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Revealing the origin of a secret CIA black op prison in Poland

January 23, 2014 at 6:40 PM EDT
In 2003, the CIA established a secret prison and black operations site at a villa in Poland. Washington Post reporter Adam Goldman joins Judy Woodruff to tell the story of how this clandestine prison played a role in the U.S. war on terror and what fallout these revelations have for the U.S. and in the international community.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: New information has come to light over a secret CIA prison in Poland.

The Washington Post reported today that, as part of this country’s war on terrorists in 2003, a clandestine so-called black operations site was established with the help of Poland’s intelligence service. It was used to house interrogations of high-value detainees. One of them was reportedly Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-declared mastermind of the September 11 attacks.

Adam Goldman of The Washington Post joins me now.

Welcome back to the program.

So, why was this a significant place?

ADAM GOLDMAN, The Washington Post: Well, this was the black site, the first of a trio that was opened in Europe. The other two were in Lithuania and Romania, but this was the first one that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, was taken and interrogated.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And tell us a little bit about the story of how it came to be.

ADAM GOLDMAN: Well, the CIA was look for a place to put detainees.

Before Poland, they had found a site outside of Bangkok, an hour, hour-and-a-half outside of Bangkok, where they had two detainees, individual named al-Nashiri, and another one named Zubaydah, but it was really not built for the long term.

So they’re looking — they started to put the foundation out for other places where they could put their detainees. The CIA reached out to its liaison service in Poland. And they said, yes, hey, we’re happy — we’re happy to take them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And they had to go to a place, obviously, where the government was OK with this, was accepting the idea.

ADAM GOLDMAN: Right, right.

And the Poles initially asked them, look, could you help us pay for some security cameras around the base? It is a very large base. And it was about $280,000, nearly $300,000 that the CIA initially gave them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, so, Adam, what is known about what took place at this location?

ADAM GOLDMAN: Well, a fair amount is known, that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was water-boarded there 180 times by two CIA contractors.

What hasn’t been known and what we reported today was how the deal was made and the money that traded hands and some of the other details about KSM’s interactions.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And explain some of that.

ADAM GOLDMAN: Well, I think people — we never knew the story of how the prison came to be and what, in fact, the Poles got in exchange for it.

And, as I reported today in great detail, we gave the Poles $15 million in early 2003, which really wasn’t a lot of money. I say later in the story we gave the Moroccans $20 million for a prison that they were building for us.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And why — why did it have to work that way? I mean, why was it so — remind us again, why was it so important that these alleged terrorists, people who were being interrogated, had to be put in places so remote and kept — and the places kept secret?

ADAM GOLDMAN: Well, the CIA wanted to keep them outside of the U.S. legal system, right, where they wouldn’t have a right to an attorney or habeas.

And they found that if they could put them, stash them away in these black sites in Europe and other places, they could question them for years.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But, in this case, this place, as I read your story today, was only in existence, what, a little more than a year. Is that right?

ADAM GOLDMAN: Yes, maybe a little less, I think for about 10 months. It actually opened December 5, 2002, and it closed in late September of 2003.

You know, talking to people who were involved in the program, the sites were never meant to be opened more than a year, maybe 18 months. And they figured they were always going to be on the run, because whether it was going to be the journalists or human rights activists, they were going to be chasing this.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But the CIA folks who were involved in setting this up and who were behind some of the interrogations ended up leaving the program, and in a couple of instances left the CIA.

ADAM GOLDMAN: Yes, that’s true, that’s true.

And now, in fact, as part of the Polish investigation as we reported that had not been reported before, they had issued arrest warrants for some these CIA officers who actually visited that Poland black site.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And what is the status now? So, the Polish government, this has become a big issue for them.

ADAM GOLDMAN: This is a huge issue for them. It has gone to the European Court for Human Rights.

The Open Institute has petitioned the court on behalf of Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri, these two detainees that were held there. And they want to try to make the European Union hold Poland liable for its activities.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And what is the U.S. posture in all of that?


JUDY WOODRUFF: They’re not saying anything about it?


JUDY WOODRUFF: Not even confirming that this happened.

So, as you have looked back on this, what is the — what is the significance of the fact that this has taken so long to come out?

ADAM GOLDMAN: Well, A., that the CIA is pretty good at keeping secrets, but the other significance is, here we are more than 10 years, a decade, after this prison closed, and we’re still reporting on it. We’re still talking about it.

It is dogging this country. And it dogs the CIA. And, you know, it’s become a real part of this country’s legacy. And we can’t get — we can’t seem to get beyond it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And, just quickly, is there a sense that there is still more so-called black sites out there that have not yet been disclosed?

ADAM GOLDMAN: No, because, in 2009, President Bush took away the CIA’s authority to detain terrorism suspects, anybody.

So, you know, if there are sites out there, they’re not being run by the U.S. We would be working in conjunction with, you know, a foreign government.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Adam Goldman with The Washington Post, thank you.

ADAM GOLDMAN: Thank you.