Rice Chides Europeans on Detention Center Complaints
WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chastised Europe leaders today, saying that before they complain about secret jails for terror suspects in European nations, they should realize that interrogations of these suspects have produced information that helped "save European lives."
In her remarks, the Bush Administration's official response to the reports of a network of secret detention centers, Ms. Rice repeatedly emphasized that the United States does not countenance the torture of terrorism suspects, at the hands of either American or foreign captors.
She offered her remarks to reporters early this morning, in a departure lounge at Andrews Air Force Base, just before setting off for a trip to Europe, where she was certain to be asked about the growing controversy over the secret Central Intelligence Agency prisons believed to be located in at least eight European nations. Her statement is also to serve as the basis for the government's response to an official inquiry from the European Union over the secret prisons.
Noting that half-a-dozen international investigations are underway, Ms. Rice did not explicitly confirm the existence of the detentions center. But that was implicit in her remarks.
"We must bring terrorists to justice wherever possible," she said. "But there have been many cases where the local government cannot detain or prosecute a suspect, and traditional extradition is not a good option."
"In those cases," she added, "the local government can make the sovereign choice to cooperate in the transfer of a suspect to a third country, which is known as a rendition.
"Sometimes, these efforts are misunderstood," she said.
News reports starting early last month said the Central Intelligence Agency began holding dozens of terror suspects in secret prisons in as many as eight European nations shortly after Sept. 11. The Administration has not confirmed the reports but has repeatedly maintained that it is abiding by American law and international agreements. Officials have also repeatedly said that the United States and the European states share a common concern about terrorism.
"The terror threatens all of us," Stephen Hadley, the National Security Advisor, said on CNN on Sunday. "You had seen terror attacks in Britain, in Spain, in Italy, in Turkey, in Russia, in Egypt, in Jordan, in Saudi Arabia. This is a threat, really, to the civilized world. We need to cooperate together to deal with this terror threat that threatens all of us. We are cooperating with a number of countries."
The administration's secret detention policy has come under attack from the United Nations, the European Union and Democrats in Washington. Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, wrote Ms. Rice the letter from the European Union last Tuesday, demanding an explanation.
In Congress, Democrats are calling for an investigation of the prisons and the treatment of suspects held there, while Republicans are pushing for an investigation to determine who in the government leaked the information to the news media.
The Bush Administration began drafting Ms. Rice's statement last week. Consultations between agencies including the White House, the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency continued through the weekend and culminated with a conference call Sunday night.
Ms. Rice insisted that the United States had done nothing wrong.
Many of the imprisoned suspects "are effectively stateless," she maintained, "owing allegiance only to the extremist cause of transnational terrorism. Many are extremely dangerous."
She made an effort to frame the debate as one over the effectiveness of terror enforcement and not over the propriety of holding suspects indefinitely in secret prisons.
"We consider the captured members of Al Qaeda and its allies to be unlawful combatants who may be held, in accordance with the law of war, to keep them from killing innocents," she said. "We must bring terrorists to justice wherever possible."
The European nations must decide, she added, whether they "wish to work with us to prevent terrorist attacks against their own country or other countries."