Proof of CIA Prisons 'Could Create a Firestorm'

Swiss newspaper Sonntags Blick claims to have the first hard evidence that Swiss Intelligence intercepted a fax proving that the CIA operated secret prisons in Europe, where al-Qaeda sympathizers were detained and interrogated. Now that word has leaked out, according to this article from France's Le Monde, the 'confusion in Switzerland is palpable.'

By Mirel Bran and Agathe Duparc, Bucharest and Geneva Correspondents

Translated By Pascaline Jay

January 10, 2005

Original Article (French)

George Washington Blvd, at Romainia's Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase.(above)

A Romanian Soldier On the Tarmac of Mihail Kogalniceanu Airbase (below).

On its January 8th Sunday edition, the Swiss daily newspaper SonntagsBlick RealVideodisclosed an information that could create a firestorm. The newspaper, which usually deals with light, trivial revelations, claims to have in its possession a document coming from the Swiss secret service that would constitute the first proof of the existence of secret CIA prisons in Europe, where al-Qaeda sympathizers were detained and interrogated.

The proof is a fax from the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to its London Embassy that the Swiss intercepted in the middle of November, 2005. In the document, written in French, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry claims to have discovered, "through its own sources," that Romania allowed the CIA to interrogate 23 Iraqi and Afghan citizens on its territory.

It apparently happened at the Mihail Kogalniceanu military base, located close to Constantza, a Black Sea port. The fax also states that other interrogation centers such as this one exist in Ukraine, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bulgaria. It also mentions the information released by the NGO Human Right Watch at the end of September, 2005, about secret American flights going through Poland and Romania.

According to SonntagsBlick, on the night of November 15, the Swiss "Big Ears" were able to intercept the message, thanks to the Onyx system, which since 2000 has enabled the Swiss to keep watch over civil and military satellite communications. It is a kind of miniature Echelon (the American eavesdropping program), the purpose of which is to collect information on events and situations around the world that are related to Swiss national security, and which therefore must remain confidential.

In Switzerland, the confusion is palpable. On Sunday, the Federal Department of Defense (DDPS), which refuses to make any comment, admitted that a secret document had been released. The Secretary announced the opening of an administrative investigation. The investigation will be led by a Parliamentary Commission in charge of activities linked to national security.

On the other hand, Swiss Senator Dick Marty, appointed by the Council of Europe to investigate on the "secret CIA prisons" in Europe, said he couldn’t confirm the authenticity of the Egyptian fax. Quoted by SwissInfo, he pointed out that this document used "information that confirms clues which was already suspected."

In Romania, the SonntagsBlick article reopens the scandal that broke in November 2005, triggered by Human Rights Watch accusations. At the time, Bucharest denied everything. Back then, the site of Mihail Kogalniceanu - a base used by the American army during the war in Iraq - was mentioned as the airport where a CIA plane, coming from Kabul and going to Guantanamo, had stopped on September 23, 2005.

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