When is a Gulag not a Gulag?

When the Bushies say so.

The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement.

The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.

The hidden global internment network is a central element in the CIA’s unconventional war on terrorism. It depends on the cooperation of foreign intelligence services, and on keeping even basic information about the system secret from the public, foreign officials and nearly all members of Congress charged with overseeing the CIA’s covert actions.

The existence and locations of the facilities – referred to as “black sites” in classified White House, CIA, Justice Department and congressional documents – are known to only a handful of officials in the United States and, usually, only to the president and a few top intelligence officers in each host country.

The CIA and the White House, citing national security concerns and the value of the program, have dissuaded Congress from demanding that the agency answer questions in open testimony about the conditions under which captives are held. Virtually nothing is known about who is kept in the facilities, what interrogation methods are employed with them, or how decisions are made about whether they should be detained or for how long.

The CIA program’s original scope was to hide and interrogate the two dozen or so al Qaeda leaders believed to be directly responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, or who posed an imminent threat, or had knowledge of the larger al Qaeda network. But as the volume of leads pouring into the CTC from abroad increased, and the capacity of its paramilitary group to seize suspects grew, the CIA began apprehending more people whose intelligence value and links to terrorism were less certain, according to four current and former officials.

The original standard for consigning suspects to the invisible universe was lowered or ignored, they said. “They’ve got many, many more who don’t reach any threshold,” one intelligence official said.


And in related news:

FORT BLISS, Texas - A man once considered a top al-Qaida operative escaped from a U.S.-run detention facility in Afghanistan and cannot testify against the soldier who allegedly mistreated him, a defense lawyer involved in a prison abuse case said Tuesday.

Omar al-Farouq was one of Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenants in Southeast Asia until Indonesian authorities captured him in the summer of 2002 and turned him over to the United States.

A Pentagon official in Washington confirmed Tuesday evening that al-Farouq escaped from a U.S. detention facility in Bagram, Afghanistan, on July 10. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

An Army lawyer for Sgt. Alan J. Driver, a reservist accused of abusing Bagram detainees, asked Tuesday where al-Farouq was and what the Army had done to find him in time for Driver’s court proceedings.

Capt. John B. Parker, a prosecutor, said al-Farouq and three others escaped from the Bagram detention center and have not been found.

“If we find him … we will make him available,” Parker said.


Any takers on what really happened here? I’m inclined to believe 'em because saying you let one of bin Ladin’s top guys escape actually does sound worse than admitting you peed on him before rigging him up with jumper cables and a flair up his ass.*

*Or just slamming him against a wall as is the charge in this particular case.

yeah but ‘escaped’ sounds better than ‘tortured to death’

I’m on your side. But even for a moderate-liberal independant like myself, I’d probably be merely outraged that we tortured one of bin Ladin’s top operators to death. That we’ve got an escaped elite terrorist out there seems an order of magnitude worse.

Yeah, OK. I’m sure we’re holding a “top Al-Queda operative” in Bagrahm, Afghanistan.

Any “Top Al-Queda Operatives” we’re holding are either in Gitmo or in one of those secret holding pens.

This guy is dead. It’s much easier to explain an escape than a death in captivity.

Or, depending on your level of paranoia, they let him out rather than have him testify. I wouldn’t put anything past the fuckers at this point.

That one crossed my mind, but it’s easier to have him die in captivity. And it’s more PR friendly than letting him escape… I mean, geez.

Well technically, it could never be “a” GULAG. Because GULAG really refers to the division of the Soviet government that ran its prison camps.

So… the Republicans start making noises today that they are going to launch an investigation into who leaked the truth about the torture camps. Now Trent Lott just told CNN it was probably a Republican…