The Americans and Poles formalized an agreement that over the previous weeks had allowed the CIA the use of a secret prison — a remote villa in the Polish lake district — to interrogate al-Qaeda suspects. The Polish intelligence service had some more funds, and the agency had a solid location for its newest covert operation, according to former CIA officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the interrogation program, including previously unreported details about the creation of the agency’s black sites.
The CIA prison in Poland was arguably the most important of all the black sites created by the agency in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It was the first of a trio in Europe that housed the initial wave of accused Sept. 11 conspirators, and it was where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-declared mastermind of the attacks, was waterboarded 183 times after his capture.
Much about the creation and operation of the CIA’s prison at a base in one of the young democracies of Central Europe remains cloaked in mystery, matters that are classified as state secrets by the U.S. government. But what happened in Poland more than a decade ago continues to reverberate and the bitter debate about the CIA’s interrogation program is about to be revisited.
The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is preparing to release at least portions of an exhaustive 6,00o-page report on the CIA interrogation program, its value in eliciting critical intelligence, and whether Congress was misled about aspects of what the agency was doing.
The treatment of detainees also continues to be a legal issue in the military trials of Mohammed and others at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
And in December, the European Court of Human Rights heard arguments that Poland violated international law and participated in torture by accommodating its American ally; a decision is expected this year.
“In the face of Polish and United States efforts to draw a veil over these abuses, the European Court of Human Rights now has an opportunity to break this conspiracy of silence and uphold the rule of law,” said Amrit Singh, a lawyer with the Open Society Justice Initiative that petitioned the court on behalf of a detainee who was held there.