FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Those CIA Prisons

by KENNETH V. SMITH

Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico.

Intelligence agencies throughout the world could save a lot of money by simply interviewing taxi drivers. They know the secrets of their cities and countries. Somehow, they know the truth whether or not it has been officially denied or acknowledged by their governments. There was some news this week about secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe and that reminded me of a taxi driver I met six years ago.

I was planning my first trip to Romania to attend a wedding in Bucharest in January 2006. A couple of months before my trip, I set up a Google News alert to send me links whenever Romania was mentioned in an English language news story. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but rather I just wanted to get a sense of current events in Romania.

Included in the Google News links were some reports that the CIA had a super-secret interrogation site for Iraqi and Afghan prisoners near the Black Sea city of Constanta in Romania. There were firm denials, of course, from both the Romanian and American governments that such a place existed, or ever did.

I had almost forgotten these news items. I had read the articles about the secret American base in Romania, but I was not particularly interested. (I’m still trying to
figure out the Kennedy assassination, so I don’t need another grand global mystery.)

I was living in France at the time. I flew from Nice to Bucharest on Lufthansa, changing planes in Munich. Glancing at the passports of other passengers going through Romanian immigration, I was the only American on the flight.

As I left the terminal, a taxi driver asked me in German if I wanted a taxi. “Ich spreche kein Deutsch,” I said. I don’t speak German. He could tell by my awful accent that I spoke English and he correctly assumed that I was an American.

Then, switching to English, the taxi driver surprised me. He offered to drive me to Constanta, about a two-hour trip. “Straight to base. Fixed price. But you tell me how much to write on receipt. You take tall Russian blonde, if you like. Nice girl. Medical student.” With a conspiratorial grin, he added, “Girl not on receipt.”

I explained that I was not going to Constanta and I did not want to meet the tall Russian blonde. We agreed on a fare to the center of Bucharest.

Constanta was where the rumored secret prison was located. Super secret. Mainstream U.S. media had mostly ignored reports of these “black sites”, secret prisons. In the European media and American alternative news websites, there was sketchy coverage about “rendition” of terrorist prisoners being held at secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe. (By the way, what government public relations genius came up with using the word “rendition” for moving prisoners to secret prisons?)

So, I was amazed that this Romanian taxi driver not only knew of this supposedly top secret American base, but he assumed that I, as an American, must be going there. Plus, he knew enough about American expense reporting procedures to suggest that the receipt for the trip could be padded with extras, such as a nice Russian medical student.

Was my experience just an isolated incident? Do taxi drivers really know the location of secret U.S. facilities? Are U.S. government employees and contractors always completely honest when filing expense reports? Have you and I, fellow American taxpayers, ever paid for the company of a nice Russian medical student? Of course, I could guess, but I don’t really have answers to these questions.

I was also reminded of my trip to Bucharest with the recent events surrounding the Secret Service and some hookers in Venezuela. Just how stupid can a government employee be to argue with a prostitute in a foreign country while on official business to protect the President of the United States? The last I read was that the director of the Secret Service ordered a full investigation, which means that the paperwork will be shuffled from desk to desk until the incident is forgotten. If you want to know the truth of what happened in Caracas, my bet is that you could ask a taxi driver.

Maybe President Obama should put a taxi driver on retainer. Just this week, President Obama offended the entire country of Poland, plus millions of Polish-Americans, by referring to “Polish death camps”, as opposed to Nazi death camps in German-occupied Poland. Poles consider that a blood libel. I am certain that if Obama had checked his speech with any taxi driver in Poland, the offense could have been avoided.

The timing of the “Polish death camps” gaffe this week is made worse by the news that the CIA had a secret prison in Poland. Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, the former head of Poland’s intelligence service, is accused of helping build a secret prison for the CIA in a remote area of Poland. It is alleged that foreign prisoners in the prison were tortured in connection with America’s global war on terror.

As in Romania and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, rumors have been floating around Poland for years about a secret prison, though denied by the highest authorities. An official investigation into a CIA-run prison in Poland started in 2008, a year after Prime Minister Donald Tusk took office.

It looks like President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have some work to do in regaining trust in Poland. I suggest a good start would be going to Warsaw and having a beer with a taxi driver.

Ken Smith, a semi-retired American, has lived in Mexico for the past five years, after four years in France, a year in Denmark, and another year bouncing around Europe. Ken is planning to leave Mexico, but he doesn’t yet know his next stop. Some place affordable and peaceful. Croatia? Vietnam? Portugal? Chile? His blog, “Leaving America,” is at http://kvsmith.comKen managed the website for his friend, Joe Bageant, who died a year ago. Two months ago, a collection of Joe’s online essays was published, titled Waltzing at the Doomsday Ball: The Best of Joe Bageant, for which Ken wrote an introduction and short biography of Joe. This introduction was published here on CounterPunch. http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/04/02/waltzing-at-the-doomsday-ball-2/.

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 30, 2017
William R. Polk
What Must be Done in the Time of Trump
Howard Lisnoff
Enough of Russia! There’s an Epidemic of Despair in the US
Ralph Nader
Crash of Trumpcare Opens Door to Full Medicare for All
Carol Polsgrove
Gorsuch and the Power of the Executive: Behind the Congressional Stage, a Legal Drama Unfolds
Michael J. Sainato
Fox News Should Finally Dump Bill O’Reilly
Kenneth Surin
Former NC Governor Pat McCory’s Job Search Not Going Well
Binoy Kampmark
The Price of Liberation: Slaughtering Civilians in Mosul
Bruce Lesnick
Good Morning America!
William Binney and Ray McGovern
The Surveillance State Behind Russia-gate: Will Trump Take on the Spooks?
Jill Richardson
Gutting Climate Protections Won’t Bring Back Coal Jobs
Robert Pillsbury
Maybe It’s Time for Russia to Send Us a Wake-Up Call
Prudence Crowther
Swamp Rats Sue Trump
March 29, 2017
Jeffrey Sommers
Donald Trump and Steve Bannon: Real Threats More Serious Than Fake News Trafficked by Media
David Kowalski
Does Washington Want to Start a New War in the Balkans?
Patrick Cockburn
Bloodbath in West Mosul: Civilians Being Shot by Both ISIS and Iraqi Troops
Ron Forthofer
War and Propaganda
Matthew Stevenson
Letter From Phnom Penh
James Bovard
Peanuts Prove Congress is Incorrigible
Thomas Knapp
Presidential Golf Breaks: Good For America
Binoy Kampmark
Disaster as Joy: Cyclone Debbie Strikes
Peter Tatchell
Human Rights are Animal Rights!
George Wuerthner
Livestock Grazing vs. the Sage Grouse
Jesse Jackson
Trump Should Form a Bipartisan Coalition to Get Real Reforms
Thomas Mountain
Rwanda Indicts French Generals for 1994 Genocide
Clancy Sigal
President of Pain
Andrew Stewart
President Gina Raimondo?
Lawrence Wittner
Can Our Social Institutions Catch Up with Advances in Science and Technology?
March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail