Bush Administration Quiet on CIA Flights, Prisons

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The Bush administration neither confirms nor denies allegations that the United States has run covert flights and prisons in Europe. Despite keeping mum on the reports, the administration has maintained its practices have been lawful.


NPR national security correspondent Jackie Northam has been tracking this story in Washington.

And, Jackie, a lot of charges swirling around, but this also seems much closer to home. What does the Bush administration say about these allegations?


Renee, the administration neither confirms, nor denies that these secret CIA-run prisons actually exist. Officials just keep saying that they need to battle terrorism and sometimes this means unconventional but they say always lawful ways. And when President Bush was asked about the existence of some of these sites just after the news broke, he would not answer the question. He just once again said that the US does not torture detainees. We've long heard that, you know, the US has been sending suspected terrorists over to places like Egypt, like Saudi Arabia, which have long track records in torture, but this is on European soil. And in many ways, these are former Soviet prisons and that sends its own signal as well.

MONTAGNE: And there are several perspectives on whether this is helpful and productive or counterproductive to US intelligence. Has this done damage?

NORTHAM: You know, you talk to former and current CIA agents and foreign policy specialists and experts on the Arab and Islamic world and they say every time there's a revelation like this about how the US uses secret prisons to interrogate people, how they send them off to foreign countries that had long track records in torture, even Guantanamo, each time a new revelation comes out, it erodes confidence and it actually creates, they say, anger and resentment. Now administration officials say this is a different type of war, it's a war on terrorism, and they can't have their hands tied. And they point to somebody like Khalid Sheik Mohammed, you know, one of the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks, who they've managed to get a lot of information out of because they've used these aggressive interrogation techniques.

MONTAGNE: National security correspondent Jackie Northam, thank you.

NORTHAM: Thank you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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