Sunday, January 08, 2006
Swiss may have known about secret CIA prisons�(eng, NZZ Online)
The Swiss intelligence community has allegedly been aware of secret CIA prisons in eastern Europe for nearly two months according to leaked documents.
The intelligence services refuse to comment on the affair, revealed by the Sonntagsblick tabloid, while Swiss senator Dick Marty who is investigating the prison claims for the Council of Europe, remains cautious.
The Sonntagsblick wrote on Sunday that military intelligence intercepted a fax received by the Egyptian embassy in London supposedly confirming the existence of the detention centres.
The message was picked up by the secret service's Onyx satellite listening system on November 10, just three days after the Council of Europe launched an investigation into allegations that the CIA was running secret interrogation centres in Europe.
The non-governmental organisation Human Rights Watch had claimed shortly beforehand that American intelligences services were interrogating suspected members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network at these centres.
The NGO also claimed that American planes had carried prisoners from Kabul to Polish and Romanian military facilities on at least two occasions.
The Egyptian fax stated that 23 Iraqi and Afghan citizens had been transferred to a Romanian military base near the port of Constanza for interrogation purposes. It added that similar detention centres had been set up in Ukraine, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bulgaria.
The Sonntagsblick based its story on a document leaked from the Swiss military intelligence. The complete contents of the report are classified "secret."
Defence ministry Jean-Blaise Defago told swissinfo the authorities did not know how the journalists got hold of the document, but refused to comment on its contents. He added that defence minister Samuel Schmid has ordered an inquiry and legal steps were being considered.
The parliament's control committee, which oversees military intelligence, has also been informed of the leak.
Dick Marty, chief investigator for the Council of Europe into the prison allegations, is cautious about the Sonntagsblick's revelations.
"I cannot say whether it is an authentic document or not, and furthermore the fax relays information confirming things we already knew," he told swissinfo.
"But it seems inappropriate to me to talk of absolute proof. It is the kind of scoop I was expecting to see and I'm sure there will be plenty more."
Marty reckons that if the document turns out to be authentic, it will just be another proving that some governments in Europe are not revealing everything they know.
A bigger concern in his view is that a sensitive and secret official report was not only leaked, but that it also raised a few questions.
"How is it that the Swiss intelligence services are intercepting messages between Cairo and the Egyptian embassy in London," he asked. "Or is it another foreign service that passed on the information to Switzerland and then to the Sonntagsblick?"
swissinfo, Scott Capper