The heavily redacted U.S. Senate report on the torture and brutal interrogation tactics employed at CIA prisons around the world in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks has shined a bright light on the conduct of American officials and interrogators who participated. But it is also causing headaches for both current and former leaders of nations that let the U.S. run “black site” prisons where the CIA tortured terror suspects.
“This post-9/11 response to detainees was an international endeavor,” said Max Abrahms, a professor of political science at Northeastern University in Boston and terrorism expert. “It may have been spearheaded by the CIA, but the United States delegated out these black sites, and therefore other countries in the world are also to an extent culpable.”
The extensive report released Tuesday concluded "enhanced interrogation" techniques used by the CIA were ineffective. It said the CIA misled the public, Congress and the Bush administration about the effectiveness of the program that operated from 2002 to 2006 and involved questioning al Qaeda members and other terror suspects.
And details revcaled in the report may spur new prosecutions against Bush administration officials and former and current members of black site host countries' governments in connection with their activity in support of the program, according to Baher Azmy, the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented two individuals who were detained in black sites.
“After reviewing this report, we will give consideration to reopening petitions or filing new petitions in European courts under the principles of universal jurisdiction,” Azmy said, Bloomberg reported.
Former Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that he was aware that the black site near the village of Stare Kiejkuty in northeastern Poland known as "Quartz" existed, according to Reuters. He qualified his remarks by maintaining that he was unaware that the prison’s inmates were being tortured, despite the fact that the European Court of Human Rights later ruled that it played host to numerous prisoner abuses.
In 2003, Kwaśniewski requested that the U.S. sign a memorandum stating that it treated the Quartz detainees humanely, and asked the U.S. government to shut down the site when it refused to sign the document, Reuters reported. But he, like a number of other officials from countries that once hosted black sites, has come under pressure in the wake of the Senate report to provide details about the program and his government’s knowledge of, and involvement in, it.
Poland's current prime minister, Ewa Kopacz, said Tuesday that an investigation into the program launched by Polish prosecutors in 2008 continues and may rely on the Senate report as evidence, according to the Associated Press. "I am hoping for a quick conclusion of the matter," Kopacz said, prompting a call from President Barack Obama, who said he hoped that the results of the investigation will not hurt the countries’ relationship, the AP reported.
The new details provided in the Senate report, along with the results of Poland’s investigation and new details about the CIA’s “Bright Light” detention facility in Romania as well as another black site near Vilnius, Lithuania, could lead to action on behalf of the International Criminal Court, according to Jennifer Trahan, an associate professor at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs.
“One possibility as to the Black Sites in Europe is that the International Criminal Court would have jurisdiction as to conduct that occurred in them because the Europeans are all parties to the International Criminal Court's Rome Statute,” Trahan said via email, referring to the treaty that established the court. “Jurisdiction would also cover US actions at the Black Sites.”
But some experts said the backlash in Poland is unwarranted and hypocritical, given Poland’s close ties to the U.S. and its dependence on the U.S. as an ally in its pursuit of geopolitical objectives.
“Poland counts on the support of the United States, and I very much understand why they would be amenable to our black site request,” Abrahms said. “I think that the people directly involved in Poland in those black sites are getting a lot of heat now at home, and that’s unfortunate.”
Meanwhile, Thaksin Shinawatra, Thailand's former prime minister, and his government have come under scrutiny in the wake of the Senate report’s release. The names of the countries that hosted black sites were largely redacted from the report and the entire section on Thai involvement was blacked out. But media reports indicate the country hosted a prison called "Detention Site Green" where tactics like sleep deprivation, extended isolation and waterboarding were used on al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah, the AP reported.
Thai authorities have long denied that the country ever hosted a secret CIA prison, though the CIA confirmed in 2009 that it operated a facility there and that it had destroyed 92 taped interviews with detainees at "Detention Site Green," according to the Guardian.
Paradorn Pattanathabutr, an advisor to current Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and former National Security Council chief, said Thursday: “We have never allowed the U.S. to use our space for detention or torture, and there have never been any requests to do so,” he said, Reuters reported.
Despite the government’s denials, “the U.S. Senate's unedited report claims the CIA chose Thailand as the site of its safe house because of the close ties between the U.S. agency and Thai intelligence officers,” according to the Bangkok Post. Thaksin, who served as prime minister from 2000 to 2006, was not informed about the existence of the prison until after it was actually in use, according to the Associated Press. The Guardian reported that the site was closed in late 2002, and that its detainees were transferred to other prisons, including Quartz in Poland and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
But that has not insulated Thaksin and his government from renewed criticism, as a source acquainted with the uncensored version of the Senate report told the AP that “Thailand offered to help the CIA.” The claim has elevated questions about the level of involvement in the program by the government, the Royal Thai Army and the Thai National Security Agency, as well as the extent of Thaksin’s knowledge.
In Afghanistan, newly elected President Ashraf Ghani responded to the Senate report on behalf of his government. The report details extensive details about brutal tactics employed, beginning in 2002, to “break” detainees at “Detention Site Cobalt” outside Kabul, including forced rectal feedings, temperature manipulation, sleep deprivation and extended isolation.
Ghani said in televised remarks Wednesday that the torture at the facility -- widely seen as the most brutal of all the black sites -- “violates all accepted norms of human rights in the world,” according to Reuters. He went on to promise to investigate the practices and how they were utilized against Afghans. Ghani also said that due to agreements associated with the drawdown of the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. is required to stop holding prisoners in the country as of Jan. 1, Reuters reported.
"The report is a shocking one. It violates all accepted norms of human rights in the world," Ghani said. "There is no justification for such acts and human torturing in the world."