Mysterious CIA prison for al Qaeda suspects in Lithuania

  • 2009-09-02
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

WE'LL FIND OUT: On Aug. 25, at a joint press conference in Brussels, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that Lithuania should investigate the case of a CIA secret prison in Lithuania.

VILNIUS - On Aug. 20, ABC News announcedthat Lithuanianofficials provided the CIAwith a building on the outskirts ofVilnius where as many as eight alQaeda suspects were held for morethan a year, until late 2005 whenthey were moved. Lithuanian officialsdeny this allegation.According to ABC News, a formerintelligence official (his namewas not disclosed) involved inthe program, said that Lithuaniaagreed to host a prison because itwanted better relations with theU.S. Asked whether the Bush administrationor the CIA offered incentivesin return for allowing theprison, the official said, "We didn'thave to."

The official said, "Theywere happy to have our ear.""I have no data which wouldconfirm it. It is unpleasant information.Mentioning of Lithuaniain such context is harmful," LithuanianPresident Dalia Grybauskaitesaid during a short briefingon Aug. 21.On the same day, former LithuanianPresident Valdas Adamkusexpressed his surprise during hisbriefing. "I didn't know about ituntil yesterday. I would be certainlyinformed about the existence ofsuch prison," he said.Adamkus was echoed by AlgirdasBrazauskas, the first Lithuanianpresident after re-establishmentof Lithuania's independence,who was the prime minister from2000-2006. Brazauskas describedABC News information as "fantasies".According to Arvydas Anusauskas,MP of the ruling HomelandUnion 's Christian Democrats,European institutions investigatedsimilar accusations againstPoland and Romania, however,Lithuania was never mentioned inthe conclusions of those investigations.

Existence of such prisons inPoland and Romania in the past isa "public secret" though local politiciansof both countries deniedit and if such accusations againstLithuania would were to be true itwould harm Lithuania's image asit would be a violation of Lithuanianand international laws, accordingto Kestutis Girnius, politicalanalyst and former director ofCold War-era U.S.-sponsored RadioFree Europe Lithuanian service.He does not reject possibility ofthe existence of such a prison.Dick Marty, the Swiss rapporteurof the Parliamentary Assemblyof the Council of Europe(PACE) on secret detentions, saidhis own sources confirmed theABC News report.

Many Lithuanians seem to believeABC News, according to themost popular Lithuanian internetsite On Aug. 23, the siteconducted a survey by electronicvote asking its readers a question,"Do you believe that there was asecret CIA prison in Lithuania?"Answers were as follows, 47 percent"yes," 35 percent "no" and 18percent "I don't know." Of course,such a survey can not be describedas scientific.On Aug. 25, Russia Today,Kremlin-sponsored English-languagesatellite TV, said that theCIA prison for al Qaeda suspectswas situated 40 kilometers fromVilnius in Rudninkai, a formerSoviet military base, now a trainingbase of the Public SecurityService at the Lithuanian InteriorMinistry.

Russia Today is considered tobe a brainwashing broadcaster 's so,when repeated it's questionafter Russia Today's report, only 36percent said "yes", 51 percent said"no" and 14 percent said "I don'tknow".However, daily Lietuvos Ziniosreported that in Rudninkai onelocal man, who refused to say hisname, told the daily that he saw theAmericans visiting the base there.Grybauskaite seems to feeluneasy about the situation.

OnAug. 25, visiting the EuropeanCommission where previouslyGrybauskaite worked as commissionerfor financial programmingand budget, she was met by EuropeanCommission President JoseManuel Barroso. He kissed the airnear both cheeks of Grybauskaiteand told her "welcome home," butduring their common press conferenceGrybauskaite's face turned tobe slightly reddish when a Germanjournalist asked her about a secretCIA prison."It is regretful that my country'sname is on the list. It will befor us to prove if it is true or not,"Grybauskaite said adding that theLithuanian parliament was alreadyputting together a special committeeto look into the case."We have repeatedly stressedthe need for member states to startor continue in-depth, independent,impartial investigations to establishthe truth of such claims," Barrosoechoed.Arunas Brazauskas, deputyeditor of the Lithuanian businessnewspaper Verslo Zinios, in hisweekly commentary on the Lithuanianpublic radio said a simple adviceto those Lithuanian MPs whowant to find out the truth.

"They should send a requestto the Washington administrationasking for information on the basisof the U.S. Freedom of InformationAct," he said.Melvin Goodman, who in thepast worked as an analyst with theCIA for 24 years, told daily LietuvosRytas that ABC News informercould spread disinformation becauseother major U.S. informationgiants, such as The New York Timesand the Los Angeles Times, whichhave reporters investigating suchissues, ignored this news. However,Goodman did not exclude categoricallya possibility of such prison'sexistence in Lithuania.Analysts point out to the clumsyreaction of Lithuanian governmentin this case. The Rudninkaitraining base of the Public SecurityService remains closed territoryfor journalists though it would bein the interest of the governmentto invite journalists and foreigninvestigators there if no wrongdoingswere made at that base.