The CIA high value detainee (HVD) program began after the March 2002 capture of Abu Zubaydah. Within days, the CIA arranged for Zubaydah to be flown to Thailand. Later, in mid-2003 after Thai government and intelligence officials became nervous about hosting a secret prison for Zubaydah and a second top al Qaeda detainee, according to a former CIA officer involved in the program. One was transferred to a facility housed on a Polish intelligence base in December 2002, said a former official involved with transferring detainees. The facility was known as Ruby Base, according to two former CIA officials familiar with the location.
One of the former CIA officers involved in the secret prison program allowed ABC News to view flight logs that show aircraft used to move detainees to and from the secret prisons in Lithuania, Thailand, Afghanistan, Poland, Romania, Morocco and Guantanamo Bay. The purpose of the flights, said the officer, was to move terrorist suspects. The official told ABC News that the CIA arranged for false flight plans to be submitted to European aviation authorities. Planes flying into and out of Lithuania, for example, were ordered to submit paperwork that said they would be landing in nearby countries, despite actually landing in Vilnius, he said. "Finland and Poland were used most frequently" as false destinations, the former CIA officer told ABC News. A similar system was used to land planes in Romania and Poland.
Lithuania, Poland, and Romania have all ratified the U.N. Convention Against Torture as well as the European Convention on Human Rights. All three countries' legal systems prohibit torture and extrajudicial detention. Polish authorities are currently conducting an investigation into whether any Polish law was broken by government officials there in hosting one of the secret prisons, according to a published report in the German magazine Der Spiegel.
"There are important legal issues at stake," said human rights researcher John Sifton. "As with Poland and Romania, CIA personnel involved in any secret detentions and interrogations in Lithuania were not only committing violations of U.S. federal law and international law, they were also breaking Lithuanian laws relating to lawless detention, assault, torture, and possibly war crimes. Lithuanian officials who worked with the CIA were breaking applicable Lithuanian laws as well."
Washington has been sharply divided over whether investigations into the interrogation and detention program should be opened. The CIA has been ordered by a federal judge to declassify and release much of the agency's inspector general report about the first years of the program by next week.
Attorney General Eric Holder has said that he is weighing whether he should appoint a special prosecutor to investigate alleged abuses in the program after reading the IG report. At issue are instances of abuse that went beyond the guidelines set up by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), which included waterboarding and sleep deprivation of up to 11 days, according to people aware of Holder's thinking. President Obama has called the practices "torture" and abolished the program within a few days of taking office this year. But the president has also said that his administration intended to "look forward" not backward at Bush-era policies of interrogation and detention.