Investigating the CIA prison issue

  • 2009-11-11
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - On Nov. 5, the Lithuanian parliament voted in favor of an investigation into the alleged CIA prison issue. In August, U.S. TV station ABC News, citing unnamed ex-CIA officials, claimed Lithuania hosted a secret prison for al Qaeda suspects near Vilnius from September 2004 through November 2005. Lithuanian MPs decided that the hearing should be held by the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defense.

Arvydas Anusauskas, MP of the ruling Homeland Union - Lithuanian Christian Democrats and chairman of the committee, said that 41 high-ranking Lithuanian officials will be invited to the hearing, which will start on Nov. 20. The conclusion of the hearing is expected by Dec. 22. The list of those invited to the questioning by the committee is impressive: three former Lithuanian presidents - Algirdas Brazauskas, Rolandas Paksas and Valdas Adamkus - as well as two former heads of the State Security Department and many other top officials.

Gediminas Kirkilas, now MP of opposition Social Democrat Party and member of the parliamentary Committee on National Security and Defense, is in a weird situation now. He was defense minister from 2004 - 2006 and prime minister from 2006 - 2008. Kirkilas, a member of the committee which will organize the questioning, is also on the list of persons who will be questioned. It means that this ideologist of the Social Democrat Party could be in a schizophrenic situation, where he can loudly question himself or even argue with himself during the hearing.

"I see no problem if I would not participate in the committee's activity on this issue," Kirkilas said during his briefing in the parliament on Nov. 6. He also expressed the Social Democrat's skeptical view on the idea of such a hearing.
"There is no sense in such an investigation. I'm not applauding it. The prison story is a wish to worsen relations with our strategic partner, the United States. The hearing will also make public information which could harm our national security," Kirkilas said.

Algirdas Brazauskas, former Lithuanian president and later, from 2001 to 2006, Social Democrat prime minister, talking on the phone with LNK TV, described such hearings as harmful to Lithuania and the scandal over the alleged CIA prison as pure fantasy. Brazauskas is now recovering from cancer treatment. He said he will not go to the hearing, adding that the parliamentary committee members can come to question him at his house. "My answer will be short: I didn't know anything and I didn't hear anything," Brazauskas said.

Anusauskas said that the hearing will not pose any danger for Lithuanian security. "The hearing will not increase danger to Lithuania. It will show that we have the determination to respect human rights," Anusauskas said during his briefing in the parliament on Nov. 6.