The Central Intelligence Agency has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, the Washington Post reports. Te secret facility is part of a covert prison system the CIA set up nearly four years ago that has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan, and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
The hidden global internment network is a central element in the CIA’s war on terrorism. It depends on the cooperation of foreign intelligence services, and on keeping even basic information about the system secret from the public, foreign officials, and nearly all members of Congress charged with overseeing the CIA’s covert actions. The Post is not publishing the names of the Eastern European countries involved in the covert program, at the request of senior U.S. officials. The secret detention system was conceived in the chaotic and anxious first months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Since then, the arrangement has been increasingly debated within the CIA, where considerable concern lingers about the legality, morality, and practicality of holding even unrepentant terrorists in such isolation and secrecy, perhaps for the duration of their lives. CIA officers began arguing two years ago that the system was unsustainable and diverted the agency from its unique espionage mission.