NSA Spying, Rendition Fallout Dog John Kerry in Poland

Nov 5, 2013 12:27pm

Not only did questions about NSA spying continue to dog Secretary of State John Kerry at a public appearance in Poland today, but another widely criticized U.S. security policy also managed to rear its head: CIA black sites.

The secretary of state visited Poland today as part of an eight-day, eight-country trip to the Middle East, which included this one European stop. At a joint news conference in Warsaw, Kerry and Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski sidestepped two questions from Polish journalists on whether the United States has spied on Polish leaders, as it reportedly has on the leaders of France and Germany.

“We’re all in this together,” Kerry said. “We are all in the effort to try to be able to provide protection to our citizens, and we have to strike the right balance between protecting our citizens and, obviously, the privacy of all of our citizens.”

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Kerry called NSA-spying concerns “legitimate,” while denying that they’ll affect U.S. trade talks with the European Union, slated for next week.

“That should not be confused with whatever legitimate questions exist with respect to NSA or other activities,” Kerry said of the upcoming trade talks.

These were the first NSA questions Kerry has faced since leaving the United States Sunday. It was his third time taking questions from reporters on the trip, but in previous appearances (with the foreign ministers of Egypt and Saudi Arabia), questions focused on Iran, Syria, and U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and NSA spying didn’t come up.

Kerry sparked a tiff with the NSA last week when he was asked about surveillance via teleconference during a London panel on transparency in government. NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander took exception to Kerry’s comment that eavesdropping on foreign leaders had happened on “automatic pilot.”

In a throwback to Bush-era fallout over the so-called global war on terror, today Kerry was reminded of the controversy surrounding CIA black sites and the U.S. “extraordinary rendition” program brought to light in 2005.

The European Court of Human Rights will begin in December hearing the case of two men who say they were held at a secret CIA prison in Poland. Poland has launched its own investigation, and it asked last week that the case to be heard in private.

Asked about this by a reporter at today’s news conference, Foreign Minister Sikorski said little.

“Poland is the only country, actually, that is currently running an investigation on the alleged activities,” he said. “The investigation is closed in nature; therefore, the materials have to be classified. They are not open to the public, so whatever we would like to communicate on an international basis is classified.”

 

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