Polish Ex-Official Charged With Aiding C.I.A.

March 28, 2012

The New York Times on March 27, 2012 released the following:

“By JOANNA BERENDT and NICHOLAS KULISH

WARSAW — The former head of Poland’s intelligence service has been charged with aiding the Central Intelligence Agency in setting up a secret prison to detain suspected members of Al Qaeda, a leading newspaper here reported on Tuesday, the first high-profile case in which a former senior official of any government has been prosecuted in connection with the agency’s program.

The daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza reported that the former intelligence chief, Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, told the paper that he faced charges of violating international law by “unlawfully depriving prisoners of their liberty,” in connection with the secret C.I.A. prison where Qaeda suspects were subjected to brutal interrogation methods.

When President Obama took office in 2009, he said he wanted to “look forward, as opposed to looking backward” and rejected calls for a broad investigation of C.I.A. interrogations and other Bush administration counterterrorism programs. In sharp contrast, the Poles see the case as a crucial test for rule of law and the investigation by prosecutors here has reached the highest levels of Polish politics.

One of Poland’s prime ministers during the period when terrorism suspects were alleged to have been subjected to torture in Poland, Leszek Miller, could be charged before Poland’s State Tribunal, the newspaper said.

“We try to treat our Constitution seriously and try not to forget the fact that there was a manifest violation of the Polish Constitution within the country’s borders,” said Adam Bodnar, vice president of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, based in Warsaw.

The effect, Mr. Bodnar said, is not simply a matter of looking back, as Mr. Obama said, but also of warning future leaders and officials that they can not operate with impunity. “This case is a huge threat to any Polish official that he will know in the future that such things cannot happen,” Mr. Bodnar said.

C.I.A. officers have been distressed by the public controversies that have broken out over the interrogation program in Poland and other countries, where foreign officials were assured that their assistance would always remain secret. But human rights advocates have applauded the inquiries overseas into what they believe was torture and illegal detention.

While successive American governments have chosen to avoid accusations of abuses, in Poland, where memories of the Communist era and its repressions remain sharp, prosecutors have moved aggressively to tackle the issue. Although pro-American sentiments run high in Poland, there is also great unease after decades of Soviet domination that the country is giving too much influence to a powerful ally.

Gazeta Wyborcza reported that Mr. Siemiatkowski had been charged in January but the matter had been kept secret until now. Prosecutors refused to confirm the reports, which cited an anonymous source in the prosecutor’s office as well as Mr. Siemiatkowski himself. “The investigation will remain confidential until further notice,” said Piotr Kosmaty, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in Krakow, which has been handling the inquiry.

A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment.

The C.I.A. has never formally revealed the location of the overseas “black site” prisons, but intelligence officials, aviation records and news reports have placed them in Afghanistan, Thailand, Romania and Jordan, as well as Poland and other countries. Out of fewer than 100 prisoners held in the facilities, roughly 30 were subjected to what the C.I.A. called “enhanced” interrogation techniques, according to agency officials.

In Poland, detainees were held in a makeshift prison at a secret base near Szymany Airport, about 100 miles north of Warsaw. All three of the C.I.A. prisoners who were waterboarded are believed to have been held in Poland, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the architect of the Sept. 11 attacks; Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who is charged in the 2000 bombing of the American destroyer Cole; and Abu Zubaydah, who ran a terrorist camp and facilitated militants’ travel.

But all three of the men spent time at other black sites as well, and it is not certain which interrogation methods were used where. Lawyers for Abu Zubaydah and Mr. Nashiri in 2010 filed a formal request with Polish authorities asking them to take criminal action in connection with the C.I.A. program.

Joseph Margulies, a lawyer for Abu Zubaydah, said that he was pleased by the news of charges, which he said were the first to be brought anywhere as a result of the black site program.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. did order a limited investigation of the interrogation program. Mr. Holder announced in July that no charges would be filed in connection with interrogations at the black sites but that the deaths of two prisoners in American custody, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, remained under investigation.

Polish officials have long denied charges by human rights groups that the country hosted one of the black sites employed by the C.I.A. in the campaign against terrorism. Mr. Miller, who was prime minister from 2001 to 2004 and is the leader of the Democratic Left Alliance, a left-wing party in Poland’s Parliament, continues to deny that Poland was ever the site of secret detention facilities.

“I refused to answer any questions from the prosecution and I shall continue to do so at every other stage of the proceedings, including in court,” Mr. Siemiatkowski told the newspaper.

Mr. Bodnar said: “I remember the lessons of constitutionality given by the Americans in the early ’90s, always saying to us, you have to create a new constitution and every action by state authorities must have limits. Poland has just learned this lesson well.””

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


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