By Matthew Cole
The Lithuanian government has concluded that the CIA operated a secret "black site" in Lithuania for high-level Al Qaeda detainees, and that a second secret CIA facility was established in the heart of the capital city of Vilnius. The government began an investigation after an exclusive ABC News report that the CIA operated a secret black site prison for terror suspects in the Baltic country in 2004 and 2005.
In a report released Tuesday, the National Security Committee of the Lithuanian parliament recommended that intelligence officials be criminally investigated for their role in establishing the prisons. In addition to the prison outside Vilnius that was located and revealed by ABC News, the report says that Lithuanian intelligence made a guesthouse in downtown Vilnius available for CIA use as early as 2002, though they could not prove that it had been used.
Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius criticized the U.S. government for establishing the prisons, saying it had manipulated Lithuanian officials with "essentially Soviet methods" into breaking the law. However, he suggested that the second prison, which could only hold one prisoner in a single cell, had never been used.
Arvydas Anusauskas, head of the parliamentary investigating committee, said he did not have enough evidence to prove that the guesthouse had been used, but could not rule out the possibility.
In November, an exclusive ABC News report revealed that the CIA had built one of its secret "black site" prisons inside an exclusive riding academy outside Vilnius, Lithuania. Where affluent Lithuanians once rode show horses and sipped coffee at a café, the CIA installed a concrete structure where it could use harsh tactics to interrogate up to eight suspected al-Qaeda terrorists at a time.
"The activities in that prison were illegal," said human rights researcher John Sifton. "They included various forms of torture, including sleep deprivation, forced standing, painful stress positions."
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.
Lithuania agreed to allow the CIA prison after President George W. Bush visited the country in 2002 and pledged support for Lithuania's efforts to join NATO. 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 new members of NATO were so grateful for the U.S. role in getting them into that organization that they would do anything the U.S. asked for during that period," said former White House counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, now an ABC News consultant. "They were eager to please and eager to be cooperative on security and on intelligence matters."
Until March 2004, the site was a riding academy and café owned by a local family. The facility is in the town of Antaviliai, in the forest 20 kilometers northeast of the city center of Vilnius, near an exclusive suburb where many government officials live.