Anonymous Sources Claim Polish President Didn’t Know of Torture Site

Remember the Polish prosecutor who got fired as he was preparing to charge top members of the Democratic Left Alliance party for their complicity in America’s torture site? The same newspaper that broke that story–Gazeta Wyborcza–just reported former President Aleksander Kwasniewski’s purported explanation of his role in the torture site: complete ignorance.

“Aleksander Kwasniewski did not know what was going on there,” an informant has told Gazeta Wyborcza.

Prosecutors in Warsaw are currently considering whether to bring charges against Kwasniewski and other left wing politicians for allegedly allowing al-Qaeda suspects to be held and tortured in Poland. Kwasniewski has always said he had no knowledge of the CIA activity.


President Aleksander Kwasniewski only found out about the ‘black site’ at the Stare Kiejkuty intelligence base, near the Szczytno-Szymany airport, over 100 kilometres from Warsaw, when President George W. Bush thanked him for Poland‘s assistance in the ‘war against terror’, the daily reports.

While on a visit to Poland in June 2003, Bush thanked Kwasniewski for the help Warsaw had given Washington in its fight against terrorism.

But so profuse was Bush’s thanks that Kwasniewski realised that “something was not right,” as Poland had only sent a limited number of troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, to his knowledge.


Here’s the most “profuse” thanks that Bush offered Poland in his public comments while in Poland (even as he affirmed his “belie[f] in human rights, and justice under law” and hailed historic fights against evil in Europe).

And Poland has led the effort to increase anti-terror cooperation amongst central and eastern European nations. And America is grateful.

Now I could see some confusion about this statement on Kwasniewski’s part if he didn’t know what Poland had done to lead the anti-terror effort in Central Europe. But this one comment is not all that profuse. And it was delivered on May 31, 2003, not in June.

Which makes me wonder whether the real profuse thanks came in private comments, perhaps the following day.

A more interesting detail of timing, however, is that Bush’s comments came at a time when the CIA Inspector General was already investigating the treatment of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri on Polish soil.

I suppose it’s remotely possible that no one told the Polish President the CIA had taken over an old Soviet era prison to conduct its torture (though I doubt it–Bush’s speech also seems laden with quid pro quos about support for NATO and EU membership). But I would bet there was more that raised Kwasniewski’s concern than just purportedly newfound knowledge of the prison.

29 replies
  1. moodforaday says:

    Here in Poland the understanding in the media was that Bush’s comments had indeed been made in private. The newspaper also said there were three of those anonymous informants, and that their stories did not entirely match up.

    My personal feeling is that this is merely a “limited hangout”, as the “didn’t happen” position finally became untenable. That said, ex-president Kwaśniewski still maintains that tired old position and categorically denies what we pretty much know for a fact.

  2. bmaz says:

    Hmmm, I wonder if Steve Reyes can download this post, or only read it? If he wanted to include a cite in a brief, would he have to go to a SCIF to do it?

  3. Garrett says:

    President Braggart winks and nods about Poland, on May 31, 2003.

    One week later, bin al-Shibh and al-Nashiri are flown out of Poland, to Morocco.

    The timing of al-Nashiri being flown out, in particular, seems worth an eyebrow raise.

      • bmaz says:

        Golly, if only there were some kind of legal proceeding where someone like al-Nashiri could ask such questions, get discovery and whatnot. You know, like an Article III court or something. Apparently that is simply not available either in a civil or criminal format.

  4. Mary says:

    So does the chronology we’re supposed to buy into go something like –

    Pre-June 2003, CIA makes deal on torture base; June 2003 Bush’s profusions make Kwasniewsk suspicious. After his suspicions, he finds out about prison and orders it closed and Sept, 2003 the last prisoners are flown out. Sept 2003 through now, Kwasniewsk (who anonymous is saying did find out about the torture sites in June or so, 2003) consistently states (lies) that while Polish and US intel cooperated, there was not any Polish torture site.

    Now, after (under the scenario in the article which indicates the torture site was closed after he found out about it) lying for 8 years, we can solidly believe that Kwasniewsk is now telling the truth about not knowing about the torture site before he started lying about its existence?

    • emptywheel says:

      Yup. That’s the story!

      Incidentally, 10 days after meeting with Kwasniewski, Bush was meeting w/Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. In addition to pitching a NATO-like agreement w/Thailand (he pushed NATO/EU membership a lot for Poland in his May 31 speech), Bush also had this to say:

      The President commended Thailand’s strong leadership in responding to the challenge of terrorism in Southeast Asia and its commitment to the international community to fight against all forms of terror. The President also expressed appreciation for the close U.S.-Thai partnership on counterterrorism.

      More profuse, but not all that much different, than what he said to Poland.

      In the Thai case, Shinawatra’s visit fell between the time–in May 2003–when CIA IG investigators flew to Thailand to review the torture tapes (which is presumably when they discovered the tapes had already been altered) and the time when Helgerson interviewed CIA lawyer JOhn McPherson about why he didn’t find this earlier alteration of the tapes relevant.

    • lysias says:

      If the Szymany prison was closed in Sept. 2003, why did the Cheneys visit it in January 2005?

      And, if KSM was not being held there at that time, where was he being held?

      • posaune says:

        Was that the same trip Dick made in January 2005 to Oswiecim (Auschwitz) for the 60th anniversary of liberation? The one where everyone wore formal topcoats & Dick showed up in a ratty green parka? Hmm. he probably went straight to Szymany from there.

  5. CassandraBearingWitness says:

    Have you ever noticed that when something good happens, the politicians take credit. When something illegal happens, they knew nothing of it. Think of Reagan and Bush I during Iran Contra. Think of Iraqis and Afghans being handed over for torture under Obama. And in today’s climate of complete impunity for even the most egregious offenses, there is no restraint on the wicked or justice for their victims.

  6. tambershall says:

    It does NOT exist.
    Then, I did not know.
    Then, …

    This is like the Fed up stages of grief. Denial, … Acceptance.

    So what’s next? It depends on what the definition of “is” is?
    Or just use the good ole enhanced interrogation, not torture, lie?

    This is bad comedy.

  7. spanishinquisition says:

    What Kwasniewski is saying could be literally true, but it doesn’t mean it should get him off the hook. I wouldn’t expect Presidents in various countries to know the employee roster, work schedules, etc at all their respective black sites…I would expect them to give general approval for activities across black sites, but not know the individual details for each location.

    • posaune says:

      There must have been a lot behind the scenes. Remember when Kwasniewski came to the WH to visit W? It was a big deal. Supposedly, the F-16 offsets and the visa issues were to be settled. The Poles have NEVER gotten the visa requirements lifted — their the only state in the EU that needs visas for US visitation. And they didn’t get the offsets, either. Wonder what they did get for running Szymany?

  8. posaune says:

    I knew someone who worked at the US embassy in Warsaw, starting in 2005, where he was posted after Pakistan. Quite fluent in Urdu and Pashto, but not Polish. hmmm. His next posting, in mid-2006, not according to the usual 4-yr rule was to Afghanistan. I always wondered about this.

  9. jrubin998 says:

    Why so much concern about the Polish leader, if we can’t even charge GWB, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Yoo, and many others and send them to the Haig.

    We surely have them even stating that “Without the interrogation techiques OBL would never been found/killed!!!

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