Teaching Our Polish Partners in Torture: State Secrets

I had been predicting for weeks before Obama went to Poland that the Poles would move to quash their investigation into the black site at which KSM and others were tortured.

And sure enough, that appears to be what happened.

The first move actually happened before Obama arrived in Poland: three days before Obama got there, the AP reported that one of the two prosecutors in the investigation, Jerzy Mierzewski, had been sacked.

On Wednesday, it became clear why Mierzewski had been sacked: because he was preparing charges against the politicians who had partnered with the CIA.

Polish state prosecutors are considering bringing charges against members of the Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) for their alleged involvement in secret CIA prisons located on Polish soil between 2002-2005. The prisons were allegedly used to torture terrorist suspects from al-Qaeda.

Officials from the leftist SLD government in power at the time, including former Prime Minister Leszek Miller, may be charged with violating Poland’s constitution, helping to illegally imprison a number of people and with participating in crimes against humanity.

That’s according to documents released by daily Gazeta Wyborcza, which show that former deputy prosecutor Jerzy Mierzewski, who was recently removed from the investigation, wanted to press these charges.

And now AP reports that Poland is responding in the same way the US would: to declare state secrets and pursue the whistleblowers.

Adam Borzyszkowski, a prosecutor in Gdansk, said his office would question the reporter and editors at the newspaper due to “state secrets being leaked” from the main investigation. He said those steps come amid an ongoing 10-month investigation into other media reports that leaked sensitive information.

Back when I was reading lots of samizdat in grad school, it was clear the US genuinely served as a model for Eastern European activists (whether or not we should have been a model is another question).

I guess we still serve as such a model. Only rather than serving as a model of democracy and creativity, we’re now showing others how to use state secrets to hide torture and other crimes.

  1. allan says:

    What is worst about America was acted out. What is best in America doesn’t export.

    Robert Stone

  2. posaune says:

    And O’s payoff to the Poles will be lifting the visa requirements. W dangled the visa lifting in front of Kwasniewski, in his deal for the black sites (along with the F-16 offsets, but that didn’t happen either.

  3. fatster says:


    US judge allows Colombians to sue Chiquita

    A judge in the United States has dismissed an attempt by banana producer Chiquita to halt multi-million-dollar compensation cases being brought by at least 4,000 Colombians.


  4. thatvisionthing says:

    Hey. It doesn’t have to be like this. We weren’t always like this.

    Over on Daily Kos on Memorial Day, Kossack KenBee shared the story about his uncle, shot down in a B-24 bomber over Germany in March 1945. He had links to research online and even to a photo of his uncle’s plane going down. I was grieving already with him. And then he wrote:

    And especially in honor of my late uncle, shot down and in flames in his parachute, over Germany, over the region that our family was from. The German doctors fixed him up, in wartime, under attack and with limited resources and he recovered and was exchanged and freed later. And that says a lot for the so-called ‘enemy’s humanity.

    So I wrote back about my Navy dad in WWII. He was tending boilers on the USS Jenks, a destroyer escort that was part of the task force that captured the German submarine U-505. One German sailor died; the rest were all rescued. This is the full report of the care given to the three German sailors who were taken onboard the Jenks:

    U.S.S. JENKS (DE665)



    File: DE665 TE/ A16-3.

    Serial No. 0001 (cl). 6 June 1944.

    From: The Medical Department Representative.

    To: The Commanding Officer.

    Subject: Treatment of Survivors (prisoners) from German Submarine.

    1. At 1154 on 4 June 1944, one survivor was taken aboard over the port side from a small inflated life raft. He stated that he had been the Second in Command of the submarine. He had been wounded. At 1303 two additional prisoners came aboard from our motor whaleboat.

    2. The German Officer’s diagnosis is as follows: WOUND, LACERATED, SCALP, SHRAPNEL. 2. WOUNDS, MULTIPLE , SCHRAPNEL, BODY.

    (a) Upon being received aboard this officer was attended by McCOMBS, PhM2c, who examined him for possible concussion of head, fractures and possible internal injuries. The laceration of scalp, which was the most predominant wound was bandaged with a Battle Dressing Small. He was then brought to Sick Bay where the following treatment was administered. Wound was cleansed with tincture of green soap, area shaved; jagged edges were trimmed and cleansed with tincture of merthiolate; sulfanilamide powder was then sprinkled into the wound; two (2) sutures taken with good approximation of edges and again sulfanilamide powder was sprinkled onto the wound. The wound was then covered with a sterile 4 x 4 bandage and recurrent bandage of head was applied.

    (b) There were numerous small pieces of shrapnel covering the left hand, forearm, shoulder and just above the apex of the left pelvis, (hip bone). At first sitting there were about twenty-five (25) pieces removed from these areas, ranging from 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch in diamerter. After removal all places were painted with tincture of merthiolate.

    (c) Patient was also given one-half (1/2) cubic centimeter of alum precipitated tetanus toxiod. This patient was given a hair cut, shave, warm bath, clean survivors clothes (which had been supplied by the American Red Cross) and allowed to lie down. He was also offered food but refused stating that he did not have an appetite. He did drink a cup of coffee. Patient was not suffering from exposure and was in good spirits.

    (d) On the morning of 5 June 1944, after spending a rather restful night, patient’s head wound was again dressed. A few additional pieces of shrapnel were removed at this time. Patient was in better spirits and had a rather good appetite.

    3. The other two (2) survivors upon examination showed no injuries, externally or internally. They were given warm baths, shaves and hot liquids. They were also given clean survivors clothes which had been supplied by the American Red Cross.

    4. On 5 June 1944, all three (3) of these prisoners were transferred to the U.S.S. GUADALCANAL (CVE-60). All were in good spirits upon leaving this vessel.

    O. E. HILTZ, PhM1c, U.S.N.

    ENCLOSURE (A) to PART I of U.S.S. JENKS (DE-665) report of action of 4 June 1944.

    I read that and weep.

    The Jenks was a little faster than the other ships of the task force and had more fuel so it went ahead to Bermuda with the code books and enigma machines. The German sailors spent the rest of the war stateside at Camp Ruston in Louisiana. The U-505 was eventually rescued by the people of Chicago, who raised $250,000 to bring it to Chicago. And when asked, the original German manufacturers supplied new parts for it, without charge.

    Most included letters that said in effect, “We are sorry that you have our U-boat, but since she’s going to be there for many years, we want her to be a credit to German technology.”

    Whatever the U-505 was once, I’d say it’s a treasure and tribute now to both Americans and Germans. Ironically, I think all the American ships are long gone.

    Tomorrow is the 67th anniversary of the capture.

    Of course, after we got this submarine in tow all of my crew were the cockiest bunch of sailors you’ve ever seen in your life and on June 6th a little incident happened that will indicate just how cocky they were. June 6th, of course, was D-Day in France when the invasion of Normandy began. That morning when communiques from France were posted on the bulletin board, one of my brave young lads read over all the historic communiques coming from headquarters about the invasion and then shoved his hat on back of his head and said, “Boy, oh boy, look what Eisenhower had to do to top us.” — Capt. Gallery

    I’m sorry to say my dad isn’t here to see these anniversaries anymore. But my sister’s coming into San Diego tomorrow and I’ve rented Enigma and Summer of My German Soldier and we’re going to remember Daddy, with love, as always. (And popcorn!)

    We didn’t have to become and don’t have to be *(spit)* Cheneys. We weren’t Cheneys once. Even all the Germans weren’t Hitlers.

    • tambershall says:

      “We didn’t have to become and don’t have to be *(spit)* Cheneys. We weren’t Cheneys once. Even all the Germans weren’t Hitlers.”

      Well said.
      From your lips …

    • prostratedragon says:

      Thanks for your stories from your father, especially on the U-505.

      An age or two ago I was one of the awed Chicago schoolkids who trooped through parts of the ship on field trips to the Museum of Science and Industry. Somehow, among the main things I got from the trip were gratitude that things with Germany had become friendlier, and a lesson that even while fighting in a war it is sometimes possible to care enough for people that they and their ship could be taken alive.

      To good memories!

      • thatvisionthing says:

        Yes, to good memories — thanks :-)

        You know my Dad was below decks, wasn’t part of the battle per se, and the U-505 story only came up decades later by fluke around our house — though he was in the Navy for 30 years, he didn’t bring his work home with him I guess is how you’d say it. We heard more war stories from my mom, who was a Navy nurse in New Guinea. She had stories of zigzagging across the Atlantic on a converted liner, and the lifelong friends she made, and their quonset huts and jeep. (“Hillamoi”?) Of her car back in Minnesota sitting out the war on blocks. I can’t remember how we finally heard about U-505 — I think we were in high school — except when Daddy did tell us about it, the story he delighted in remembering was about how the Germans thought they had sunk the sub — they opened the valves when they abandoned ship, and left it sinking. Then they were rescued and taken aboard ships and below decks and didn’t realize that the sub had been saved. But — and this was the good part — when they came up on deck the next day, there she was, in tow, and flying the biggest American flag we could find. I’m guessing it came from the task force carrier, USS Guadalcanal. You can find pictures of it online and I left some links in my very long Daily Kos comment. There’s even a picture (scroll down) of the U-505 flying both the big American flag and a smaller Nazi one, though I read later that that flag is one that American sailors sewed up when they couldn’t find the real one onboard the sub. (Apparently the real one was found later and is in the Smithsonian; the fake one is in the Chicago museum along with the Jenks’ flag.)

        I loved that story! But now that our flag stands for what it does, and our Navy is what it is, the thing I clutch to my heart and treasure most I think is that prisoner report, from my Dad’s ship. I don’t know. Two sides in a locket. Cheers on the 67th anniversary y’all! Hey Daddy!

  5. bobschacht says:

    CSPAN has today’s debate in the house over the Kucinich End the War in Libya resolution. I recommend it. It was interesting to see Kucinich in the role of debate leader, granting time to this speaker and that, and reserving the closing arguments for himself, delivered with passion. But it was also interesting to hear so many Senators quoting their oath to defend the Constitution and trying to understand what that meant. As most of you know by now, although Kucinich’s resolution was defeated, there was significant bipartisan support for it.

    Bob in AZ

    • lysias says:

      Kucinich’s resolution may come back again in a couple of weeks if the administration does not respond to Boehner’s resolution in a way that satisfies the House.

  6. papicek says:

    Thanks for staying on the ball, this was a nice catch.

    Funny how often one’s worst predictions have a way of panning out, as mine did over the unilateral move away from what was authorized by the UNSC in Libya (civilian protection) to regime change. Or how that came back to haunt us in the UN when it came to dealing with Syria.

    The culture of impunity still reigns, and as for Obama, we learn at last that we elected just another member of the old-boy network.


    As for states secrets, I read thousands of the Wikileaks War Log entries, and hundreds of State Department cables, almost all of those chosen at random, and I found nothing earth shattering. For the most part, they were reports of people doing their jobs.

    Exactly why is this a secret in the first place?

    • PlainsEdge says:

      You are right, of course. No good reason other than to Cover The Ass of suspected war criminals (our Constitutional Law President among them). It would be unseemly for the Emperor to have to confront evidence of his Crimes in person – much better that the revolting commoners in the provinces be brought to heel first, as in the Homeland.

  7. Oval12345678akaJamesKSayre says:

    After the CIA and the Brits overthrew the democratic government in Iran in 1953 and installed the vile brutal dictator Shah, the US sent in CIA agents to teach members of SAVAK (sic), the Shah’s secret police, how to torture Iranians.

    We are pure imperial evil.

  8. eCAHNomics says:

    Drive by to remind that I drove by this site with my Polish “cousin” in June 2000. Found out what it was in 2007.

  9. mzchief says:

    I always wondered about the possible political objectives met by the Catholic Church’s first non-Italian Pope from Poland. Nevertheless, there are still enough Slovaks and folks of Slovak descent in Chicago and Detroit (many of them also speak Russian and German) to really take exception to this black site-loving approach of the Polish government. What secrets (maybe old ones from WW II?) are being used as weapons against Poland?

    eCAHN @ 13: That was an amazing synchronicity.

  10. tambershall says:

    Bloody hell.
    It’s Poland for F’s sake.
    They have like a 99% literacy rate. Almost all of them go to college.
    Some of the best computer hackers are from Poland.
    Come on!
    I guess they have corrupt leaders too.
    Are there any leaders in this world that are not corrupt anymore?

  11. rugger9 says:

    What will be interesting is how the Hague responds to this state secrets game combined with the sacking of the prosecutor. Back in our more Constitutional days, such a sacking became known as the “Saturday Night Massacre”, now it’s ho-hum. The thing about this is that the Conventions on Torture in the various articles (dealing with the person’s status) all have the requirement that ALL signatories MUST prosecute, or extradite for prosecution. It’s why Bushies couldn’t go to Switzerland last year for some award thingy, because warrants had been sworn out. It’s a stain on our world stature that the USA still picks and chooses what treaty obligations they feel like following, with the arrogant dare to the rest of the world to do something about it. The PRC government just might at a time of their choosing, and the world may just applaud the actions taken.

    So, I’m not totally surprised that the Polish government caved like this, they were very close to the Bushies, and let’s not forget that that Poland is where the missile shield was supposed to go that’s been the theoretical cause of the issues in “ex”-Soviet relations [note: the Russians are going back to the USSR model, just retrenched a bit], and the $$$ that brings. Therefore the objectivity isn’t really going to be there.

    • bmaz says:

      Uh, no, no warrants for arrest of “the Bushies” (it was actually George Bush himself) as described were ever issued; Bush truly appears to have not gone because it was going to be an ugly protest scene. There was no indication or basis for believing there would have been any detention or prosecution action whatsoever taken against them, and the Swiss government confirmed exactly that. It was a citizen complaint, not an official one from the Swiss authorities, and it meant effectively nothing more than a symbolic gesture. Regrettably, there is no reason whatsoever for any of the Bushies to fear arrest or prosecution in any European country, nor any other first world country.

      • rugger9 says:

        Thinking about Rummy’s trip, but all it takes is a change of government. In the parliamentary system, that can happen quickly.

        • bmaz says:

          It will never happen unless and until officially sanctioned by the US government, which will simply never happen on a senior political official for acts done in their official capacity. I know a lot of people have ginned up that it is a relevant possibility; in theory it may be, in practice it is not and will not be.

      • bobschacht says:

        Good. Then let them test it.
        As I recall in the Swiss situation, their law is that no arrest warrant could be issued unless the accused is in the country. The international team of lawyers behind the case was very well prepared, and their list of documents and legal justifications has since been passed around to many parties.

        Go ahead. Make my day. Encourage Bush to make a public speech in Switzerland. Please.

        Bob in AZ

        • bmaz says:

          I sincerely wish it were different, but it is sheer folly to believe any country is going to do that to current or former senior governmental officials in the White House and cabinet level without direct formal sanction of the same by the current US government. That will never occur. The best, really only, even closely germane example or analogy was Pinochet, who was arrested in the UK based upon an indictment by the Spanish judge Garzon. It looked promising at first because Chile itself did not seem to particularly object, but once they strenuously did, and surrogates for the US and UK political leadership lobbied against extradition, not only was Pinochet never tried, he was released. That was Pinochet, the forces there are not even in the same universe as those that would be applied if some country took it upon itself to try to hold senior US officials, whether current or former. It is fantasy to think this is ever going to happen to any of the Bush/Cheney folks. They may choose to not go certain places because of the embarrassment of protests etc, but there is no fear of being rolled up and prosecuted.

          One more thing to keep in mind. The same Spanish judge who did up Pinochet, Baltasar Garzon, upon even making noise and starting preliminary steps to go after senior US officials in relation to torture and other crimes, was summarily disgraced and sacked by the Spanish government after a bit of pressure from the US. It just is not going to happen without US sanction and no administration is ever going to give it. And they will trash and burn bad any country that tries to do it on their own. Hard.

        • bobschacht says:

          All the same, I’d like to see it happen anyway: Bush trying to make a public speech in Europe or ANZAC. Maybe no indictment, but the resulting furor would publicize the evidence, which has not had a fair exposure here. And that might change things down the road.

          Bush & Cheney ought to be regarded as criminals wherever they go.

          BTW, Pinochet died in disgrace, IMHO.

          And they will trash and burn bad any country that tries to do it on their own. Hard.

          Really? They are going to go to war against Spain for filing charges against a U.S. official? On what premise?

          Bob in AZ

        • bmaz says:

          No, it would be done behind the scenes exactly as was already done with Spain. Again, why do you think Garzon is gone from the scene? The accusations against him on the Franco investigation were old, stale and had never amounted to a hill of beans until the had to something to derail him. And derail him they did. The US was undoubtedly quite pleased. That is the way it will be.

        • bobschacht says:

          Sacking one particular judge is a long way from “trash[ing] and burn[ing] bad[ly] any country” that would dare to indict a U.S. official. In this instance, I think you’re guilty of rhetorical over-kill.

          Bob in AZ

        • bmaz says:

          Believe as you wish (and man do I wish it were so), people like Scott Horton have been saying for years that this miracle of universal jurisdiction by and through the Spanish Judges was the magic bullet to get the Bushies. But it hasn’t happened, and it is not going to happen.

  12. donbacon says:

    According to the U.S. State Department Human Rights Report (Poland) for 2010,

    Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
    The constitution and law prohibit such practices, and the government generally respected these provisions. There were problems, however, with police misconduct and abuse of prisoners. The criminal code lacks a clear, legal definition of torture, which is not reported as a separate crime.

    However Poland does have a human rights ombudsman (and I thought the U.S. was the model):

    In 2008 the country’s human rights ombudsman issued a formal statement of concern to the chief of the national police about the excessive use of force by police, such as beatings that resulted in injuries and unauthorized arrest in some cases. The ombudsman requested information on a plan to address the problem; however, as of year’s end, police had not responded.

    The ombudsman has no power, apparently. Some ombudsman. But let’s ring him up on secret torture, anyhow?