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‘President didn’t know about CIA prison in Poland’

PR dla Zagranicy
Peter Gentle 18.06.2011 14:35
The CIA detained terrorist suspects in Poland without the knowledge of the then president Aleksander Kwasniewski, high ranking political sources tell a leading Polish newspaper today.


“Aleksander Kwasniewski did not know what was going on there,” an informant has told Gazeta Wyborcza.

Prosecutors in Warsaw are currently considering whether to bring charges against Kwasniewski and other left wing politicians for allegedly allowing al-Qaeda suspects to be held and tortured in Poland. Kwasniewski has always said he had no knowledge of the CIA activity.

The latest revelations in Polish media seem to support his claim.

Based on the testimony of three unnamed “high ranking” members of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) - the party in government during the period that the CIA prison in northern Poland was operative - President Aleksander Kwasniewski only found out about the 'black site' at the Stare Kiejkuty intelligence base, near the Szczytno-Szymany airport, over 100 kilometres from Warsaw, when President George W. Bush thanked him for Poland‘s assistance in the ‘war against terror’, the daily reports.

While on a visit to Poland in June 2003, Bush thanked Kwasniewski for the help Warsaw had given Washington in its fight against terrorism.

But so profuse was Bush’s thanks that Kwasniewski realised that “something was not right,” as Poland had only sent a limited number of troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, to his knowledge.

When Kwasniewski subsequently found out that CIA-leased planes had been flying terrorist suspects in and out of Poland, the then president ordered the detention centre to be closed down, the anonymous sources tell Gazeta Wyborcza.

“Consequently, the last plane with CIA prisoners on board left Poland on 23 September 2003 from Szymany,” says one source.

Kwasniewski would not comment on the report.

“I have nothing further to add to what I have already said about the issue,” he said, Saturday. 

Flight logs

Documents released by Poland’s Border Guards in 2010 confirm that a Boeing 737 (flight number N313P) departed from Kabul, Afghanistan on 22 September 2003 and landed at Szymany airport with seven crew on board but no passengers. It later took off heading for Romania with seven crew and five passengers on board (see documents here and here).

Prosecutors in Warsaw are currently gathering evidence alleging that leading al-Qaeda members such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah were held and tortured in Poland.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed claims he was water-boarded over 100 times while being held at the base at Stare Kiejkuty.

Aleksander Kwasniewski, however, ever since the allegations were first made by Human Rights Watch and the Washington Post in 2005, has said that “Polish and US secret services cooperated but there was no prison”.

The SLD sources today say that contrary to claims from another SLD party member, MEP Józef Pinior, the then prime minister of Poland, Leszek Miller, also had no clue of what was going on at the CIA detention centre, suggesting that the CIA was acting autonomously and without permission from the government.

“We knew that the Americans had a secret base [in Poland] and CIA planes were landing at Szymany, but did not know that there were prisoners on board,” an SLD source claims.

Intelligence chief at the time, Zbigniew Siemiątkowski - also a member of the SLD and close associate of Aleksander Kwasniewski - confirmed in 2005 that the CIA had been operating a base at Stare Kiejkuty.

The informants tell the newspaper that an increase in cooperation between the CIA and Polish intelligence services took place after around 30 people from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Nepal had tried to gain entry to Poland in the summer of 2002, all with links to radical Islam.

The worry was that Poland would the site of terrorist attacks. After the summer, the “situation seemed to have calmed down and the threat level was lowed,” said an SLD source. (pg)

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