Colours. In military terminology, a ‘black site’ is a location where an unacknowledged black project is conducted. The Vilnius detention center site was called “Violet.”
Chaos, Crowd Behavior. Bitter Lake (2015) is a BBC documentary film by filmmaker Adam Curtis. It argues that Western politicians keep simplifying the stories that they tell, into simple-to-digest for the public ‘good’ vs. ‘evil’ arguments, due to society’s overwhelming chaos and disorder, which they neither grasp nor understand. Linear narrative making is not enough to reveal the ambiguous and controversial stories of today’s politics.
Structure. In 2009, an exclusive ABC News report revealed that the CIA built one of its secret ‘black site’ prisons inside an exclusive riding academy outside of Vilnius, Lithuania. Where affluent Lithuanians once rode show horses and sipped coffee at a café, the CIA installed a concrete structure so that they could use harsh tactics to interrogate up to eight suspected al-Qaeda terrorists at a time.1
Violence. Overwhelming evidence from the United Nations, Council of Europe, European Parliament, media and human rights groups, as well as Lithuania’s own criminal investigation, confirms the existence of two CIA secret facilities in Lithuania as part of the global web of so-called black sites that the U.S. used illegally to hold people suspected of being linked to terrorism, from roughly 2001 to 2006.2
Anonymity. It could also be your neighbor’s house, at the very center, near the Finnish embassy—the one you used to visit to have some nice wine in the sauna or discuss the merits of social democracy. Do you remember that former horseback riding academy building twenty kilometers outside of Vilnius? We used to go there to pick mushrooms at the same time someone was being held nearby as an illegal prisoner—hidden inside, water boarded.
Failure. Darkened car windows were blamed for the failure to establish if the CIA transported detainees into or through Lithuania. The Lithuanian Seimas report noted that it was “impossible to establish either the identity of the passengers or the purpose of the cargoes.”3
Liberal. The committee’s chairman, Arvydas Anušauskas, said that the aircraft involved in transporting prisoners had entered Lithuanian airspace and landed in the capital, Vilnius, on several occasions from 2002 to 2005. “Those airplanes were not checked by border police and customs, [and] persons traveling and cargo were never identified.”4
System. The committee mentioned two facilities suitable for holding detainees—Project 1 and Project 2—which were later identified as a small building in Vilnius and a former horseback riding academy twenty kilometers outside of Vilnius. In addition, five CIA-related flights had landed in Lithuania between 2003 and 2005, and others used the country’s airspace, the committee found.5
Recognition. “Lithuania is not the only European country to avoid proper investigations of complicity in the CIA renditions program. Eleven other countries—Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, and the U.K.—are also alleged to have taken part to various degrees. Of these, only Italy has prosecuted anyone in relation to the program—convicting two Italians and, in absentia, 23 U.S. agents for the abduction of an Egyptian man.”6
Brutal. “The activities in that prison were illegal,” remarked human rights researcher John Sifton. “They included various forms of torture, including sleep deprivation, forced standing, painful stress positions.”7
Failure. Lithuania has ratified the UN Convention against Torture, as well as the European Convention on Human Rights. These both require that the country investigate thoroughly and effectively all allegations of serious human rights violations and hold perpetrators accountable.8
Game. The former president Valdas Adamkus said that he received a request to host 7-9 harmless prisoners from the Guantanamo base in Lithuania, but he declined. Adamkus commented that he has personally visited the building near Vilnius, which was singled out as the possible site of the secret CIA facility, only to make sure it was an exercise center.9
Inclusion vs. Exclusion. “Abu Zubaydah’s case against Lithuania was filed by London NGO Interights in October 2011. In May 2013, Lithuanian authorities produced an astonishing reply, in which they admitted that:
- Prosecutors spent a mere 1 hour 15 minutes examining the CIA-equipped detention site.
- They took no photographs of the inside of the building, made no inventory of its contents and performed only a cursory examination of its interior.
- They made no forensic examination of any part of the site.
- Their full report on the prison site, totaling only 10 pages, made no reference to the building’s unusual double-shell structure, lack of windows, extensive air-conditioning and CCTV apparatus.
- Their dossier of photographic evidence showed nothing beyond what is readily visible to any casual observer.
- They relied on the lack of “bars” as sufficient evidence that there was no prison facility in the building.
- They failed to understand the role of flight data as an evidential resource and as a result failed to comprehend how flight plans, invoices and contractual documents, published by Reprieve, tied specific plane movements to Lithuania and to the CIA’s rendition program.”10
Loop or Loophole. They relied on the lack of “bars” as sufficient evidence that there was no prison facility in the building.11
Destiny. “CIA planes made repeated flights into Lithuania during that time, ABC news said, citing former CIA officials.”12
Fate. According to the report, as many as eight prisoners were held there for at least one year.13
Possibilities. Gut-wrenching CIA tortures, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and even forced rectal check-ups resulting in lacerations, might have happened in the proximity of Vilnius, where a secret CIA detention center “possibly” operated during 2004-2006.14
Tests. “The U.S. authorities have publicly acknowledged inflicting a battery of waterboarding and other forms of extreme physical and psychological coercion on Abu Zubaydah. A former national security officer familiar with the treatment of Abu Zubaydah has explained that Zubaydah ‘was an experiment. A guinea pig … There were many enhanced interrogation [methods] tested on him that have never been discussed [.]’ ”15
Friendship. According to a former intelligence official involved in the program, the former Soviet Bloc country agreed to host a prison because it wanted better relations with the U.S. When asked whether the Bush administration or the CIA offered incentives in return for allowing the prison, the official said, “We didn’t have to.” The official said, “They were happy to have our ear.”16
Budget. The detention center “Violet” noted in the Senate report seemed eerily close to the descriptions put forth in the Lithuanian parliamentary investigation. The Senate report noted how an amount approximating to $1 million was provided by the U.S. to “show appreciation” for its creation, money which was conveyed via various “complex mechanisms” to evade government ledgers.17
The Sky. Look at the sky, another black site, even in day time.
Plane Spotting. “Between 2001 and 2006, the skies over Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East were crisscrossed by hundreds of flights whose exact purpose was a closely held secret. Sometimes planes were able to use airports near major capitals, while on other occasions, the mission required that pilots land on out-of-the-way airstrips. The planes were being used by the CIA to shuttle human cargo across continents, and the shadowy air traffic was the operational side of the U.S. government’s anti-terrorist program that came to be known as ‘extraordinary rendition.’ ”18
- http://www.interights.org/abu-zubaydah-v-lithuania/index.html (internet archive version)
- https://detaineetaskforce.org/read/files/assets/basic-html/page180.html (internet archive version)