[News] CIA Interrogations Took Place on British Territory of Diego Garcia, Senior Bush Administration Official Says

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jan 30 17:57:37 EST 2015

*CIA Interrogations Took Place on British Territory of Diego Garcia, 
Senior Bush Administration Official Says*

By Ben Bryant and Rupert Stone

January 30, 2015 | 4:40 am

Interrogations of US prisoners took place at a CIA black site on the 
British overseas territory of Diego Garcia, a senior Bush administration 
official has told VICE News.

The island was used as a "transit location" for the US government's 
"nefarious activities" post-9/11 when other places were too full, 
dangerous, insecure, or unavailable, according to Lawrence Wilkerson, 
Colin Powell's former chief of staff.

There was no permanent detention facility such as the CIA facility in 
Poland, he told VICE News in a wide-ranging interview. His intelligence 
sources indicated to him that the island was however home to "a transit 
site where people were temporarily housed, let us say, and interrogated 
from time to time."

Wilkerson was Powell's chief of staff at the State Department from 2002 
to 2005, but he did not learn of the CIA's activities on Diego Garcia 
until after leaving office. His information comes from four well-placed 
CIA and intelligence sources, including a veteran who participated in 
the renditions program, and a member of the Intelligence and Research 
Bureau at the State Department who was "very much plugged in to what was 
going on at the CIA."

Diego Garcia, a tiny atoll in the Indian Ocean, is a British territory 
that has been leased to the US, which regards it as an important 
strategic military outpost, since 1966. The British government has 
insisted that only two rendition flights have passed through Diego 
Garcia, both stopping there to refuel in 2002, but questions remain over 
the island's role in the CIA's post-9/11 interrogation program.

The Bush administration whistleblower who says the US has not closed the 
door on torture. Read more here.

"No one has indicated there was a detention site there, not in so many 
words," Wilkerson said. "What they indicated is that interrogations took 
place there."

His sources did not tell him that there was a purpose-built facility on 
the atoll, the 70-year-old said.

"What I heard was more along the lines of using it as a transit location 
when perhaps other places were full or other places were deemed too 
dangerous or insecure, or unavailable at the moment. So you might have a 
case where you simply go in and use a facility at Diego Garcia for a 
month, or two weeks, or whatever, and you do your nefarious activities 

It is the first time a senior Bush administration official has stated on 
the record that the remote British territory was a part of the CIA's 
global network of black sites. The US has operated a military base on 
the atoll since the British leased it to them in the 1960s.

The disclosures will renew questions over the extent to which the 
British were aware of Diego Garcia's function in the US's post-9/11 
extraordinary rendition program.

Wilkerson, a 31-year army veteran who knows Diego Garcia from his time 
in the US Pacific Command in the 1980s, said he thought it unlikely that 
the small number of British military present on the island would have 
missed the arrival and departure of detainees.

"It's difficult for me to think that we could do anything there of any 
duration to speak of without the British knowing — at least the British 
on the island — knowing what we were doing," he said.

"That doesn't mean London knew," he added. "But I just don't, myself, I 
can't see how we could have used Diego Garcia for almost any function 
other than maybe a bounce-in and bounce-out and even that, the bounce-in 
and bounce-out, they'd be aware of."

'Hunks, chunks and drunks': the booze-drenched legacy of 'Britain's own 
Guantanamo'. Read more here.

The question of British cooperation is an extremely sensitive one for 
the British government, which has sought to distance itself from any 
suggestion of complicity in the US's post-9/11 rendition and torture 
program. Confirmation that the British were involved could leave the 
government vulnerable to legal action. The European Court of Human 
Rights made its first ruling on the CIA's secret prisons in Europe last 
year when it found that detainees had been held and tortured in Poland.

Last year Al Jazeera reported that the Senate Intelligence Committee 
report on CIA torture would confirm that Diego Garcia was used for 
extraordinary rendition "with the full cooperation" of the UK — but the 
heavily redacted document was published months later with no mention of 
the atoll.

In September former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith told VICE News that 
he had "no recollection" of whether discussions were had over the 
legality of using Diego Garcia as a black site during his tenure as most 
senior legal advisor to Tony Blair.

Previous disclosures by British military personnel have dismissed the 
construction of a purpose-built detention facility on the island as a 
logistical impossibility. They have not ruled out the possibility that 
Diego Garcia could have been used as a temporary holding facility, however.

Testimony filed in the high court by a British Royal Marine, Michael 
Blyth, who was head of security on Diego Garcia from 2001-2, said that a 
permanent site was ruled out but the use of the atoll "for the purpose 
of prisoner transfers and/or detention was raised occasionally ... by US 
official." Blyth said he thought it was unlikely but possible that 
detainees in planes may have gone unnoticed by the British in the busy 
years after 9/11 when "scores of planes took off daily."

"Could somebody convert a room within the airbase and sneak one or two 
people in, beat them up and take them out again?" Blyth told the 
Telegraph last year. "Yes, I suppose so, if you did it in the dead of 
night and you only did it a couple of times.

"But eventually someone would spot it and the rumours would get out of 
control and everyone would hear about it. I suspect it wouldn't be a 
good option. There were much better options to transfer through than 
Diego," he said.

The British government has said that only two rendition flights stopped 
over at Diego Garcia to refuel, both in 2002. Manfred Nowak, the United 
Nations' former special rapporteur on torture, told the Observer in 2008 
that sources had told him detainees were held on Diego Garcia between 
2002-3. A former US general, Barry McCaffrey, also said Diego Garcia 
held detainees — but later retracted the claim. Libyan politician Abdel 
Hakim Belhaj, who believes he was rendered through Diego Garcia when he 
was abducted in a joint MI6-CIA operation, is currently suing the UK 
government over his kidnap.

UK government changes its line on Diego Garcia flight logs sought in 
rendition row - again. Read more here.

Flight records for the atoll that may hold crucial details of the 
extraordinary rendition flights that passed through Diego Garcia are 
incomplete and may be water damaged, according to the British government.

Cori Crider, a director at human rights NGO Reprieve said: "This 
suggests the UK Government has not told the whole truth about Diego 
Garcia's part in the CIA's torture program.

"Ministers have consistently claimed that only two CIA rendition victims 
ever landed on Diego Garcia — Lawrence Wilkerson's comments suggest that 
either they haven't been honest with the public, or the US government 
hasn't been honest with them. These revelations will also cast suspicion 
over the British government's ongoing refusal to publish flight records 
for the island. Until we can get a straight answer from the US and UK 
government on what went on on Diego Garcia, there should be no renewal 
of the US lease, which is due to expire next year."

A UK Foreign Office spokesperson said: "The US government has assured 
us, that apart from the two cases in 2002, there have been no other 
instances in which US intelligence flights landed in the UK, our 
Overseas Territories, or the Crown Dependencies with a detainee on board 
since 11 September 2001."

A CIA spokesperson said: "We have no comment for you."

Follow Ben Bryant on Twitter: @benbryant

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