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CIA Black Sites and Washington’s Allies

Re-Opening the Investigation

By BINOY KAMPMARK | CounterPunch | April 7, 2015

They certainly sought to please in those initial dark days when a position at the NATO table was at stake. This was something of a New World Order – the attacks after September 11, 2001 did certainly allow Washington to make that spurious case. The stakes were high, and the “need” for pressing intelligence saw a crude clipping of various liberties and protections.

Unfortunately, in so doing, willing allies and proxies lined up their maps, their facilities, and their accomplices in what became a global program of interrogation and torture. These locations willingly offered by host states came to be known as “black sites” and proved all too attractive to powers and institutions.

Lithuania’s case is a particularly conspicuous one. Its authorities have been reluctant to admit providing cover for CIA activities, let alone any specific location. A parliamentary inquiry held during 2009-2010 went so far as to suggest that such a provision had, in fact, been made, advising that prosecutors take the lead. The report in question noted a detention centre set up near Vilnius in 2004-2006.

But it also spoke in tones of reservation – CIA aircraft had landed in Lithuania, but it was not clear whether human cargo had accompanied it. (Why such aircraft would be found on Lithuanian soil without such cargo is an odd point in itself.)

Four years ago, the prosecutors dropped the investigation like a steaming hot potato. The action suggested that something foul was afoot – such a procedure did not look good for the US-Lithuanian relationship, and uncovering any more details than was necessary would have proven, at least in the public eye, impairing.

This has not stopped such actions as those of Saudi-born Abu Zubaydah, who became a near cult figure of the extraordinary rendition program during the Bush years. Zubaydah’s recourse has been through the European Court of Human Rights, where he is seeking to show that Lithuania violated the European Convention on Human Rights. He is arguing that Lithuania is responsible for his unlawful detention, torture and ill-treatment, the deprivation of the right to private and family life, the unlawful transfer from Lithuania, and ongoing violations of his right to legal recourse.

Then came the Senate Intelligence Committee Report on the CIA’s interrogation program, one waged with tentacle-like spread across a range of jurisdictions and continents. Its lurid subject matter got various prosecutors in a range of countries concerned. Had they been too slow off the mark? Much evidence suggested that they had.

The detention centre “Violet” noted in the Senate report seemed eerily close to the descriptions put forth in the Lithuanian parliamentary investigation. The Senate report noted how an amount approximating to $1 million was provided by the US to “show appreciation” for its creation, money which was conveyed via various “complex mechanisms” to evade the government ledgers.

Initially, it did not seem that much would change. Last month, Loreta Grauziniene, speaker of the Lithuanian parliament, told Reuters that, “No new inquest will be considered, because there is no longer sufficient support for it among parliamentary members.” In making such an observation, the speaker merely affirmed the link between state criminality and the will behind prosecuting it. Former president Valdas Adamkus typifies such indifference, insisting that “there were no prisons or prisoners in Lithuania,” a view he would maintain till seeing the incriminating “documents before my eyes”.

This month saw a slight modification of the stance. Lithuania’s senior prosecutor, Irmantas Mikelionis, “decided on January 22 to cancel the January 21, 2011 decision of prosecutors to stop the investigation into possible abuse, and has restarted the investigation.” According to Rita Stundiene, a spokeswoman for the prosecutors, “The prosecutor renewed a previously terminated probe and merged it with the ongoing pre-trial investigation [into the case of Mustafa al-Hawsawi].”

Emphasis will be directed at the alleged violation of two articles of the Lithuanian criminal code: the illegal transportation of a foreigner through Lithuanian territory (the case on CIA prisoner Mustafa al-Hawsawi provides a classic example); and the abuse of power by a state employee resulting in significant harm. In themselves, these read like misdemeanours, minor procedural blots. In actual fact, such conduct was the hallmark of CIA interrogatory procedures, aided and abetted by various state authorities.

Whether the renewed investigation is going to do anything more than keep the common record busy for a time is hard to know. As one of Zubaydah’s lawyers, Helen Duffy, argues, the gesture on the part of the Lithuanian prosecutors might also be construed as a tactic to ward off more concrete legal scrutiny in Strasbourg. “There is every reason to be sceptical about whether this is a meaningful investigation.” Any investigation, to be effective, had to be total.

Such prosecutorial actions tend to be kept on the books, and rarely move off them into the realm of action and consequence. Too much is deemed at stake for such alliances. Justice, in that sense, takes the most distant of backseats, while the soiled hands of the torturers remain in service.

Lithuania’s politicians generally have less of an interest in seeing CIA operatives, and their accomplices, behind bars than holding the fort against what is seen as a viable Russian threat from the east. Bigger enemies loom. Prosecutorial grit, in other words, is lacking.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

April 7, 2015 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lithuania’s CIA prison investigation ‘small step’ after ‘years of foot-dragging’ – Reprieve

Reprieve | April 2, 2015

Reuters has today reported that Lithuanian prosecutors have reopened an investigation into secret CIA prisons – or ‘black sites’ – which the country hosted as part of the US Agency’s rendition and torture programme. Lithuania had closed a previous probe into the matter in 2011. The re-opening of the investigation follows the submission by international legal charity Reprieve of a dossier to Lithuanian prosecutors in January this year, which detailed evidence of CIA black sites hosted by the country.

Commenting, Reprieve legal director, Kat Craig said: “While this is a small step in the right direction, it remains the case that Lithuania has for years dragged its feet when it comes to investigating CIA torture sites on its soil.

“Now that the US Senate has clearly established that the CIA did indeed hold prisoners in the country, the Lithuanian Government’s 2011 conclusion that there was ‘nothing to see here’ is even more difficult to understand. Lithuania must publish the findings and conclusions of its previous investigation in full, in order to explain how it managed to get things so wrong in the past.”

April 2, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

New evidence shows CIA held prisoners in Lithuania

Reprieve | January 16, 2015

New analysis and previously unpublished documents released by legal charity Reprieve show that the CIA held prisoners in Lithuania in 2005 and 2006, contrary to official denials.

In a dossier and briefing submitted to the Lithuanian Prosecutor today, Reprieve reveals how the newly declassified US Senate Report on CIA detention correlates with flight data and contracting documents; and demonstrates that prisoners were moved into Lithuania in February and October 2005, and out of Lithuania to Afghanistan in March 2006.

A previous investigation by Lithuanian prosecutors, shelved in 2011, concluded that the CIA built a facility in a converted stable outside Vilnius, but argued there was no evidence that prisoners were ever held in it.

Reprieve’s analysis, combined with material in the declassified report, now shows that several prisoners were held in the site – called “Violet” in the Senate report – before it was closed down on 25 March 2006.

Flights through Lithuania were organised by Computer Sciences Corporation working alongside several operating companies under the auspices of a series of contracts first set up in 2002. The companies used multiple techniques to disguise their routes, and border guards were prevented from checking their cargo. Partial and incorrect routes for the planes were recorded by a Lithuanian inquiry. Reprieve determined the correct routes of the aircraft by cross-referencing a broader range of data sources and matched their dates to disclosures in the Senate report.

Reprieve investigator Crofton Black said: “The Lithuanian authorities have long hidden behind a smokescreen of increasingly implausible deniability. This new dossier shows beyond reasonable doubt that CIA prisoners were held incommunicado in Lithuania, contrary to European and domestic law. Reprieve looks forward to assisting the Lithuanian prosecutor in his further investigations.”

January 16, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Leave a comment

There to stay: US troops keep Poland, Baltic deployment for 2015

RT | November 24, 2014

A ‘temporary’ deployment of US troops in Poland and the Baltic states has been extended through 2015, a US commander in Europe said. NATO sells its presence as a deterrent to an ‘aggressive Russia’, with Moscow countering that it only escalates tension.

The alliance deployed several hundred US troops in Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia earlier this year. The move was explained by a desire to give confidence to these NATO members after the political crisis in Ukraine and the secession of its region of Crimea to rejoin Russia. The alliance called it an annexation and said countries in the region feared that Moscow would militarily attack them.

Originally the troops were supposed to stay until the end of the year, but now NATO wants to keep them for at least 12 months more, said Lieutenant-General Frederick Ben Hodges, Commanding General of US Army Europe.

“We have planned rotations out through next year. Units are designated that will continue to do this,” Hodges told journalist in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius.

“There are going to be US Army forces here in Lithuania, as well as Estonia and Latvia and Poland, for as long as is required to deter Russian aggression and to assure our allies,” he said as cited by Reuters.

A 1997 Russia-NATO agreement forbids the alliance from having troops permanently stationed in the Baltic States, so the deployment remains a temporary mission. However, it’s not immediately clear when, if ever, NATO would consider the perceived threat of a Russian aggression no longer valid and withdraw the troops.

Washington’s assurances to its eastern NATO partners were also delivered last week through diplomatic channels.

“When NATO and the US as part of NATO took new members into the alliance, this means that we are ready to participate in the defense of the security of these countries, and this means that we are ready to give our lives for the security of these countries,” said US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs Victoria Nuland during a visit to Latvia.

Amid the Ukrainian crisis, Poland and the Baltic states have been among the most vocal critics of Russia. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite went as far as branding Russia ‘a terrorist state’ last week, prompting some Russian MPs to call for the severing of diplomatic ties with Vilnius.

Russia considers the build-up of NATO troops close to its borders provocative and dangerous. Moscow’s envoy to the alliance Aleksandr Grushko said NATO “is turning the Baltic region, which used to be militarily calm, into an area of military confrontation with Russia.”

The Russian military said it would respond to the emerging NATO threat from the Baltic with appropriate counter-moves.

November 24, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NATO’s Estonia drills are anti-Russian, don’t make Europe more secure – Moscow

RT | November 11, 2014

Moscow believes NATO drills in Estonia are of “a clearly anti-Russian nature” and will scarcely contribute to European safety, according to a statement by the Russian Defense Ministry.

NATO has conducted five military exercises near the Russian border over the past six months, the head of the ministry’s Department of International Cooperation, Sergey Koshelev, told journalists on Tuesday.

“Obviously the policy chosen by our colleagues from NATO will hardly make Europe a safer place,” he said.

The comment was in response NATO’s plans of having so-called ‘Trident Juncture’ drills in Estonia. Koshelev believes the exercises have been inspired by warnings of a “Russian threat,” as voiced by NATO’s supreme allied commander, Philip Breedlove.

“Today Estonia is chosen as an object of that ‘threat’,” Kochelev said. Although recently such objects were Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, which also hosted large-scale NATO drills.”

“Taking this into account, it’s strange to hear some NATO representatives lamenting a group of Russian planes flying in international airspace over the North Atlantic,” he added.

The Trident Juncture drills are clearly anti-Russian, Koshelev believes.

“According to the drills’ scenario, the headquarters of various levels should have their actions tested in a situation in which one of the members of the bloc is attacked by an unnamed “big hostile nation,” he said. “From a geographical standpoint Estonia, which hosts the drills, borders only with ‘little friendly nations’ besides Russia. Hence, the NATO drills have a clearly anti-Russian nature.”

November 11, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NATO troops and bases not welcome in Slovakia and Czech Republic

RT | June 5, 2014

Two Eastern European nations, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, have refused to host foreign troops and military bases. The prime ministers of both countries have consecutively spoken against the proposal voiced by US President Barack Obama.

Following the example of their neighbor the Czech Republic, the prime minister of Slovakia stated that his country is ready to meet its obligations as a NATO member state, but stationing foreign troops on its territory is out of the question.

Slovak PM Robert Fico said he “can’t imagine foreign troops being deployed on our territory in the form of some bases.”

The proposal to host more NATO troops in Eastern Europe was voiced by Obama on his current tour of Europe.

Speaking at a news conference in Warsaw, Obama said America is stepping up its partnership with countries in Eastern Europe with a view to bolstering security.

Initially, it was Poland that asked for a greater US military presence in Eastern Europe.

In April, Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak called on the Pentagon to deploy as many as 10,000 American troops in his country.

Three Baltic States welcomed the idea back in April. To begin with, a small contingent of American troops began to arrive in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia to take part in military training.

Two countries opposed deployment of any foreign soldiers on their territory.

On Tuesday, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said his country sees no need to allow foreign military presence on its territory.

Last month, Defense Minister Martin Stropinsky sparked a political storm in the Czech Republic by recalling the 1968 invasion as the biggest reason not to host NATO troops in the country in a Reuters interview.

Slovakia’s Fico joined in the debate Wednesday, saying that for his country such a military presence is a sensitive issue because of the Warsaw Pact troops’ invasion into Czechoslovakia in 1968.

“Slovakia has its historical experience with participation of foreign troops. Let us remember the 1968 invasion. Therefore this topic is extraordinarily sensitive to us,” he said.

Fico said that Slovakia is committed to fulfill its obligations towards NATO despite military budget cuts and that allies would be allowed to train on Slovak territory anyway.

Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.

The Czech Republic entered NATO in 1999, whereas Slovakia joined the alliance later, in 2004.

Fico’s Smer party, which has an absolute majority in Slovakia’s parliament, has been advocating warmer relations with Russia.

See also:

‘Peed in public, behave like occupiers’: Latvian mayor complains about NATO sailors

June 5, 2014 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lithuanians vote out pro-austerity government

Press TV – October 15, 2012

Lithuania’s left-wing and populist opposition parties are expected to form a new coalition government after anti-austerity Lithuanians voted out the country’s conservative-led government.

The leaders of three opposition parties–Labour, the Social Democrats and Order and Justice parties– held a meeting early on Monday after an exit poll showed that the voters decided to evict the country’s centre-right Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius in Sunday parliamentary election.

“We’re creating a working group to start consultations on a coalition,” Labour leader Viktor Uspaskich said after the meeting.

Figures published by the national elections commission indicated that with almost half of the ballots counted, the left-wing populist Labour party secured about 23 percent of the vote.

The Baltic state’s centre-left Social Democrats came in second with 20 percent of the vote, while the ruling conservatives received about 13 percent.

The incumbent government took office in 2008 amid global economic crisis and implemented a drastic austerity package in a bid to prevent the country’s bankruptcy.

The economic output of Lithuania, which is regarded as one of the European Union countries most hard hit by the crisis, fell by 15 percent and unemployment climbed.

Meanwhile, opposition parties pledged to ease the unpopular belt tightening measures by raising the minimum wage, creating jobs and making the rich pay more income tax.

By Christian Lowe and Andrius Sytas | Reuters | October 15, 2012

VILNIUS – Lithuanians rejected a plan to build a nuclear plant to cut dependence on imports of Russian energy, in a non-binding referendum that does not kill off the project but leaves a question mark over its future.

Support for the plant in Lithuania, one of the European Union states most dependent on imported energy, waned after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan last year.

With results counted from all but a handful of Lithuania’s districts after Sunday’s referendum, 62.74 percent voted “No”, while 34.01 percent were in favour. … Full article

October 15, 2012 Posted by | Economics | , , , | Comments Off on Lithuanians vote out pro-austerity government