BUSH ACKNOWLEDGES SECRET CIA PRISONS
WASHINGTON - President Bush on Wednesday acknowledged the existence of previously secret CIA prisons around the world where key terrorist suspects have been held and questioned.
He said the "small number" of detainees that fall into this category include people responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 in Yemen and the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
The announcement from Bush is the first time the administration has acknowledged the existence of CIA prisons, which have been a source of friction between Washington and some allies in Europe. The administration has come under criticism for its treatment of terrorism detainees. European Union lawmakers said the CIA was conducting clandestine flights in Europe to take terror suspects to countries where they could face torture.
Bush said the CIA program has involved such high-value terrorists as Khalid Sheik Mohammed, believed to be the No. 3 al-Qaida leader before he was captured in Pakistan in 2003; Ramzi Binalshibh, an alleged would-be Sept. 11, 2001, hijacker; Abu Zubaydah, who was believed to be a link between Osama bin Laden and many al-Qaida cells before he was also captured in Pakistan, in March 2002.
Defending the program, the president said the questioning of these detainees has provided critical intelligence information about terrorist activities that have enabled officials to prevent attacks not only in the United States, but Europe and other countries. He said the program has been reviewed by administration lawyers and been the subject of strict oversight from within the CIA.
"This program has helped us to take potential mass murderers off the streets before they have a chance to kill," the president said. "It is invaluable to America and our allies."
The president successfully emphasized the war on terror in his re-election campaign in 2004 and is trying to make it a winning issue again for Republicans this year.