Europeans Seek More Info on Secret Jails

The Associated Press
Thursday, September 7, 2006; 2:25 AM

LONDON -- President Bush's disclosure that terrorism suspects had been held in CIA-run prisons drew approval from activists and defense attorneys, but some called for details on the secret lockups.

Bush said in a White House speech Wednesday that a small number of high-value detainees _ including the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, Khalid Sheik Mohammed _ had been kept in CIA custody in order to be "held secretly, questioned by experts and, when appropriate, prosecuted for terrorist acts."

International lawmakers and civil rights campaigners have long called on Bush to acknowledge the United States used a network of secret prisons and have transferred prisoners between them on covert flights.

Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator on torture, called Bush's acknowledgment of CIA secret prisons "progress," but said their existence was already known.

"We knew there was secret places of detention because we knew there were people who had been arrested and then we lost track of them," Nowak told the AP.

The deputy president of Malaysia's largest opposition party, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic party, condemned the CIA prisons and said Bush's acknowledgment was not surprising.

"To us this is nothing new, Bush's use of military and force to act upon his agenda," said Nasharudin Mat Isa. "This latest boast of his (about CIA secret prisons abroad) will make him even more unpopular among Americans."

Australia, a staunch U.S. ally in the war on terror, praised the secret prison program, with Foreign Minister Alexander Downer saying it achieved "a great deal."

Downer conceded the prisons were controversial, but said critics should "understand how important it's been to get information from detainees which has led to the capture and in some cases the killing of terrorists who might have otherwise killed innocent people."

Nowak, who reports to the U.N. Human Rights Council, the global body's top right watchdog, has said the use of secret prisons violate anti-torture commitments under international law because keeping detainees in such places is a form of enforced disappearance.

He said the transfer of 14 detainees from clandestine centers to Guantanamo Bay was "an improvement," but warned that "of course there are many others."

In his comments, Bush said that with the transfer of the 14 men to Guantanamo, there currently are no detainees being held by the CIA. A senior administration official said the CIA had detained fewer than 100 suspected terrorists in the history of the program.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2006 The Associated Press