We have an exclusive report tonight about secret prisons in the war on terror. For years now, the Bush administration has refused to talk about what it's doing with the senior al Qaeda leaders it has captured. Tonight, as the Secretary of State goes to Europe, ABC's Brian Ross has confirmed for the first time that a number of the leaders who were captured have been held in secret prisons in European countries. And Brian, today, Condoleezza Rice became the highest-ranking official in the administration to talk about this, and she said the administration has done nothing wrong.
BRIAN ROSS, ABC NEWS
That's right. In fact, her answers today actually avoided direct answers to the key question of whether the CIA set up secret prisons in Eastern Europe. Current and former CIA officers tell ABC News the answer to that question is yes. In fact, we've learned the CIA prisons were in operation in two countries until just last month, when they were shut down, following news reports of their existence.
CIA sources tell ABC News that by the time Secretary of State Rice arrived in Europe late today, the al Qaeda suspects had all been moved out of their secret European prisons. The CIA declines to comment, but current and former intelligence officers tell ABC News these eight top al Qaeda figures and three more were all held at one point on a former Soviet air base in Eastern Europe. Four or five were later moved to a second country. Without mentioning any country by name, Secretary Rice today acknowledged special handling for certain terrorists.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE
The captured terrorists of the 21st century do not fit easily into traditional systems of criminal or military justice, which were designed for different needs. We have to adapt.
Human rights groups have identified Poland and this military air base as one of the places involved, something denied today by the Polish defense minister who was in Washington.
RADOSLAW SIKORSKI, POLISH DEFENSE MINISTER
The president of Poland has said that there is no truth to these reports.
Do you accept that, sir?
Of course. He's my president.
Human Rights Watch has also reported a CIA prison site in Romania, possibly a military base visited last year by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. The Romanian prime minister said today he knew of no evidence of a CIA prison site in his country.
CALIN TARICEANU, ROMANIAN PRIME MINISTER
There is no evidence concerning either prisons or flights belonging to the CIA in Romania.
Before leaving for Europe, Secretary of State Rice today also reaffirmed the US does not use torture.
The United States does not transport and has not transported detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture.
Intelligence officers say the secretary can say that because of a presidential finding, which approved six enhanced interrogation techniques not defined by the US as torture. Techniques, according to ABC News sources, which the men being held are regularly subjected to.
JOHN SIFTON, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
The military and the CIA are not infallible institutions. They make mistakes. And that's when it's important to have a check and balance, some transparency so that innocent people don't get sucked into the system.
Secretary of State Rice said today that the intelligence gathered from those techniques has stopped planned terror attacks and saved lives. Current and former CIA officers say the 11 al Qaeda terrorists who were in Eastern Europe are now being relocated to a CIA site somewhere in North Africa.