by Andy Worthington
June 29, 2012
The Future of Freedom Foundation

In the long quest for accountability for those who ordered, authorized, or were complicit in the Bush administration’s torture program, every avenue has been shut down within the United States by the Obama administration, the Justice Department, and the courts. The only hope lies elsewhere in the world, and specifically Poland, one of three European countries that hosted secret CIA prisons where “high-value detainees” were subjected to torture.

The other two countries — Romania and Lithuania — either have refused to accept that a secret prison existed or have opened and then prematurely shut an investigation. But Poland has an ongoing official investigation that began four years ago and shows no sign of being dismissed, even if numerous obstacles to justice have been erected along the way.

Last week, two U.S. news outlets — the Los Angeles Times and ABC News — reported the latest claims of Senator Jozef Pinior. ABC News explained that he told the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza that prosecutors “have a document that shows a local contractor was asked to build a cage at Stare Kiekuty.” That was the Polish army base used by the CIA as its main prison for “high-value detainees” from December 2002 (when the previous prison in Thailand was closed down) until September 2003, when, for six months, the main “high-value detainees” were held in a secret prison within Guantánamo before being transferred back to facilities in Europe and Morocco. Fourteen “high-value detainees” were eventually returned to Guantánamo as military prisoners in September 2006.

“In a state with rights,” Pinior said, “people in prison are not kept in cages.” He added that a cage was “nonstandard equipment” for a prison, but that it was standard “if torture was used there.” When he was asked “if he was sure the cage was for humans,” he replied, “What was it for? Exotic birds?”

Pinior said that he had not actually seen the order for the cage but had learned that the prosecutor’s office investigating the prison, which is based in Krakow, has a copy of it. He also explained that the prosecutor’s office has an order signed by Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, who was the head of Polish intelligence in 2002, authorizing the establishment of the prison. ABC News claimed that a source told Gazeta Wyborcza that the agreement “has a space intended for an American signature, but that the Americans did not sign the document ‘because they do not want to sign documents inconsistent with their own Constitution and international law.’” That is a rather risible conclusion, as it is the use of torture that is “inconsistent with their own Constitution and international law.” A more honest analysis would have been that the United States wanted plausible deniability; that, in other words, they did not want to leave any traces of their actions.

Pinior is a key player in the Polish investigation. He worked on the EU investigation into European complicity in rendition and torture that preceded the Polish investigation, when he was first told about documents proving the prison’s existence by a reliable source who explained that he had seen papers that dealt with the procedures to be followed in case any of the prisoners died. That, it should be noted, was not mentioned last week in the U.S. reports.

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