U.S. officials urge nations’ discretion on CIA prisons

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The Bush administration yesterday cautioned countries with secret CIA prisons in their territory against disclosing the sites’ existence, even as the European Parliament renewed its demand that its members come clean if they host such detention centers.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), meanwhile, said it planned to visit some of the prisoners who were recently transferred from the overseas locations to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “very soon.”

President Bush’s speech on Wednesday, in which he acknowledged the CIA detention program for the first time, drew reaction from around the world, with numerous calls for ending the practice or revealing where the prisons are.

“The location of these prison camps must be made public,” said German Socialist Wolfgang Kreissl-Doerfler, a member of a special European Parliament committee investigating the matter. “We need to know if there has been any complicity in illegal acts by governments of EU countries or states seeking EU membership.”

The head of the committee, Swiss Sen. Dick Marty, said Mr. Bush’s speech was “just one piece of the truth.”

Graham Watson, leader of the assembly’s Liberal Democrats, said Mr. Bush’s acknowledgment will “bring a new interest and momentum to the work” of the committee investigating reports of possible secret prisons in Eastern Europe.

The State Department urged the countries that host CIA prisons to keep quiet, because the administration wants the practice to continue and “certain aspects” of it should not be discussed.

“There are just certain lines we have decided we are not going to cross,” said department spokesman Sean McCormack.

In his speech, Mr. Bush said Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh, purported architects of the September 11 attacks, and 12 other suspected terrorist leaders had been moved to Guantanamo Bay and will be tried by military commissions pending Congress’ approval of new legislation drafted by the White House.

The ICRC said in Geneva that it was not aware of the transfers until Wednesday but welcomed them.

“We will very soon, in the coming days, carry out a visit and verify ourselves who was there, how many were there and who they are,” said spokeswoman Antonella Notari. “We do remain concerned and attentive about any persons still detained at the present time in secret locations or who might be detained incommunicado in the future.”

Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator on torture, said the transfer of the 14 detainees was “an improvement,” but added that “of course, there are many others.” Mr. Nowak has said the use of secret prisons violates anti-torture commitments under international law because keeping detainees in such places is a form of enforced disappearance.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer defended the CIA program, saying that information from one secret prison detainee had led to the arrest of Riduan Isamuddin, a key leader of southeast Asian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah. Isamuddin is better known by his nom de guerre, Hanbali.

“A great deal has been achieved through these kinds of programs,” Mr. Downer told Parliament in Canberra.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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