On Monday ABC News offered new revelations about secret CIA prisons as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice headed for Europe.  --  Brian Ross and Richard Esposito reported the CIA had "scrambled" to "get all the [al Qaeda] suspects off European soil before Rice arrived there."[1]  --  The report left little doubt that the countries that had been harboring the secret CIA prisons were Poland and Romania; of the 12 "high-value targets" ABC News listed by name, 11 were reported to have been held in Poland.  --  The prisoners in question, who have been and apparently continue to be tortured, are now at "a new CIA facility in the North African desert."  --  Likely candidates are Egypt and Morocco; on Nov. 18, the Paris newspaper Le Figaro reported that "Morocco is, in fact, after Jordan and Egypt, one of the principal Arab partners of the United States in the fight against al-Qaeda."  --  ABC News's sources made a number of specific assertions.  --  In a follow-up story posted Tuesday, ABC News's William Kole reported growing pressures to inquire into the system even as those in positions of authority continue to stonewall.[2]  --  Another story posted Tuesday by ABC News included a photograph of a Condoleezza Rice descending from her aircraft in Germany bearing an altogether uncanny resemblance to Darth Vader.[3]  --  On the plane flight over, Rice refused even to acknowledge the existence of the prison system being investigated.  --  In a report on Rice's pre-trip statement, New York Times reporter Joel Brinkley observed that "acknowledgment of [the detention centers] was implicit in [Rice's] remarks. Without the debate over the covert jails, there would have been no reason for her statement."[4]  --  The Times also noted that Rice's statement that "We are respecting U.S. law and U.S. treaty obligations" is "a change in the position of the Bush administration, which has repeatedly maintained in recent years that American law does not apply to prisoners held abroad."  --  Brinkley's report the next day on Rice's diplomatic meetings noted a number of "awkard" moments as the U.S. secretary of state continued to stonewall while new German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke more candidly.[5]  --  Times columnist Maureen Dowd couldn't help thinking back to the roasting Bill Clinton received for statements shading the truth in ways that were truly minor league when compared to Rice's gargantuan prevarications.[6] ...



By Brian Ross and Richard Esposito

** 10 Out of 11 High-Value Terror Leaders Subjected to 'Enhanced Interrogation Techniques' **

ABC News
December 5, 2005


Two CIA secret prisons were operating in Eastern Europe until last month when they were shut down following Human Rights Watch reports of their existence in Poland and Romania.

Current and former CIA officers speaking to ABC News on the condition of confidentiality say the United States scrambled to get all the suspects off European soil before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived there today. The officers say 11 top al Qaeda suspects have now been moved to a new CIA facility in the North African desert.

CIA officials asked ABC News not to name the specific countries where the prisons were located, citing security concerns.

The CIA declines to comment, but current and former intelligence officials tell ABC News that 11 top al Qaeda figures were all held at one point on a former Soviet air base in one Eastern European country. Several of them were later moved to a second Eastern European country.

All but one of these 11 high-value al Qaeda prisoners were subjected to the harshest interrogation techniques in the CIA's secret arsenal, the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" authorized for use by about 14 CIA officers and first reported by ABC News on Nov. 18.

Rice today avoided directly answering the question of secret prisons in remarks made on her departure for Europe, where the issue of secret prisons and secret flights has caused a furor.

Without mentioning any country by name, Rice acknowledged special handling for certain terrorists.

"The captured terrorists of the 21st century do not fit easily into traditional systems of criminal or military justice, which were designed for different needs. We have had to adapt," Rice said.

The CIA has used a small fleet of private jets to move top al Qaeda suspects from Afghanistan and the Middle East to Eastern Europe, where Human Rights Watch has identified Poland and Romania as the countries that housed secret sites.

But Polish Defense Minister Radoslaw Sikorski told ABC Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross today: "My president has said there is no truth in these reports."

Ross asked: "Do you know otherwise, sir, are you aware of these sites being shut down in the last few weeks, operating on a base under your direct control?"

Sikorski answered, "I think this is as much as I can tell you about this."

In Romania, where the secret prison was possibly at a military base visited last year by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the new Romanian prime minister said today there is no evidence of a CIA site but that he will investigate.

Sources tell ABC that the CIA's secret prisons have existed since March 2002 when one was established in Thailand to house the first important al Qaeda target captured. Sources tell ABC that the approval for another secret prison was granted last year by a North African nation.

Sources tell ABC News that the CIA has a related system of secretly returning other prisoners to their home country when they have outlived their usefulness to the United States.

These same sources also tell ABC News that U.S. intelligence also ships some "unlawful combatants" to countries that use interrogation techniques harsher than any authorized for use by U.S. intelligence officers. They say that Jordan, Syria, Morocco, and Egypt were among the nations used in order to extract confessions quickly using techniques harsher than those authorized for use by U.S. intelligence officers. These prisoners were not necessarily citizens of those nations.

According to sources directly involved in setting up the CIA secret prison system, it began with the capture of Abu Zabayda in Pakistan. After treatment there for gunshot wounds, he was whisked by the CIA to Thailand where he was housed in a small, disused warehouse on an active airbase. There, his cell was kept under 24-hour closed circuit TV surveillance and his life-threatening wounds were tended to by a CIA doctor specially sent from Langley headquarters to assure Abu Zubaydah was given proper care, sources said. Once healthy, he was slapped, grabbed, made to stand long hours in a cold cell, and finally handcuffed and strapped feet up to a water board until after 0.31 seconds he begged for mercy and began to cooperate.

While in the secret facilities in Eastern Europe, Abu Zubaydah and his fellow captives were fed breakfasts that included yogurt and fruit, lunches that included steamed vegetables and beans, and dinners that included meat or chicken and more vegetables and rice, sources say. In exchange for cooperation, prisoners were sometimes given hard candies, desserts, and chocolates. Abu Zubaydah was partial to Kit Kats, the same treat Saddam Hussein fancied in his captivity.

"One of the difficult issues in this new kind of conflict is what to do with captured individuals who we know or believe to be terrorists," Rice said. "The individuals come from many countries and are often captured far from their original homes. Among them are those who are effectively stateless, owing allegiance only to the extremist cause of transnational terrorism. Many are extremely dangerous. And some have information that may save lives, perhaps even thousands of lives."

Sources tell ABC News that Jordanians, Egyptians, Moroccans, Tunisians, Algerians, Saudis, Pakistanis, Uzbekistanis, and Chinese citizens have been returned to their nations' intelligence services after initial debriefing by U.S. intelligence officers. Rice said renditions such as these are vital to the war on terror. "Rendition is a vital tool in combating transnational terrorism," she said.

Of the 12 high-value targets housed by the CIA, only one did not require water boarding before he talked. Ramzi bin al-Shibh broke down in tears after he was walked past the cell of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the operational planner for Sept. 11. Visibly shaken, he started to cry and became as cooperative as if he had been tied down to a water board, sources said.


Dec. 5, 2005

Following is a list of 12 high-value targets housed by the CIA.

Abu Zubaydah: Held first in Thailand then Poland
Ibn Al-Shaykh al-Libi: Held in Poland. Previously held in Pakistan/Afghanistan
Abdul Rahim al-Sharqawi: Held in Poland
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri: Held in Poland
Ramzi Binalshibh: Held in Poland
Mohammed Omar Abdel-Rahman: Held in Poland
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed: Held in Poland
Waleed Mohammed bin Attash: Held in Poland
Hambali: In U.S. custody. Kept isolated from other high-value targets.
Hassan Ghul: Held in Poland
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani: Held in Poland
Abu Faraj al-Libbi: Held in Poland



By William J. Kole

** Romania, Poland Under Increasing Scrutiny Amid Reports of CIA Using Prisons for Interrogations **

ABC News
December 6, 2005


[PHOTO CAPTION: Romania's Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, left, gestures while talking to the media during a joint press conference with European Union Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, right, at the end of their meeting at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Monday Dec. 5, 2005.]

BUCHAREST -- Romania and Poland, stalwart allies in the U.S.-led global war on terror, came under increasing fire Tuesday amid widening reports that they hosted secret CIA prisons where top al-Qaida suspects were interrogated.

Top leaders in both countries denied it, but lawmakers in Romania called for a parliamentary investigation. The stakes are high: Although they have curried favor with the U.S., any proof of complicity could leave the former communist nations isolated and scorned in a Europe demanding a full accounting from Washington, and threaten Romania's drive to join the European Union in 2007.

"We are open to any kind of investigation," said Romanian Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, visiting EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. He said the country would throw open any suspect facilities to demonstrate "good intentions and good faith."

But Tariceanu added: "There is no proof, merely speculation."

In Poland, authorities said CIA prisons would be illegal, though they were not planning an inquiry without evidence.

"For an investigation to start, there should be some sort of evidence, proof that this in fact took place in Poland," Julita Sobczyk, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor general, Zbigniew Ziobro, told the Associated Press. Ziobro is also Poland's justice minister.

The Council of Europe, the continent's top human rights watchdog, has launched an investigation. EU leaders say any member states found to have been involved could have their voting rights suspended, a warning that unnerves some Poles, whose country joined the bloc only last year.

President Aleksander Kwasniewski and other leaders repeatedly have denied allegations that Poland ever hosted so-called "black site" prisons.

"Neither now, nor in the past, were any inmates held in any military installations," Defense Ministry spokesman Piotr Paszkowski said Tuesday.

ABC News reported Monday night that two secret CIA prisons in eastern Europe were closed last month and 11 al-Qaida suspects were transferred to a facility in North Africa. The report, which ABC attributed to current and former CIA officers who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the prisons were shut down after Human Rights Watch said it had evidence suggesting such facilities existed in Romania and Poland.

Nabil Benabdellah, Morocco's minister of communications and a government spokesman, told the AP: "We have nothing to do with and we have no knowledge about this subject."

Officials in Algeria and Tunisia had no immediate comment.

Romanian President Traian Basescu hosting a visit Tuesday by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice insisted there was "no such thing" as CIA prisons in the country and pledged to open all facilities to outside scrutiny.

Underscoring a friendship that has deepened since Romania threw off communism in 1989, Rice hailed the country as "a strong friend with whom we share common values."

Suspicion fell on Romania's Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base near the Black Sea and Poland's Szymany Airport, after Human Rights Watch said it had flight records indicating that aircraft with links to the CIA landed repeatedly at both facilities in 2001-2004.

The Romanian base, which was heavily used by U.S. forces after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, was among several installations formally handed over to the U.S. in an agreement signed Tuesday by Rice and Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu.

Officials opened it to AP journalists last month, and the sprawling base appeared virtually deserted, with no obvious sign of a prison and no Americans present. Asked Tuesday whether there had ever been detainees on the site, base spokesman Lt. Comm. Adrian Vasile said: "Negative."

Romania's military and the Pentagon say U.S. forces, which at one point numbered about 3,500 at the base, were withdrawn in June 2003 and since have returned only briefly for training exercises, most recently in September.

Yet some officials acknowledged that parts of the installation were off-limits to Romanian authorities, and the country's main intelligence service, SRI, has said it had no jurisdiction there.

"There were some bases we put at the Americans' disposal. We can't know what happened there," former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, who served 2001-2004 and now heads the Chamber of Deputies, conceded Tuesday. He added, however: "For us, it's clear there was no secret agreement" allowing covert U.S. activity.

"Unfortunately, the attacks from abroad against Romania and Poland have continued. Subsequently, we consider that parliament must get involved and provide its answer," said Senate Chairman Nicolae Vacaroiu, who together with Nastase called for a parliamentary probe.

--Associated Press Writers Alexandru Alexe in Bucharest and Monika Scislowska and Vanessa Gera in Warsaw contributed to this report.



By Anne Gearan

** Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Confronts German Worries over CIA Prisons **

ABC News
December 6, 2005


[PHOTO CAPTION: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives at the military part of the Berlin Tegel airport, Monday, Dec.5, 2005. Germany has a list of more than 400 overflights and landings by planes suspected of being used by the CIA, part of the information it hopes U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will clarify on her visit in Berlin, a government spokesman said Monday.]

BERLIN -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice faced tough questions on the first stop of a European tour overshadowed by investigations into whether the United States houses suspected terrorists in secret prisons that violate European legal and human rights guarantees.

Before Rice arrived in Berlin on Monday, a government spokesman said Germany will ask Rice about a government list of more than 400 flights and landings in Germany by planes suspected of being used by the CIA.

Later Tuesday, Rice was flying to Romania, a country identified as a likely site of a secret detention facility run by the CIA. Romania denies it. She will sign a defense cooperation pact related to an air base the advocacy group Human Rights Watch has identified as a probable site for a clandestine prison.

In Berlin, Rice was to see new German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the country's first leader from the formerly communist East. Merkel pledged last week to put aside past differences between Germany and the United States even as she pressed for the Bush administration to take the CIA prison concerns seriously.

"Let the battles of the past lie. Those battles have been fought," Merkel said in her first speech to parliament as chancellor.

The United States is eager to get off on the right foot with Merkel after turbulent relations with the government of blunt Bush opponent Gerhard Schroeder.

Rice met in Washington last week with new German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and promised him an answer on the prison issue.

European governments have expressed outrage over reports of a network of secret Soviet-era prisons in Eastern Europe where detainees may have been harshly treated and reports of CIA flights carrying al-Qaida prisoners through European airports.

Several countries have denied they hosted such sites. If the United States did operate such prisons, or is still doing so, the information would be classified. The Bush administration has refused to answer questions about it in public.

"Were I to confirm or deny, say yes or say no, then I would be compromising intelligence information, and I'm not going to do that," Rice told reporters on her plane to Germany. Before leaving Washington, Rice told reporters that fighting terrorism is "a two-way street" and that Europeans are safer for tough but legal U.S. tactics.

The general issue of U.S. treatment of detainees in the war on terror has been an irritant in relations with Europe and other parts of the world since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

It gained new immediacy last month with a Washington Post report claiming the U.S. ran prisons in Thailand, Afghanistan, and Eastern Europe, and claims by Human Rights Watch that it had tracked CIA flights into Eastern Europe.

Rice's trip to Germany, Romania, Ukraine, and Belgium is meant to build on generally improved relations between Europe and the United States after a period of strain over the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The war remains widely unpopular in Europe, as does President Bush.

The strongly critical press coverage of the prison question and complaints from European legislators suggest suspicions about U.S. motives remain close to the surface.

Britain and other European countries have protested conditions and indefinite detention at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Europe was highly critical of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal in Iraq.

Rice said America does not practice torture or knowingly transport any detainee to a place "where he or she will be tortured."

That declaration was welcomed by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. He said, "All of us must work together within the rule of law to use every tool at our disposal to deal with the threat of terrorism."

Several European governments have voiced concerns over U.S. transport of terrorism suspects to other countries. Rice defended such transfers, saying they "take terrorists out of action, and save lives."

Human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, have protested the prisoner transfers, or renditions.

Amnesty International said Monday that six planes used by the CIA for renditions have made some 800 flights in or out of European airspace, including 50 landings at Shannon International Airport in Ireland.

In Dublin, former U.N. human rights chief Mary Robinson said the Bush administration remains "ambivalent about what constitutes torture" and hasn't made clear whether it is shipping terror suspects secretly through countries such as Ireland.



By Joel Brinkley

New York Times
December 6, 2005
Page A3


BERLIN -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chastised European leaders on Monday, saying that before they complain about secret jails for terror suspects in European nations, they should realize that interrogations of these suspects have produced information that helped "save European lives."

Her remarks were the Bush administration's official response to the reports of a network of secret detention centers in at least eight European nations, said to house dozens of terror suspects.

At the same time, she denied that the United States has moved suspects to these prisons to allow interrogators to use torture. "The United States," she said, "does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances." At another point, she said, "The United States does not transport and has not transported detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture."

Intelligence gathered from these interrogations, she said, "has stopped terrorist attacks and saved innocent lives in Europe as well as the United States." But she declined to offer examples or provide any specific information to support her assertions. She said any information related to the prisons was classified. Ms. Rice did not explicitly confirm the existence of the detention centers, first described in news reports early last month. But acknowledgment of them was implicit in her remarks. Without the debate over the covert jails, there would have been no reason for her statement.

"We must bring terrorists to justice wherever possible," she said, "but there have been many cases where the local government cannot detain or prosecute a suspect, and traditional extradition is not a good option."

"In those cases," she added, "the local government can make the sovereign choice to cooperate in" the transfer of a suspect to a third country, which is known as a rendition.

"Sometimes," she added, "these efforts are misunderstood."

Officials from the White House, State Department and Central Intelligence Agency labored over Ms. Rice's statement for days and said it would serve as the basis of the government's official answer to an inquiry from the European Union -- one of a half dozen under way.

Ms. Rice offered her remarks to reporters early Monday, at Andrews Air Force Base, before setting off for a trip to Europe. The timing, she said later, was not coincidental. She wanted to issue the statement "before I go to Europe so if there are questions I can answer them."

Her five-day trip will take her to Germany, Belgium, Ukraine and Romania. Analyses of flight records of United States government aircraft have suggested that Romania may have been the site of one covert detention center, but Romanian officials have said that no such facility existed. Ms. Rice arrived in Berlin too late Monday night to meet with any German officials or to gauge any reaction to her remarks in Washington.

According to a report Monday night on ABC News, which could not be confirmed, current and former C.I.A. officers say that 11 top Qaeda suspects have been moved from secret C.I.A. prisons in Europe to a new C.I.A. facility in the North African desert.

Administration officials, including Ms. Rice on Monday, have repeatedly maintained since the reports about the secret prisons began that the government is abiding by American law and international agreements. "We are respecting U.S. law and U.S. treaty obligations," she said several times on Monday. "And we are respecting other nations' sovereignty."

That is a change in the position of the Bush administration, which has repeatedly maintained in recent years that American law does not apply to prisoners held abroad. That is one reason some terror suspects were taken to Guantánamo Bay in Cuba and to other foreign locations.

Asked about that conflict while speaking to reporters on her plane, Ms. Rice did not answer directly and instead repeated her statement about respecting American laws and obligations.

Following the reports of a secret detention policy, the administration has come under criticism from the United Nations, at least two arms of the European Union and several European countries. The Europeans say the secret detention centers would be illegal in their countries. Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, wrote Ms. Rice on behalf of the European Union last week, seeking an explanation.

In Congress, Democrats are calling for an investigation of the prisons and the treatment of suspects held there, while Republicans are pushing for an inquiry to determine who in the government leaked the information to the news media.

News reports over the last month have said the C.I.A. began holding dozens of terror suspects in secret prisons in Europe shortly after Sept. 11. While the administration has not confirmed the reports, it has also not denied them.

The mistreatment of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq as well as the ongoing debate over the imprisonment of terror suspects at Guantánamo, have raised questions among Europeans and human rights organizations about the treatment of suspects held in the C.I.A. facilities, where no one can visit them or check on their treatment.

Ms. Rice insisted she could not confirm the existence of secret prisons because that would involve discussion of classified activities. "One of the difficult issues in this new kind of conflict is what to do with captured individuals who we know or believe to be terrorists," she said. Many are "essentially stateless, owing their allegiance to the extremist cause of transnational terrorism."

On her plane later, Ms. Rice expressed impatience with the spiraling investigations and inquiries.

"Democracies are going to debate these things," she said. "But they need to debate them not just on one side of the issue -- that is, how the actual activities are being carried out." They should also consider, "are we doing everything we can to protect innocent lives?"



By Joel Brinkley

New York Times
December 7, 2005


[PHOTO CAPTION: In Berlin, Condoleezza Rice met new German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the country's first leader from the formerly communist East.]

BUCHAREST -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was pelted with questions on Tuesday about covert prisons and a mistaken, secret arrest, as she grappled with what has become an incendiary issue in Europe. She declined to answer most of them in two European capitals.

Europe has been roiled by reports that the United States maintained secret jails for terror suspects in Europe, and by residual anger over the American practice of rendition, or secretly transferring terrorism suspects to the custody of third countries, including some outside Europe that routinely use torture.

The anger has made it harder for Ms. Rice to repair already strained relations with many European nations at odds with American policy on Iraq, like Germany, where she met in Berlin with the new chancellor, Angela Merkel, hoping for a fresh start. But the issue confronted her repeatedly.

Mrs. Merkel said at a news conference that Ms. Rice had admitted making a mistake when the United States abducted a German citizen, Khaled el-Masri, on suspicions of terrorism and held him in detention for five months. But aides to Ms. Rice scrambled to deny that, saying instead that Ms. Rice had said only that if mistakes were made, they would be corrected.

Mr. Masri filed suit in Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va., on Tuesday against the former director of central intelligence and three companies he charged were involved in secret flights carrying terrorism suspects. He has said he was tortured during his detention. He also said that on Sunday he was denied entry to the United States, where he hoped to file his lawsuit in person.

State Department officials confirmed that he had been denied entry, but said that he would be allowed into the country if he applied again. [Page A16.]

As Europeans continue to investigate whether torture or detention of terrorism suspects took place on European soil, Ms. Rice assured Mrs. Merkel that "the United States does not condone torture."

"It is against U.S. law to be involved in torture or conspiracy to commit torture," Ms. Rice said. "And it is also against U.S. international obligations."

But the American definition of torture is in some cases at variance with international conventions, and the administration has maintained in recent years that American law does not apply to prisoners held abroad.

In defending the practice of rendition, American officials have said that they obtain assurances from the third countries that prisoners will not be tortured, but that the United States is limited in its ability to enforce the promises.

The Central Intelligence Agency's inspector general found last year that the some aspects of the agency's treatment of terrorism detainees might constitute cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, as the international Convention Against Torture defines it. The United States is a signer of that convention, though with some reservations.

A legal opinion by the Justice Department, issued in August 2002, said interrogation methods just short of those that might cause pain comparable to "organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death" could be allowable without being considered torture.

The administration disavowed that classified legal opinion in the summer of 2004, after it was publicly disclosed. But a second legal opinion issued in December 2004, which defined torture more broadly, did not repudiate interrogation techniques that had been previously authorized. It remains unclear how many of those techniques are still in use by the C.I.A.

Congress is debating an amendment, passed in the Senate last month, that would prohibit the abusive treatment of terrorism suspects. But the White House has urged that the C.I.A. be exempted from any such ban.

In Romania, Ms. Rice signed a military cooperation agreement that would allow American forces to train with Romanian troops at the Mihael Kogalniceanu air base, which Human Rights Watch identified as a probable location of one secret prison.

Asked about the charge at a news conference, Traian Basescu, the Romanian president, vociferously denied that any such detention center existed and invited anyone who doubted that to come and see for himself.

During the news conference in Germany, Mrs. Merkel spoke openly about matters the Bush administration deems secret, while Mr. Rice continued to speak elliptically. That produced some awkward moments.

Mrs. Merkel spoke openly of "the issue of the C.I.A.'s overflights" that apparently hold secret detainees going to or from secret jails elsewhere, while Ms. Rice refused to answer most questions and continued insisting that the prison issue and related issues were classified matters.

Mrs. Merkel then said Ms. Rice had admitted that the United States had mistakenly abducted Mr. Masri.

"The American administration has admitted that this man had been erroneously taken and that, as such, the American administration is not denying that it has taken place," Mrs. Merkel said.

Ms. Rice said she could not talk about the case specifically, but added, "Any policy will sometimes result in error, and when it happens we do everything we can to correct it."

Later, an aide to Ms. Rice, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified, said that "we are not sure what was in her head" when Mrs. Merkel spoke of the American admission of error in the Masri case. Ms. Rice did not discuss the case with her in any direct way, he and other aides insisted, even though the senior aide said, "The American government has talked about this issue with the German government."

Mrs. Merkel said simply, "We've talked about Mr. Masri."

Speaking of Mr. Masri and the issue of the detainees in general, Mrs. Merkel added, "We can't go public about all the details, but at the same time we need to introduce a certain degree of transparency."

After the mistaken arrest was discovered, the United States asked Germany to keep it secret, and Germany complied. Asked about that, Ms. Rice said, "Intelligence matters need to be handled sensitively."

Before leaving Washington on Monday morning, Ms. Rice issued a long, unapologetic statement on the secret-prison issue, which has become the subject of many investigations in Europe, while refusing to acknowledge that the prisons exist.

Aides said she was no more forthcoming in her talks with Mrs. Merkel.

Asked about Ms. Rice's statement in Washington, Mrs. Merkel said it was "a good basis on which we build," but added, "As chancellor, I work under and adhere to German laws." She announced that the intelligence committee of the German Parliament would take up the Masri case.

Even though aides to Ms. Rice said they realized that the secret-prison issue would dominate a good part of her trip, at times she has shown exasperation over the debate.

"We have an obligation to defend our people, and we will use every lawful means to do so," she declared in Berlin, adding that the public debate over the secret prisons ought to include "a healthy respect for the challenges we face" fighting terrorism.

The questions on the secret prisons posed to her and Mr. Basescu here in Bucharest came from the American reporters traveling with her. The Romanians asked about the new defense agreement. It would allow 1,500 American troops to be stationed at the air base on a rotating basis to take part in joint exercises and training. About 100 of those servicemen would be stationed there full time.

Mr. Basescu greeted the new agreement with unbridled enthusiasm, saying it shows that "the Romanian force has reached the potential that it can be a partner of the United States."


Op-Ed Columnist

By Maureen Dows

New York Times
December 7, 2005


Our secretary of state's tortuous defense of supposedly nonexistent C.I.A. torture chambers in Eastern Europe was an acid flashback to Clintonian parsing.

Just as Bill Clinton pranced around questions about marijuana use at Oxford during the '92 campaign by saying he had never broken the laws of his country, so Condoleezza Rice pranced around questions about outsourcing torture by suggesting that President Bush had never broken the laws of his country.

But in Bill's case, he was only talking about smoking a little joint, while Condi is talking about snatching people off the street and throwing them into lethal joints.

"The United States government does not authorize or condone torture of detainees," she said.

It all depends on what you mean by "authorize," "condone," "torture," and "detainees."

Ms. Rice also claimed that the U.S. did not transport terrorism suspects "for the purpose of interrogation using torture." But, hey, as Rummy likes to say, stuff happens.

The president said he was opposed to torture and then effectively issued regulations to allow what any normal person -- and certainly a victim -- would consider torture. Alberto Gonzales et al. have defined torture deviancy downward to the point where it's hard to imagine what would count as torture. Under this administration, prisoners have been hung by their wrists and had electrodes attached to their genitals; they've been waterboarded, exposed to extreme heat and cold, and threatened with death -- even accidentally killed.

Does Ms. Rice think anyone is buying her loophole-riddled defense? Not with the Italians thinking of rounding up C.I.A. officers to ask them whether they abducted a cleric in Milan. And with Torquemada Cheney slouching around Capitol Hill trying to circumvent John McCain, legalizing torture at the C.I.A.'s secret prisons, by preventing Congress from requiring decent treatment for U.S. prisoners.

As the Times's Scott Shane reported today, a German man, Khaled el-Masri, says he was kidnapped, beaten and spirited away to Afghanistan by C.I.A. officers in an apparent case of mistaken identity in 2003. He is suing the former C.I.A. chief George Tenet and three companies allegedly involved in the clandestine flights.

Mr. Masri, a 42-year-old former car salesman, was refused entry to the U.S. on Saturday. He had intended to hold a news conference in Washington yesterday, but ended up talking to reporters over a video satellite link, telling how he was beaten, photographed nude, and injected with drugs during five months in detention.

Mr. Masri said through an interpreter: "I don't think I'm the human being I used to be."

When Ms. Rice was a Stanford professor of international relations, she would have flunked any student who dared to present her with the sort of willfully disingenuous piffle she spouted on the eve of her European trip.

Maybe she figures that if she was able to fool people once with doubletalk about W.M.D., she can fool them again with doubletalk about rendition.

As chatter spreads about Condi as a possible presidential contender, we are left wondering, once more, who this woman really is. Is she doing this willingly, or is she hemmed in by the powerful men around her? As a former national security adviser who has had the president's ear for five years, did she try to fight the appalling attempt to shred the Geneva Conventions, or did she go along with it? Is she doing Vice's nefarious bidding on torture, just as she did on ginning up the case for invading Iraq?

As Condi used weasel words on torture, Hillary took a weaselly position on flag-burning. Trying to convince the conservatives that she's still got a bit of that Goldwater Girl in her, the woman who would be the first woman president is co-sponsoring a Republican bill making it illegal to desecrate the American flag. The red staters backing this measure are generally the ones who already can't stand Hillary, so they won't be fooled.

The senator doing Clintonian triangulating is just as transparent as the secretary doing Clintonian parsing.

Speaking of silly masquerades, who does Judge Samuel Alito Jr. think he's fooling by presenting himself as a reasonable jurist? Here's a guy whose entire career seems to be based on interfering with women's lives. He wanted to overturn Roe v. Wade, condoned the strip search of a 10-year-old girl, and belonged to a conservative alumni club that resisted the admission of women to Princeton.

All in all, a bad week for women -- sheer torture to watch.