Bush confirms existence of secret CIA prisons

From the JURIST

JURIST] US President Bush on Wednesday acknowledged [speech transcript] that the US Central Intelligence Agency [official website] has operated secret prisons outside the US where high-value terror suspects [DNI backgrounder, PDF] were detained, and said that 14 of those suspects [DNI profiles, PDF] have now been transferred to the Defense Department’s military prison at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] where they will face trial. The suspects transferred to Guantanamo include alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [BBC profile] as well as key al Qaeda members suspected of designing the bombings of the USS Cole and US embassies in Africa. Bush said that it was necessary to keep the “small number” of detainees in secret facilities where they could be “questioned by experts and – when appropriate – prosecuted for terrorist acts” due to the threat posed by the detainees or because they may possess “intelligence that we and our allies need to have to prevent new attacks.”

Bush also stressed that US Justice Department and CIA lawyers have determined that program complies with US law, saying:

This program has been subject to multiple legal reviews by the Department of Justice and CIA lawyers; they’ve determined it complied with our laws. This program has received strict oversight by the CIA’s Inspector General. A small number of key leaders from both political parties on Capitol Hill were briefed about this program. All those involved in the questioning of the terrorists are carefully chosen and they’re screened from a pool of experienced CIA officers. Those selected to conduct the most sensitive questioning had to complete more than 250 additional hours of specialized training before they are allowed to have contact with a captured terrorist.

I want to be absolutely clear with our people, and the world: The United States does not torture. It’s against our laws, and it’s against our values. I have not authorized it — and I will not authorize it. Last year, my administration worked with Senator John McCain, and I signed into law the Detainee Treatment Act, which established the legal standard for treatment of detainees wherever they are held. I support this act. And as we implement this law, our government will continue to use every lawful method to obtain intelligence that can protect innocent people, and stop another attack like the one we experienced on September the 11th, 2001.

The CIA program has detained only a limited number of terrorists at any given time — and once we’ve determined that the terrorists held by the CIA have little or no additional intelligence value, many of them have been returned to their home countries for prosecution or detention by their governments. Others have been accused of terrible crimes against the American people, and we have a duty to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice. So we intend to prosecute these men, as appropriate, for their crimes.

The existence of secret CIA prisons [JURIST report] in Europe was first reported by the New York Times in November and at the time the Bush administration refused to either confirm or deny the report. Both the European Union and the Council of Europe (COE) have conducted investigations into the prisons and the CIA’s alleged use of illegal rendition flights [JURIST news archive] throughout Europe. The COE in June passed a resolution [JURIST report] adopting the report [PDF text] of Swiss legislator Dick Marty accusing European countries of colluding with the CIA in transporting terror suspects in a “global spider’s web” [COE graphic] of secret prisons and rendition flights.

During the same speech Wednesday, Bush also detailed his administration’s proposal for legislation authorizing military commissions at Guantanamo Bay. AP has more.