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Black site is a military term that has been used by United States intelligence agencies to refer to any classified facility that is officially denied by the US government. Recently the term has gained notoriety in describing allegedly secret prisons, generally outside of the mainland U.S. territory and legal jurisdiction, and with little or no political or public oversight. It can refer to the facilities that are allegedly controlled by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) used by the U.S. in its "War on Terror" to detain suspected enemy combatants. The claimed purpose is to detain terrorists outside of the Intelligence Oversight Act which authorizes Congressional supervision.

A claim that the black sites existed was made by the Washington Post in October 2005. Many European countries have officially denied they are hosting Black Sites to imprison terrorists. No countries have confirmed they are hosting Black Sites.

A presidential directive allows the agency to capture and hold specific classes of suspects without accounting for them to the public, or revealing the conditions they face in the prisons. Opponents of this practice charge that US officials have ordered (or deliberately overlook) prisoner abuse. The prisons are assumed to be serviced by the N44982, N4476S and N221SG prisoner transport planes, although there is no proof of the allegation. Apart from the hundred CIA detainees, Swiss politician Dick Marty's January 2006 report concluded that another hundred had been kidnapped on European territory and rendered to other countries, some of which use torture.

An investigation on the origins of the leaks has also been opened by the U.S. Justice Department to investigate what may have been illegal release of classified information. On April 21, 2006, Mary O. McCarthy, a longtime CIA analyst, was reportedly fired for leaking classified information to a Washington Post reporter. Some have speculated that the information allegedly leaked may have included information about the camps. McCarthy's lawyer, however, claims that McCarthy "did not have access to the information she is accused of leaking."

Detainees

The list of those thought to be held by the CIA include suspected al-Qaeda members Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Nurjaman Riduan Isamuddin, Ramzi Binalshibh and Abu Zubaydah. The total number of ghost detainees was presumed to be at least a hundred, although the precise number cannot be determined because less than 10% of them have been charged or convicted. However, Swiss senator Dick Marty's memorandum on "alleged detention in Council of Europe states" stated that about a hundred persons had been kidnapped by the CIA on European territory and subsequently rendered to countries where they may have been tortured. This number of a hundred persons does not overlap, but adds itself to the U.S. detained 100 ghost detainees. Suspected black sites

Asia

In Thailand, the Voice of America relay station in Udon Thani was reported to be a black site. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has denied these reports.

Middle East

In Afghanistan, the prison at Bagram Air Base was initially housed in an abandoned brickmaking factory outside Kabul known as the "Salt Pit" , but later moved to the base some time after a young Afghani died of hypothermia after being stripped naked and left chained to a floor. During this period, there were several incidents of torture and prisoner abuse, though they were related to non-secret prisoners, and not the CIA-operated portion of the prison. At some point prior to 2005, the prison was again relocated, this time to an unknown site. Metal containers at Bagram Air Base were reported to be black sites. Some Guantanamo detainees report being tortured in a prison they called "the dark prison", also near Kabul. In Iraq, Abu Ghraib was disclosed as also working as a black site, and was the center of an extensive prisoner abuse scandal. Additionally, Camp Bucca (near Umm Qasr) and Camp Cropper (near the Baghdad International Airport) were reported.

An Israeli newspaper reported Al Jafr prison in Jordan as a black site. Black sites have also been reported in Alizai, Kohat, and Peshwarwar, Pakistan.

Africa

Djibouti

Egypt, Libya, Morocco

Indian Ocean

The U.S. Naval Base in Diego Garcia was reported to be a black site, but UK officials have denied these reports.

Europe

Several European countries have denied hosting black sites: the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Russia, Romania, Georgia, Latvia, and Bulgaria. Slovakian ministry spokesman Richard Fides said the country had no black sites, but its intelligence service spokesman Vladimir Simko said he would not disclose any information about possible Slovakian black sites to the media. EU Justice commissioner Franco Frattini makes an unprecedented call for the suspension of voting rights for any member state found to have hosted a CIA black site. Bulgaria

Ukraine denied hosting any such sites .

Macedonia

Romania

Although interior minister Vasile Blaga has assured the EU that the Mihail Koglnilniceanu Airport was used only as a supply point for equipment, and never for detention, there have been reports to the contrary. A fax intercepted by the Onyx Swiss interception system, from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to its London embassy stated that 23 prisoners were clandestinely interrogated by the U.S. at the base.

Mobile sites

U.S. warship USS Bataan - By definition as a U.S. military vessel, this is not technically a "black site" as defined above. However, it has been used by the United States military as a temporary initial interrogation site (after which, prisoners are then transferred to other facilities, possibly including black sites).

N221SG a Learjet 35

N44982 a Gulfstream V (also known as N379P)

N8068V a Gulfstream V

N4476S a Boeing Business Jet[23][24]

Issue development

The Washington Post on December 26, 2002 reported about a secret CIA prison in one corner of Bagram Air Force Base consisting of metal shipping containers. On March 14, 2004, The Guardian reported that three British citizens were held captive in a secret section (Camp Echo) of the Guanttnamo Bay complex. Several other articles reported the retention of ghost detainees by the CIA, alongside to the other official "enemy combatants". However, it was the revelations of the Washington Post, in a November 2, 2005 article, that would start the scandal. The newspaper revealed that the U.S. government was detaining more than 100 terrorism suspects in eight secret facilities. According to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats, there is a network of foreign prisons that includes or has included sites in several European democracies, Thailand, Afghanistan, and a small portion of the Guanttnamo Bay prison in Cuba - this network has been labeled by Amnesty International as "The Gulag Archipelago", in a clear reference to the novel of the same name by Russian writer and activist Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. At the request of U.S. officials, the Post declined to publish the names of the Eastern European countries involved.

European Union

The accusation that several EU members may have allowed the United States to hold, imprison or torture detainees on their soil has been a subject of controversy in the European body, who announced in November 2005 that any country found to be complicit could lose their right to vote in the council.

Village's March 2005 revelations

In the 26 February-4 March 2005 edition of Ireland's Village magazine, an article titled "Abductions via Shannon" revealed that Dublin and Shannon airports in Ireland were "used by the CIA to abduct suspects in its 'war on terror'". The article went on to state that a Boeing 737 (registration number N313P, later reregistered N4476S) "was routed through Shannon and Dublin on fourteen occasions from 1 January 2003 to the end of 2004. This is according to the flight log of the aircraft obtained from Washington DC by Village". Destinations included Estonia (1/11/03); Larnaca, Sale, Kabul, Palma, Skopje, Baghdad, Kabul (all 16 January 2004);Marka (10 May 2004 and 13 June 2004). Other flights began in places such as Dubai (2 June 2003 and 30 December 2003), Mitiga (29 October 2003 and 27 April 2004), Baghdad (2003) and Marka (8 February 2004, 4 March 2004, 10 May 2004), all of which ended in Washington DC.

The article stated that the same aircraft landed in Guantanamo on September 23, 2003 "having travelled from Kabul to Szymany (Poland), Mihail Koglnilniceanu (Romania) and Sall (Morocco)."It had being used "in connection with the abduction in Skopje, Macedonia, of Khalid El-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, on 31 December 2003, and his transport to a US detention centre in Afghanistan on 23 January 2004."

The aircraft was registered as being owned by Premier Executive Transport Services, based in Massachusetts, though as of February 2005 it was listed as being owned by Keeler and Tate Management, Reno, Nevada (US). On the day of registration transference, a Gulfstream V jet (number N8068V) used in the same activities, was transferred from Premier Executive Transport Services to a company called Baynard Foreign Marketing.

Human Rights Watch's allegations

On November 3, 2005, Tom Malinowski of the New York-based Human Rights Watch cited circumstantial evidence pointing to Poland and Romania hosting CIA-operated covert prisons. Flight records obtained by the group documented the Boeing 737 'N4476S' leased by the CIA for transporting prisoners leaving Kabul and making stops in Poland and Romania before continuing on to Morocco, and finally Guanttnamo Bay in Cuba. Such flight patterns might corroborate the claims of government officials that prisoners are grouped into different classes being deposited in different locations. Malinowski's comments prompted quick denials by both Polish and Romanian government officials as well as sparking the concern of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), who called for access to all foreign terrorism suspects held by the United States.

Investigations in Spain concerning CIA flights

In November 2005, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that CIA planes had landed in the Canary Islands and in Palma de Mallorca. An attorney opened up an investigation concerning these landings which, according to Madrid, were made without official knowledge, thus being a breach of national sovereignty.

Investigations in France concerning CIA flights

The French attorney general of Bobigny opened up an instruction in order "to verify the presence in Le Bourget Airport, on July 20, 2005, of the plane numbered N50BH." This instruction was opened following a complaint deposed in December 2005 by the Ligue des droits de l'homme (LDH) NGO ("Human Rights League") and the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) NGO on charges of "arbitrary detention", "crime of torture" and "non-respect of the rights of war prisoners". It has as objective to determine if the plane was used to transport CIA prisoners to Guantanamo Bay detainment camp and if the French authorities had knowledge of this stop. However, the lawyer defending the LDH declared that he was surprised that the instruction was only opened on January 20, 2006, and that no verifications had been done before. On December 2, 2005, conservative newspaper Le Figaro had revealed the existence of two CIA planes that had landed in France, suspected of transporting CIA prisoners. But the instruction concerned only N50BH, which was a Gulfstream III, which would have landed at Le Bourget on July 20, 2005, coming from Oslo, Norway. The other suspected aircraft would have landed in Brest on March 31, 2002. It is investigated by the Canadian authorities, as it would have been flying from St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada, via Keflavvk in Iceland before going to Turkey

The European investigation

The European Union (EU) and Europe's top human rights organisation, the Council of Europe, pledged to investigate the allegations. In an article posted through Reuters on November 25, 2005, the lead investigator for the Council of Europe, Swiss lawmaker Dick Marty announced that he had obtained latitude and longitude coordinates for suspected black sites, and he was planning to use satellite imagery over the last several years as part of his investigation. On November 28, 2005, EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini asserted that any EU country which had operated a secret prison would have its voting rights suspended.[35] In a preliminary report, Dick Marty declared that it was "highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware" of the CIA kidnapping of a "hundred" persons on European territory and their subsequent rendition to countries where they may be tortured .

On April 21, 2006 the New York Times reported that European investigators said they had not been able to find conclusive evidence of the existence of European black sites.

The Onyx-intercepted fax

In its edition of January 8, 2006, the Swiss newspaper Sonntagsblick published a document intercepted on November 10 by the Swiss Onyx interception system (similar to the UKUSA's ECHELON system). Purportedly sent by the Egyptian embassy in London to foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the document states that 23 Iraqi and Afghan citizens were interrogated at Mihail Kog lniceanu base near Constanca, Romania. According to the same document, similar interrogation centers exist in Bulgaria, Kosovo, Macedonia,The Egyptian Foreign Ministry later explained that the intercepted fax was merely a review of the Romanian press done by the Egyptian Embassy in Bucharest. It probably referred to a statement by controversial Senator and Great Romania party leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor.

The revelation of such black sites adds to the controversy surrounding U.S. policy regarding "enemy combatants". According to government sources, the detainees are broken into two groups. Approximately 30 detainees are considered the most dangerous or important terrorism suspects and are held at the black sites under the most secretive arrangements by the CIA. The second group is comprised of more than 70 detainees who may have originally been sent to black sites, but are soon delivered by the CIA to intelligence agencies in Middle Eastern and Asian countries such as Afghanistan, Morocco, and Egypt. A further 100 ghost detainees kidnapped on European territory and rendered to other countries must be counted, according to Swiss senator Dick Marty's January 2006's report. This process is called "extraordinary rendition". Marty also underlined that European countries probably had knowledge of these covert operations. Furthermore, the CIA apparently financially assists and directs the jails in these countries. While the U.S. and host countries have signed the United Nations Convention Against Torture, CIA officers are allowed to use what the agency calls Enhanced Interrogation Techniques. These have been alleged to constitute "severe pain or suffering" under the UN convention, which would be a violation of the treaty and thus U.S. law.

The fourteen European countries Marty listed as collaborators in "unlawful inter-state transfers": Britain, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Bosnia, Macedonia, Turkey, Spain, Cyprus, Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Romania and Poland. Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz characterized the accusation as "libel", while Romania similarly said there was no evidence. Britain's Tony Blair said "[the report] added absolutely nothing new whatever to the information we have". Poland and Romania received the most direct accusals, as the report claims the evidence for these sites is "strong." The report cites airports in Timisoara, Romania, and Szymany, Poland, as "detainee transfer/drop-off point[s]." Eight airports outside Europe are also cited.

U.S. administration response

Responding to the allegations, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated on December 5 that U.S. had not violated any country's sovereignty in the rendition of terrorism suspects, and that individuals were never rendered to countries where it was believed that they might be tortured. Some media sources have noted her comments do not exclude the possibility of covert prison sites operated with the knowledge of the "host" nation,or the possibility that promises by such "host" nations that they will refrain from torture may not be genuine.

United Nations response

On May 19, 2006, the United Nations Committee Against Torture (the U.N. body that monitors compliance with the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the world's anti-torture treaty) recommended that the United States cease holding detainees in secret prisons and stop the practice of rendering prisoners to countries where they are likely to be tortured. The decision was made in Geneva following two days of hearings at which a 26-member U.S. delegation defended the practices.

 

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