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U.S. Interrogations Save European Lives, Rice Tells Europe...s Leaders

By Joel Brinkley
THE NEW YORK TIMES


BERLIN

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice chastised European leaders on Monday, 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.”

Her remarks were the Bush administration’s official response to the reports of a network of secret detention centers in at least eight European nations, said to house dozens of terror suspects.

At the same time, she denied that the United States has moved suspects to these prisons to allow interrogators to use torture. “The United States,” she said, “does not permit, tolerate or condone torture under any circumstances.” At another point, she said, “The United States does not transport and has not transported detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture.”

Intelligence gathered from these interrogations, she said, “has stopped terrorist attacks and saved innocent lives in Europe as well as the United States.” But she declined to offer examples or provide any specific information to support her assertions. She said any information related to the prisons was classified. Rice did not explicitly confirm the existence of the detention centers, first described in news reports early last month. But acknowledgment of them was implicit in her remarks. Without the debate over the covert jails, there would have been no reason for her statement.

“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,” she added, “these efforts are misunderstood.”

Administration officials from the White House, State Department and Central Intelligence Agency labored over Rice’s statement for days and said it would serve as the basis of the government’s official answer to an inquiry about the covert detention centers issued by the European Union last week — one of a half dozen inquiries that are under way.

Rice offered her remarks to reporters early Monday morning, in a departure lounge at Andrews Air Force Base just outside Washington, moments before setting off for a trip to Europe. The timing, she said later, was not coincidental. She wanted to issue the statement “before I go to Europe so if there are questions I can answer them.”

Her five-day trip will take her to Germany, Belgium, Ukraine and Romania. Analyses of flight records of U.S. government aircraft have suggested that Romania may be the site of one covert detention center, but Romanian officials say that no such facility exists. Rice arrived in Berlin too late Monday night to meet with any German officials or to gauge any reaction to her remarks in Washington.