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Thailand Says It Was Unaware Of CIA 'Black Site' On Its Soil

Abu Zubaydah, an alleged al-Qaida operative who was reportedly subjected to waterboarding at a secret location in Thailand in 2002.
Abu Zubaydah, an alleged al-Qaida operative who was reportedly subjected to waterboarding at a secret location in Thailand in 2002.

Thailand's prime minister says his government had no knowledge of a secret location inside the country where the CIA is said to have waterboarded top al-Qaida operatives in 2002.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha was responding to the so-called "torture report" released by the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month that detailed the treatment of terrorism suspects at secret locations — black sites-- around the world.

One such center, known by the CIA code-named "Cat's Eye," was reportedly in Thailand. It is where Abu Zubaydah, an alleged al-Qaida facilitator, and another alleged al-Qaida figure, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, are believed to have been subjected to waterboarding and other techniques in an effort to extract information about terrorist activities. Other such sites were reportedly established by the Central Intelligence Agency in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania.

"The U.S. did not tell us anything. We didn't know where it was hidden," Prayut, an army general who seized power in Thailand in May, told reporters in the capital, according to The Bangkok Post.

"We didn't have to take responsibility because they were already handed over," Prayuth said.

The Bangkok Post says:

"Gen Prayut had previously denied that Thailand hosted clandestine torture facilities for the US.

"Returning from South Korea last Friday, Gen Prayut acknowledged the release of the explosive Senate report, which listed Thailand among the countries used by the CIA for the detention and torture of suspected terrorists.

"But he said the claims made within the public portion of the massive report were false, and the Foreign Ministry would explain that Thailand was not involved in the CIA's actions."

The Washington Post reports that after Abu Zubaydah was captured in Pakistan and handed over to the U.S., the CIA rejected placing him in U.S. military custody, settling instead "on a location in Thailand that would become the agency's first black site."

Once there, the alleged al-Qaida operative "was kept in a coffin-sized box for hundreds of hours and waterboarded until he 'became completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through is open, full mouth,'" the newspaper said, quoting from the 528-page Senate report that is itself a declassified version of a classified study that exceeds 6,000 pages.

However, the Washington Post says:

"Almost immediately, there were tensions with the Thai government. The day after Abu Zubaida arrived, Thai officials began placing new conditions on their acquiescence, demanding access to U.S. intelligence that officials familiar with the Senate report said had nothing to do with terrorism. The Thai officials who had approved the CIA plan were suddenly replaced by others who objected to the deal and demanded that it be closed 'within three weeks.'

"CIA lobbying got Thai officials to relent, but by November [2002], the location had leaked. The New York Times refrained from publishing the Thai connection, but "the fact that it had the information, combined with previous media interest, resulted in the decision to close [the site]."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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