Lithuania investigates possible CIA 'black site'

People in Antaviliai were suspicious of this building, originally windowless, that may have housed a CIA secret prison.
People in Antaviliai were suspicious of this building, originally windowless, that may have housed a CIA secret prison. (Craig Whitlock/the Washington Post)
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By Craig Whitlock
Thursday, November 19, 2009

ANTAVILIAI, LITHUANIA -- Residents of this village were mystified five years ago when tight-lipped American construction workers suddenly appeared at a mothballed riding stable here and built a large, two-story building without windows, ringed by a metal fence and security cameras.

Today, a Lithuanian parliamentary committee is investigating whether the CIA operated a secret prison for terrorism suspects on the plot of land at the edge of a thick forest for more than a year, from 2004 until late 2005.

Lithuanian land registry documents reviewed by The Washington Post show the property was bought in March 2004 by Elite LLC, an unincorporated U.S. firm registered in the District.

Records in Lithuania and Washington do not reveal the names of individual officers for Elite but identify its sole shareholder as Star Finance Group and Holdings Inc., a Panamanian corporation. There is no record of Elite owning other property in Lithuania.

The company, which has since had its registration revoked by D.C. authorities, in turn sold the property to the Lithuanian government in 2007, two years after the existence of the CIA's overseas network of secret prisons known as black sites -- including some in Eastern Europe -- was first revealed by The Washington Post.

At the time, The Post withheld the names of Eastern European countries involved in the covert program at the request of White House officials, who argued that disclosure could subject those countries to retaliation from al-Qaeda.

The Lithuanian government has not publicly confirmed whether the property was one of the CIA's black sites.

The site in Antaviliai, about 15 miles outside the capital, Vilnius, is now used by Lithuania's State Security Department as a training center. Department officials have declined to comment on the circumstances under which it acquired the property or whether it was used by the CIA. A CIA spokesman also declined to comment.

Domas Grigaliunas, a former counterintelligence officer with the Lithuanian military, said it was widely known among the Lithuanian secret services that U.S. intelligence partners had built the site, although its original purpose was kept highly classified.

"It just popped up out of nowhere," he said in an interview. "Everybody knew this was handed to us by the Americans."

Grigaliunas said he was asked in 2004 by the deputy director of Lithuanian military intelligence to develop plans to help a "foreign partner" that was interested in bringing individuals to Lithuania and concealing their whereabouts as part of a covert operation.

He said he made some recommendations but was never told the identity of the foreign partner or whether the operation was carried out. Since then, however, he said he has become convinced that the program involved the CIA's detention centers for terrorism suspects.

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