The Raw Storyuncovers one of the Bush Assministration’s secret torture sites in Poland. Fittingly enough, it’s located at a former Nazi airfield that was also used by Soviet intellignece.
The CIA operated an interrogation and short-term detention facility for suspected terrorists within a Polish intelligence training school with the explicit approval of British and US authorities, according to British and Polish intelligence officials familiar with the arrangements.
Intelligence officials identify the site as a component of a Polish intelligence training school outside the northern Polish village of Stare Kiejkuty. While previously suspected, the facility has never been conclusively identified as being part of the CIA’s secret rendition and detention program.
Only the Polish prime minister and top Polish intelligence brass were told of the plan, in which agents of the United States quietly shuttled detainees from other holding facilities around the globe for stopovers and short-term interrogation in Poland between late 2002 and 2004.
According to a confidential British intelligence memo shown to RAW STORY, Prime Minister Tony Blair told Poland’s then-Prime Minister Leszek Miller to keep the information secret, even from his own government.
“Miller was asked to keep it as tight as possible,” the memo said.
The complex at Stare Kiejkuty, a Soviet-era compound once used by German intelligence in World War II, is best known as having been the only Russian intelligence training school to operate outside the Soviet Union. Its prominence in the Soviet era suggests that it may have been the facility first identified – but never named – when the Washington Post’s Dana Priest revealed the existence of the CIA’s secret prison network in November 2005.
Polish intelligence officials declined to comment. Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, the former head of Polish intelligence, told a Polish news agency in 2005, however, that the CIA had access to two internal zones at the Stare Kiejkuty training school. Current and former Polish authorities have adamantly denied that Poland played any role in the clandestine program.
In April 2002, according to British foreign intelligence sources (MI6), senior officials in the Bush and Blair administrations decided that the Bagram base near Kabul in Afghanistan could not operate successfully in the Bush administration’s “no holds barred” policy towards suspected terrorists.
MI6 officials say the two administrations then decided to fly high-value suspected terrorists to secret gulags in Eastern Europe. The CIA-operated flights would pass through the air space of a number of countries – among them Britain, Germany, Spain and Poland. European Union officials and human rights groups would later say these interrogations may have violated the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Convention against Torture, to which the United States and Poland are both signatories.
After a series of secret meetings chaired by MI6 chief Sir John Scarlett in London and then-CIA Director George Tenet in Washington, Polish intelligence was invited to join the project, British and Polish intelligence sources say.
Then-Szymany airport manager Mariola Przewlocka told European Union investigators the flights were likely linked with the intelligence complex at Stare Kiejkuty, about 12 miles away from the airport.
Przewlocka said that whenever one of the suspected flights was scheduled to land, “orders were given directly by the regional border guards… emphasizing that the airport authorities should not approach the aircraft and that military staff and services alone” would handle landings.
“Money for the services was paid in cash, sometimes as much as four times the normal charge,” the former airport manager added. “Handling of the passengers aboard was carried out in a remote corner of the Szymany airstrip. People came in and out from four-wheel drive cars with shaded windows.”
The cars were seen traveling to and from the Stare Kiejkuty intelligence facility, where British and Polish intelligence officials say US agents conducted short-term interrogations before shuffling prisoners to other locations.