Investigator says Poland was main CIA center in Europe

Group calls findings preliminary, cautions that it is too early to draw conclusions.

CIA prison 88 (photo credit: )
CIA prison 88
(photo credit: )
A Human Rights Watch investigator said that Poland was the CIA's main center for secretly detaining terror suspects in Europe in remarks published Friday. But the group later cautioned that it was too soon for any conclusions because their investigation is still at an early stage. Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper published an interview with Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst with the rights organization, saying his group had documents corroborating that Poland was the chief CIA detention site in Europe in a system of clandestine prisons for interrogating al-Qaida suspects. "Poland was the main base of interrogating prisoners and Romania was more of a hub," Garlasco was quoted as telling the newspaper. "This is what our sources from the CIA tell us and what is shown from the documents we gathered." But Human Rights Watch distanced itself from those remarks Friday, with one of their researchers, John Sifton, saying they "had left a misleading impression with some people" that the group has more evidence than it in fact does. "The truth does not lie with Human Rights Watch," Sifton told The Associated Press. "It lies with Poland, Romania and all the governments in Europe which might have information about these activities." "This investigation is in its preliminary stages and journalists and others who want information should really be asking the CIA, and should be asking civilian flight authorities what they know," Sifton said. The group's comments are the latest in a controversy that has exploded in Europe over allegations the United States has held terror suspects secretly and even tortured them on European soil. They were reported first by the Washington Post and later by ABC News citing unnamed intelligence sources. ABC reported that the detainees held in Poland were secretly spirited to the African desert ahead of this week's visit by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Europe. Secret facilities and harsh interrogation methods would violate Europe's human rights conventions. Leaders in both Romania and Poland have denied the allegations and signaled their willingness to cooperate with a European investigation. The Council of Europe - the continent's human rights watchdog - has begun investigating, with Swiss lawmaker Dick Marty heading the probe. Human Rights Watch said it was now handing over its leads to that team, but Sifton said that because the investigation is confidential his group could not say much about the contents of the dossier. In his sole comment on the evidence, Sifton said: "It is information about airplanes that have been linked to the CIA, information about flight records that are known involving those planes, and our theories and opinions about what those records suggest." "Our research is into a broad spectrum of activities including Afghanistan, the Middle East, Europe," he said. "Our primary concern is not about Poland, it is about finding the secret detention facility now. Poland is a key to the puzzle, but not our primary focus."