WARSAW, Poland – WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A former Polish president who was in office when the CIA is suspected of running a secret prison in his country says he has no knowledge of the facility or of harsh interrogation techniques allegedly used against terror suspects there.
Aleksander Kwasniewski's comments came after The Associated Press reported that the USS Cole bombing plotter Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was subjected to harsh treatment in a secret prison in Poland in late 2002 and early 2003.
The AP learned from several former intelligence officials and from a review by the CIA's inspector general that a CIA officer revved a power drill near the head of an-Nashiri and threatened him with an unloaded handgun.
Kwasniewski, who was Poland's president from 1995-2005, denied knowledge of such a "black site," but also said he does not know the full extent of CIA operations on Polish soil.
"I am not able to say whether such things took place or could have taken place — it all still needs to be checked," he said.
"I can repeat that there has been intelligence cooperation between Poland the U.S. There were no prisons," Kwasniewski said on the sidelines of an economic forum in the southern Polish mountain resort of Krynica Gorska.
He strongly defended Poland's support of the U.S. fight against terrorism and reiterated that the CIA used Poland as a base where flights would take off and land after the Sept. 11 attacks.
"U.S. planes landed in Poland and many activities took place in connection to that, but it was fully under U.S. responsibility," he said. "Our support for the intelligence activity stemmed from the conviction that it serves the security of the U.S., of Poland and of the world. I absolutely do not accept this notion that democracy must disarm in the face of terrorists and the terrorists can do what they want with us."
Polish prosecutors are investigating the extent of Poland's involvement in the U.S. system of secret prisons around the world where detainees were questioned and subjected to harsh methods, including the simulated drowning technique of waterboarding.
An earlier Polish investigation resulted in no public revelations. But the government of Prime Minister Donald Tusk ordered the ongoing investigation in 2008. Prosecutors told the AP on Wednesday that they could not comment on the revelations regarding al-Nashiri since their probe is still under way and secret.
Newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza reported last month that prosecutors are considering war crimes charges against Kwasniewski and two other officials for allegedly allowing harsh methods to be used in Poland. Kwasniewski then told the newspaper that the Americans never asked Poland for permission to set up prisons or to torture inmates.