So the Washington Post reported today that detainees in U.S. custody are being held in secret facilities around the world, including in a “Soviet-era compound” somewhere in Eastern Europe. Um, where in Eastern Europe? The Financial Times follows up:
A leading human rights group on Wednesday identified Poland and Romania as the likely locations in eastern Europe of secret prisons where al-Qaeda suspects are interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency….
Poland’s role, if confirmed, would be especially controversial, given that it has recently joined the European Union.
Yeah, breaking the law never goes over well. Meanwhile, here’s a thornier legal question: did the president break the law by authorizing these secret prisons? It’s not clear. It is illegal for the government to hold prisoners in secret facilities within the United States. That’s why they hold the detainees abroad. But at least in Poland, which is part of the European Union, it’s illegal to deny prisoners the right to a lawyer and defense against allegations of law-doing. Says the Post:
Under U.S. law, only the president can authorize a covert action, by signing a document called a presidential finding. Findings must not break U.S. law and are reviewed and approved by CIA, Justice Department and White House legal advisers.
Looks dodgy, but maybe just barely within the law. This from the president who said in his first inaugural: “We must always ask ourselves not only what is legal, but what is right.”