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Bush admits CIA secret prisons
Times Online (UK)
By Tom Baldwin
September 6, 2006

Detainees in Guantanamo will be given full rights under Geneva Conventions

GEORGE BUSH admitted yesterday for the first time that terror suspects had been held in secret CIA prisons outside US borders, saying that they were now being transferred to Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba, where he hoped that they would be tried for war crimes.

The President, who is using a series of speeches to re-focus the attention of voters on national security before the mid-term elections in November, was cheered by his White House audience when he said that his proposal would mean that the men who "orchestrated the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans on September 11, 2001, can face justice".

This provided him with cover for a significant retreat by his Administration yesterday over the treatment of detainees from the War on Terror. They have previously been deemed "illegal enemy combatants" but will now be given full rights under Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

Just hours before Mr Bush's speech the Pentagon announced a complete overhaul of its policy for inmates at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, to set a "single standard of humane treatment". The new rules, which have been drawn up in response to the scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, specifically outlaw eight interrogation techniques that critics say amount to torture and have done much damage to the global reputation of America. These are: forced nudity and sexual acts; beatings and electric shocks; extreme cold or heat distress; "waterboarding" — a simulated drowning technique allegedly used by the CIA; mock executions; withholding food and water; the use of dogs; and masking people in hoods and covering their eyes with duct tape.

The European Parliament has attacked clandestine "rendition" flights across Europe, which included stops at Prestwick airport in Glasgow, to take terror suspects to secret CIA prisons where they could face torture.

Mr Bush yesterday insisted that the US "does not torture — it's against our laws, and it's against our values". But he acknowledged that a "small number" of detainees had been kept in CIA custody in secret locations around the world.

The President said that these included people responsible for the bombing of the naval ship USS Cole in 2000 in Yemen and the 1998 attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in addition to the 9/11 attacks.

"The most important source of information on where the terrorists are hiding and what they are planning is the terrorists themselves," he said. "It has been necessary to move these individuals to an environment where they can be held in secret, questioned by experts and, when appropriate, prosecuted for terrorist acts."

The CIA programme had interrogated suspected terrorists such as as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, believed to be the mastermind behind 9/11, Ramzi Binalshibh, a would-be hijacker; and Riduan Isamuddin, who was behind a string of deadly bomb attacks in Indonesia until his arrest in Thailand in 2003.

Mr Bush said that the questioning of these detainees had provided critical intelligence information about terrorist activities that enabled officials to prevent attacks not only in the United States but also Europe, including a plot to crash hijacked aircraft into Heathrow or the Canary Wharf towers in London.

He said that 14 key terrorist leaders had been transferred the prison at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, where they will be afforded legal protections consistent with the Geneva Conventions and "treated with the humanity that they denied others".

Although the President is still refusing to grant the wish of, among others, the British Government, for the closure of the prison camp at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, his decision to grant inmates protection under the Geneva Conventions represents a dramatic reversal of his Administration's former policy.

He also outlined fresh plans for military commissions to try suspected terrorists. The Supreme Court struck down a previous proposal in June on the ground that it would violate US and international law.

Senior Republican senators, including John McCain and John Warner, are reported to be still at odds with the Administration over the extent to which defendants should be allowed to know the evidence against them.

They are said to believe that restricting access to such information is unjust and would set a dangerous precedent for captured US military personnel. But a White House spokesman insisted yesterday that the new proposal would "pass muster with the Supreme Court".

Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secrteary who was yesterday in hospital recovering from shoulder surgery, is regarded as the chief author of bitterly contested methods of detaining, interrogating and prosecuting suspected terrorists. He has also become a symbol of successive setbacks in the War on Terror. A growing number of Republicans are beginning to attack Mr Rumsfeld as a proxy for criticising Mr Bush and the Iraq war. Chris Shays, a Republican Congressman from Connecticut, said: "I simply don't think he has measured up on running the war in Iraq."

The Democrats tried to push no-confidence motions against the Defence Secretary in both Houses of Congress as a way of embarrassing their opponents in the mid-term elections. But Republicans stood by Mr Rumsfeld, with John Boehner, the House Majority leader, defending him with a backhanded compliment as a man "who knows where bodies are buried in the Pentagon".


# Human rights groups allege that CIA "black sites" — secret prisons — exist in Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan, Thailand, Uzbekistan, Poland and Romania

# Detainees are moved to these sites through so-called extraordinary renditions

# In December a Swiss senator reported to the Council of Europe that 14 European countries, including Britain, have colluded with the CIA's renditions by allowing abductions from their soil or acting as stop-off points for flights on the way to prisons

# The US claims that detainees in secret prisons are not tortured. However, in 2002 Jay Bybee, the Assistant US Attorney-General, suggested that for pain to be defined as torture it should be severe enough potentially to result in organ failure or death

# The Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba was set up in 2002 for al-Qaeda and Taleban operatives. It was initially run outside the Geneva Convention, but in June that position was ruled unlawful by the US Supreme Court. The camp holds about 450 detainees

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