (2000–2004) was in the post. Mr Hill hasn’t yet commented on the report.

A spokesman for Leszek Miller, who was the Polish PM from 2001 to 2004, declined to comment.

READ MORE: CIA secret prison ruling sees Poland appeal to European Human Rights Court

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Poland violated an international treaty to protect human rights by hosting secret CIA prisons on its territory.

A guard shuts the gate to the airport in Szymany in northeastern Poland in this file 2005 picture. Polish media said November 5, 2005 the airport was identified by Human Rights Watch as a potential site of alleged CIA prisons used to interrogate al Qaeda captives. Poland strongly denied it was hosting such facilities.(Reuters / Tomasz Marek)

READ MORE: European rights court condemns Poland for hosting secret CIA prisons

The case was filed by Zubaydah and al-Nashiri who claimed they were brought to Poland in December 2002 and taken to a secret CIA prison in a Polish forest, code named ‘Quartz’, where they were tortured.

Al-Nashiri says he underwent what the Americans euphemistically termed “enhanced interrogation techniques” – in other words torture. He was also subjected to other harsh treatment, “such as a ‘mock execution’ with a gun and threats of sexual assault against his family members,” Amnesty reported.

Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in one month while in CIA detention.

Both are now detainees at the US-run Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba. The American government accused Zubaydah of running a terror camp in Afghanistan, where some of the September 11 hijackers trained. Al-Nashiri was accused of directing an attack on the USS Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden in 2000 that killed 17 sailors.

The court found the claims were sufficiently convincing. It concluded Poland cooperated in the CIA’s rendition program.

"For all practical purposes, Poland had facilitated the whole process, had created the conditions for it to happen and had made no attempt to prevent it from occurring," the European Court of Human Rights said.

Poland was ordered to pay €100,000 in damages to al-Nashiri and €130,000 to Zubaydah.