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CIA reportedly holding al Qaeda terror suspects in covert prison system

[JURIST] The Central Intelligence Agency [official website] has held and interrogated some of its most important al Qaeda suspects at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, the Washington Post reported Wednesday. According to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents, the secret facility is part of a larger covert prison system that has set up compounds at various times in Thailand, Afghanistan, and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba [JURIST report]. The existence and location of these facilities, called "black sites" in government documents, are known to only a few US officials and are indicative of the CIA's unconventional war on terror. Not much is known about the compounds, including who is being held there, what interrogation methods are used, or how long the detainees there have been held without charge. In a press briefing [transcript] Wednesday, US National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley [official profile] did not confirm or deny the existence of the most recently-disclosed secret CIA prison, but did stress that a Bush directive banning the torture of terror suspects applies to all prisoners [AP report], no matter where they are held. Hadley said that Bush has been very clear that the US will not torture and that the US "will conduct its activities in compliance with law and international obligations." The White House recently proposed [JURIST report] absolving CIA agents abroad from proposed legislation [JURIST report] advanced by Senator John McCain barring the "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment" of detainees. The Washington Post has more.

The Post report comes as several European countries are looking into reports that the CIA is using local airspace and airports to transport terror suspects to countries where they face torture. In Iceland, the Morgunbladid newspaper reports that information from Icelandic flight authorities show that, since 2002, a CIA plane has landed in Iceland three times [Morgunbladid report, in Icelandic]. The flights originated in Denmark, stopped in Iceland for as long as 24 hours, and continued to Canada. Danish political leaders have called for an investigation into the reports. Iceland Review has more. Scottish police are conducting a similar investigation into CIA "torture flights." The Scottish probe follows a Sunday Herald report that the CIA kidnapped terror suspects, drugged them, and flew them to "torture-friendly" states, including Egypt, Uzbekistan and Morocco. The flights are said to go in and out of Glasgow and Prestwick airports and the detainees are reportedly tortured for intelligence turned over to the US and Britain. The CIA has refused to comment on the allegations. The Sunday Herald has more.

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