In 2003, two senior CIA officers arrived at the US Embassy in Warsaw to pick up a pair of large cardboard boxes which contained 15 million dollars. The boxes were delivered via German diplomatic pouch. The Polish intelligence service received the money, and the CIA received a secret prison — a remote villa in the Polish lake district — to interrogate al-Qaeda suspects.
The CIA prison in Poland was one of the most important of all sites created by the agency after the 9/11 attacks. According to the reports, a self-declared mastermind of the September 2001 attacks was waterboarded 183 times in this prison after his capture. The first al-Qaeda suspects were brought to the prison in Poland on December 5, 2002.
The Polish intelligence service, known as Agencja Wywiadu, provided the CIA with a training base with a villa in Stare Kiejkuty, a three-hour drive north of Warsaw. However, the base was not well equipped to interrogate suspects. Thus, the CIA paid $300,000 to make some improvements to the facility and to set it up with security cameras. The first al-Qaeda suspects were brought to the prison, code-named “Quartz”, on December 5, 2002. Polish officials could only visit a common area where lunch was served, but they were restricted from having access to the detainees.
The prison was running under the supervision of the Special Missions Department of the Counterterrorism Center (CTC). Mike Sealy, a senior intelligence officer, was appointed as a “program manager” or the head of the prison. He was briefed on an escalating series of “enhanced interrogation techniques” that were formulated by the CIA and approved by Justice Department lawyers. These included slapping, sleep deprivation and waterboarding, a technique that involved pouring water over the shrouded face of the detainee and creating the sensation of drowning.
In March 2003 the prison was closed and the CIA had to leave Poland, fearing that maintaining one location for too long risked exposure. The CIA scattered detainees throughout Romania, Morocco and, later, Lithuania. Looking for a long-term solution, the CIA paid the Moroccans $20 million to build a prison it never used that was code-named “Bombay.”
Human Rights Watch soon identified locations in Poland and Romania, and other sites in Eastern Europe. Multiple European officials and news accounts have since confirmed the presence of these prisons.
In May 2006, the facilities in Romania and Lithuania were closed. Some of the detainees were sent to a Moroccan jail and others were sent to a new CIA prison in Kabul called “Fernando,” which had replaced one known as “the Salt Pit.” And 14 high-value detainees were shipped to the Guantanamo Bay military detention center in September 2006.
In 2007, the Council of Europe recognized that the secret CIA prisons existed in Italy and Poland, and identified 14 other countries in Europe that helped the US by creating secret prisons, breaching the Geneva Convention. Such countries as Germany, Sweden, Spain, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Romania, Turkey, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia were all involved in the CIA’s secret prisons program.
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