U.S. torture report puts Romania's role under scrutiny
(Reuters) - The lawyer for a man tortured by the CIA said Romania's authorities should acknowledge the role they played after a U.S. Senate report pointed to Romania as the site of the secret CIA jail where the man was interrogated.
The report did not name countries that hosted CIA jails, but it gave details of prisoners being transferred to and from "detention center BLACK" which matched air traffic records of CIA-chartered planes passing through Romanian airports between 2003 and 2005. Some of these records were independently reviewed by Reuters while others were cited in court documents.
According to the Senate report, the CIA gave the government that hosted the secret jail at least $1 million to thank it for supporting the agency's detention program. The report cited the un-named CIA officer in charge of the jail telling his superiors that, despite harsh interrogation techniques, the intelligence produced was often useless.
Ioan Talpes, who was national security adviser for Romania's president from 2000 to 2004, told Reuters Romania had allowed U.S. intelligence to operate a facility in Romania, but Romanian officials were unaware people were detained there and did not receive money in exchange for hosting any jail.
Of the facility used by the CIA, he said "it was clearly established by the Romanian side that Romanians do not participate in this, and so it was agreed with the Americans."
"We even did not know what would be there. In such situations it is better not to interfere.. We facilitated, we put at their disposal materials they had been asking for, but not with Romanian participation."
The office of Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta sent questions from Reuters about the report to the foreign ministry. In a statement, the ministry said the Senate report released to the public contained no references to Romania and Romanian authorities had no evidence showing there were CIA detention centers in Romania.
Nevertheless, the ministry said authorities were cooperating with a judicial investigation inside Romania into allegations about a CIA jail in the country.
"The competent authorities are taking all necessary steps to solve this case, with full respect of the principles of the rule of law and human rights," the statement said.
President Traian Basescu did not respond to written questions. The Romanian foreign intelligence service said it had no information to show CIA detention centers existed on Romanian territory.
Ion Iliescu, who was president from 2000 to 2004, told Reuters, when asked about a CIA facility: "I did not know many things. And I don't know anything about this matter."
The CIA declined comment.
Amrit Singh, a lawyer for Saudi national Adb al-Rahim al-Nashiri said the Senate report confirmed her client's allegations that he was tortured in a CIA jail in Romania and that Romanian authorities failed to protect his rights.
The Senate report contains details of al-Nashiri's treatment that come direct from the CIA's own files, information not previously available. The report says he was tortured by the CIA, without saying where.
Now in the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, he has applied to the European Court of Human Rights for a judgment against Romania, arguing it allowed his secret detention and torture, and later failed to investigate properly. The court has agreed to hear the case but has not delivered a judgment. A spokeswoman for the court declined to comment on questions relating to the Senate report.
"It is incumbent on the Romanian authorities to acknowledge the truth," said Singh, who works for the New York-based Open Society Justice Initiative. "The truth is that there was a secret CIA prison on their territory."
She said Romania had a legal obligation to prevent secret detention or torture, and there were enough reports of CIA abuses in the international media at the time to give Romania grounds to believe this might happen.
The European Convention on Human Rights, to which Romania is a signatory, says states have an obligation to ensure those in their jurisdiction are protected from torture or extra-judicial detention.
The Senate report has shone an uncomfortable light on some European Union states which hosted the jails. Poland and Lithuania also hosted CIA detention sites, according to former Polish officials and Lithuanian lawmakers.
In Romania's case, the report says detainees first arrived in autumn 2003. That coincides with a Sept. 22, 2003 flight to Romania which, according to the al-Nashiri application to the European court of Human Rights, was chartered by the CIA to bring detainees to the Romanian detention site.
The Senate report also says the site was wound down in autumn 2005. That coincides with extracts from air traffic control flight data, reviewed by Reuters, for flights into and out of Romania.
Aircraft making those flights can be traced back, via invoices, flight plans and court documents also reviewed by Reuters, to companies contracted by the CIA to transport detainees between foreign detention sites. Many of those documents were first uncovered by Reprieve, a campaign group whose research on CIA flights has been cited by the European parliament.
"MEDIOCRE OR USELESS" INTELLIGENCE
In 2002, the CIA was looking for new places to interrogate suspects. It told its local station chief to draft a "wishlist" of assistance it could give the government in the country where it was planning to locate "detention site BLACK" to express its appreciation, the report said.
"CIA Headquarters provided the Station with $million more than was requested for the purposes of the subsidy," the report said, blacking out the amount of money and the name of the country. It went on: "CIA detainees were transferred to DETENTION SITE BLACK in Country  in the fall of 2003."
Talpes, the former national security adviser, said Romania might have received money from U.S. intelligence for providing specific help, but that it was "nonsense" they could have been paid to allow a CIA jail of which they were ignorant.
By the time many of the detainees reached the site, they had been in detention for years, been interrogated hundreds of times and had no more information to give up, the report said.
It said many of the detainees the CIA designated as "high-value" were held at the site, among them Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. He is at Guantanamo Bay awaiting trial on charges of masterminding the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities.
The CIA officer in charge of the site complained to headquarters that he was being sent interrogators who were ill-trained. A few of them were incompetent, the report quoted the officer in charge as saying.
"The result, quite naturally, is the production of mediocre or, I dare say, useless intelligence," the report cited the officer, who was not identified by name, as saying in an April 15, 2005 email.
On Nov. 2 the same year, the Washington Post newspaper published an article saying the CIA was running jails in eastern Europe, without naming the countries.
"After publication of the Washington Post article, Country  demanded the closure of DETENTION SITE BLACK within hours," the report said, with the name of the country blacked out. "The CIA transferred the remaining CIA detainees out of the facility shortly thereafter."