Sunday, September 14, 2008

Poland’s government knew all about ‘secret’ CIA prisons?

Radio Zet has alleged that top ministers in the previous Law and Justice government were shown a report back in 2006 detailing the existence of those illusive CIA prisons in Poland used to detain Islamist terrorist suspects.

The names who saw and authored the report will be familiar to regular readers of this blog.

The author was our old friend Roman Giertych, who was heading a committee on the activities of Poland’s secret services at the time.

His report, written sometime in 2006 - confirming allegations made by Human Rights Watch back in late 2005 - was seen by Zbigniew Ziobro, state prosecutor Janusz Kaczmarek and special services coordinator Zbigniew Wasserman.

Crucially, today’s allegations have neither been confirmed nor denied by the present state prosecutor, Marek Staszak.

My understanding of the evidence collected by the Council of Europe’s report - which supported the original allegations made by the NGO and the Washington Post - you can see here and here.

Government ministers, and former president Aleksander Kwasniewski have always denied the allegations, dismissing them as nonsense.

In May 2007, the U.N. Committee Against Torture called on the Law and Justice government to disclose information gathered by Poland’s parliamentary committee on the CIA prisons issue. Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski dismissed the request: “The matter is now closed,” he said. But if the parliamentary committee had had access to the report written by Roman Giertych - and is it not too dumb to presume that they had? - then he, the prime minister, knew of the existence of these places in Poland.

If Radio Zet’s information is correct then several politicians are, quite simply, telling naughty little fibs.

Even though the present Polish government announced that an investigation into the issue would be re-opened, Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski said this week:

"I have commented the issue as defense minister and I can take the responsibility for what I know and for what took place when I was responsible for military installations.

"I can once again categorically confirm -- during the time of the Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz and Jaroslaw Kaczynski governments, and also now, nothing like that has taken place in Poland."

So that is a flat denial, then. But we must look at Sikorski’s words carefully, however. He is stating that not since Law and Justice took office in November 2005 - Radek has been a minister in both the previous and present governments - have there been CIA prisons in Poland. But the reports following the initial allegations by Human Rights Watch stated that the prisons were closed down around the same time as the Law and Justice government won the election.

So maybe Sikorski is merely saying that there have not been any such prisons in Poland for the last three years. He is not saying there never have been.

The Council of Europe’s report quoted one US military intelligence source as saying: “Listen, Poland agreed top down…from the president [Kwasniewski], yes….to provide the CIA all it needed.”

If Radio Zet’s report turns out to be true then Giertych, Ziobro and ex-Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski are going to have a lot of explaining to do.