A new investigative piece by the Washington Post published on Thursday reveals more details about "arguably the most important of all the black sites" created by the CIA after the events of September 11, 2001.
According to the paper, CIA operatives delivered two cardboard boxes filled with $15 million in cash to Polish intelligence agency officials in exchange for use of a remote military-run "villa" as a secret detention, torture, and interrogation facility for captured terrorism suspects.
"The Polish intelligence service received the money," reports the Post, "and the CIA had a solid location for its newest covert operation, according to former agency officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the interrogation program, including previously unreported details about the creation of the CIA’s 'black sites,' or secret prisons."
Though previous investigations and disclosures have acknowledged the existence of the site, located about three hours north of Warsaw, the new reporting reveals more details about what went on there and how the Polish site was first established.
Following the publication of the Post story, however, prosecutors in Poland are saying that the new details—especially about the cash payment for use of the facility—could lead to new charges against government officials who may have actively participated in the program.
As Reuters reports:
Piotr Kosmaty, spokesman for prosecutors in the Polish city of Krakow who are pursuing a criminal investigation into allegations about the facility, said it was possible the newspaper report contained evidence about the case.
"In the course of the investigation that is underway, we will analyze this Washington Post article and will include it in our investigation," Kosmaty told Reuters.
The Washington Post article said the CIA declined to comment when it inquired about the Polish site.
The case goes to the heart of the CIA's program of "extraordinary rendition" in which suspected al Qaeda militants were moved around the world and subjected to interrogation techniques that rights campaigners say amounted to torture.
It would be a crime if Polish officials colluded in any way in illegal detention or torture. Politicians who held senior posts at the time could be prosecuted.
From the Post's report:
The story of a Polish villa that became the site of one of the most infamous prisons in U.S. history began in the Pakistani city of Faisalabad with the capture of Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, better known as Abu Zubaida, in March 2002. The CIA needed a place to stash its first “high-value” detainee, a man who was thought to be closely tied to the al-Qaeda leadership and might know of follow-on plots.
Cambodia and Thailand offered to help the CIA. Cambodia turned out to be the less desirable of the two. Agency officers told superiors that a proposed site was infested with snakes. So the agency flew Abu Zubaida to Thailand, housing him at a remote location at least an hour’s drive from Bangkok.
The CIA declined to comment, as did Polish authorities through their country’s embassy in Washington. Derlatka, the Polish intelligence officer, did not return messages seeking comment.
Several months after the detention of Abu Zubaida, the CIA caught Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, suspected of ties to an al-Qaeda attack on a U.S. warship in Yemen. He, too, was taken to the Thai site.
With the prospect of holding more and more captives, the CIA required a better location. “It was just a chicken coop we remodeled,” a former senior agency official said of the facility in Thailand.
The CIA reached out to foreign intelligence services. The agency’s station chief in Warsaw reported back with good news. The Polish intelligence service, known as Agencja Wywiadu, had a training base with a villa that the CIA could use in Stare Kiejkuty, a three-hour drive north of Warsaw.
Polish officials asked whether the CIA could make some improvements to the facility. The CIA obliged, paying nearly $300,000 to outfit it with security cameras.
The accommodations were not spacious. The two-story villa could hold up to a handful of detainees. A large shed behind the house also was converted into a cell.
“It was pretty spartan,” the agency official recalled.
There was also a room where detainees, if they cooperated, could ride a stationary bike or use a treadmill.
On Dec. 5, 2002, Nashiri and Abu Zubaida were flown to Poland and taken to the site, which was code-named “Quartz.”
Five days later, an e-mail went out to agency employees that the interrogation program was up and running, and under the supervision of the Special Missions Department of the Counterterrorism Center (CTC).
Officials then began shutting down the prison in Thailand, eliminating all traces of the CIA presence.