By Matthew Cole and Mark Schone
Povilas Malakauskas, head of Lithuania's State Security department, left without prior public notice after two years in the position. Lithuanian media quoted Arydas Anusauskas, head of a parliamentary committee investigating the prison, as saying that the intelligence chief stepped down "in part" because of the government's effort to investigate the details surrounding the CIA facility.
Anusauskas told LNK TV that much of the government's investigation could have been avoided if the intel chief had told the truth about his department's involvement in the CIA program. Anusauskas told ABC News that the resignation was first discussed in September, when Malakauskas refused to provide information to investigators.
On Nov. 18, ABC News revealed the location of the secret prison, where harsh interrogation techniques were allegedly used on accused al-Qaeda terrorists, in a converted horseback riding facility 20 kilometers northeast of the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius. Where affluent Lithuanians once rode show horses and sipped coffee at an attached café, the CIA installed a hidden concrete structure where it could hold up to eight "high value detainees" at a time, a current Lithuanian government official and a former CIA official told ABC News.
For many of the residents of this former Soviet state, it is reminiscent of the KGB's secret prisons. "As a Lithuanian," a local woman told ABC News, "I am not very proud of this."
"The activities in that prison were illegal," said John Sifton, a New York attorney whose firm One World Research investigates human rights abuses. "They included various forms of torture, including sleep deprivation, forced standing, painful stress positions."
After ABC News revealed the location of the prison, a top Lithuanian official said that the report was damaging to his country's reputation.
"Obviously, this is not helping Lithuania's image," Foreign Minister Vygaudas Usackas told the Baltic News Service. "Therefore it is vital that we conduct an investigation and clear any doubts." Usackas also warned Lithuanians not to believe "rumors or wild tales."
Within weeks, however, the Lithuanian government investigation had confirmed that the CIA operated a secret black site prison in the country.
According to Lithuania's LNK TV, sources told investigators that State Security was involved in coordinating the construction of the prison, and also provided the code name of the operation to transport terror detainees to the prison.
A "Building Within A Building"
It is not known which suspected al-Qaeda figures were in Lithuania, but 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad was moved out of the CIA's secret prison in Poland just before the Lithuanian facility was opened. According to sources who say they saw the facility, the riding academy originally consisted of an indoor riding area with a red metallic roof, a stable and a cafe. The CIA built a thick concrete wall inside the riding area. Behind the wall, it built what one Lithuanian source called a "building within a building."
On a series of thick concrete pads, it installed what a source called "prefabricated pods" to house prisoners, each separated from the other by five or six feet. Each pod included a shower, a bed and a toilet. Separate cells were constructed for interrogations. The CIA converted much of the rest of the building into garage space. Intelligence officers working at the prison were housed next door in the converted stable.
A woman who lives near the complex, and who refused to give her name for fear of retribution reports that when she often saw cars with black-tinted windows drive up to the buildings. When a garage door opened, all the lights in the complex would go off until the car had entered the building and the door had closed.
Electrical power for both structures was provided by a 2003 Caterpillar autonomous generator. All the electrical outlets in the renovated structure were 110 volts, meaning they were designed for American appliances. European outlets and appliances typically use 220 volts.
Locals report that English-speaking guards worked at the complex, and often swam in a nearby lake. The guards were rotated every 90 days.
Lithuanian officials provided ABC News with the documents of what they called a CIA front company, Elite, LLC, which purchased the property and built the "black site" in 2004. ABC News first reported that Lithuania was one of three eastern European countries, along with Poland and Romania, where the CIA secretly interrogated suspected high-value al-Qaeda terrorists.
The CIA purchased the riding academy property in March 2004, the same month Lithuania marked its formal admission to NATO. Poland joined NATO in 1999, and Romania joined in 2004.
The CIA opened the prison in Sept. 2004, and closed it in Nov. 2005, former CIA officials told ABC News.
The CIA declined to talk about the prison. "The CIA's terrorist interrogation program is over," said CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano. "This agency does not discuss publicly where detention facilities may or may not have been."