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Thursday, November 19, 2009

CIA Secret 'Torture' Prison Found at Fancy Horseback Riding Academy

The CIA built one of its secret European prisons inside an exclusive riding academy outside Vilnius, Lithuania, a current Lithuanian government official and a former U.S. intelligence official told ABC News this week.

Where affluent Lithuanians once rode show horses and sipped coffee at a café, the CIA installed a concrete structure where it could use harsh tactics to interrogate up to eight suspected al-Qaeda terrorists at a time. A full report on the can be seen on ABC's World News with Charles Gibson tonight.

"The activities in that prison were illegal," said human rights researcher John Sifton. "They included various forms of torture, including sleep deprivation, forced standing, painful stress positions."

Lithuanian officials provided ABC News with the documents of what they called a CIA front company, Elite, LLC, which purchased the property and built the "black site" in 2004.

Lithuania agreed to allow the CIA prison after President George W. Bush visited the country in 2002 and pledged support for Lithuania's efforts to join NATO.

"The new members of NATO were so grateful for the U.S. role in getting them into that organization that they would do anything the U.S. asked for during that period," said former White House counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, now an ABC News consultant. "They were eager to please and eager to be cooperative on security and on intelligence matters."

Sources Tell ABC News Top Al Qaeda Figures Held in Secret CIA Prisons
10 Out of 11 High-Value Terror Leaders Subjected to 'Enhanced Interrogation Techniques'

Two CIA secret prisons were operating in Eastern Europe until last month when they were shut down following Human Rights Watch reports of their existence in Poland and Romania.

Current and former CIA officers speaking to ABC News on the condition of confidentiality say the United States scrambled to get all the suspects off European soil before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived there today. The officers say 11 top al Qaeda suspects have now been moved to a new CIA facility in the North African desert.

CIA officials asked ABC News not to name the specific countries where the prisons were located, citing security concerns.

The CIA declines to comment, but current and former intelligence officials tell ABC News that 11 top al Qaeda figures were all held at one point on a former Soviet air base in one Eastern European country. Several of them were later moved to a second Eastern European country.

All but one of these 11 high-value al Qaeda prisoners were subjected to the harshest interrogation techniques in the CIA's secret arsenal, the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" authorized for use by about 14 CIA officers and first reported by ABC News on Nov. 18.

Rice today avoided directly answering the question of secret prisons in remarks made on her departure for Europe, where the issue of secret prisons and secret flights has caused a furor.

Without mentioning any country by name, Rice acknowledged special handling for certain terrorists.

List of 12 Operatives Held in CIA Prisons


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