Please visit the new home of Majikthise at

« Domestic terror plot foiled in Austin | Main | Jessica Valenti »

April 27, 2007

Swiss journos acquitted for publishing torture fax

Torture Fax, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

Three Swiss journalists were acquitted Tuesday on charges of revealing military secrets for publishing this fax. The document is purportedly a fax from an Egyptian minister of foreign affairs which was intercepted by Swiss intelligence. The journalists say they found the document on a train.

The fax contains both statements from the Egyptian minister and internal intel commentary on the interception.

The fax states that an ambassador has learned "from his own sources" that the US detained 23 Iraqis and Afghans at a base in Romania in September 2005.

The document goes on to mention the secret Polish prison that my colleague Larisa Alexandrovna exposed in Raw Story last month. The Egypitan minister asserts that similar sites exist in Ukraine, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Kosovo and that the NGO Human Rights Watch has supplied proof that American military aircraft transported prisonser from the Salt Pit base in Kabul to Polish and Romanian sites.

Finally, the minister says that despite all this evidence, Romanian officials continue to deny the existence of secret prisons used by American intelligence to interrogate "members of Al Qaida."

These sites are believed to be part of the CIA's network of secret prisons used for so-called "extraordinary renditions"--the practice of kidnapping terrorism suspects and transporting them to third countries to be tortured.

Larisa recently obtained a copy of the fax from a Swiss journalist. Full-sized document here.

Much more background on the Swiss torture fax from SwissInfo.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Swiss journos acquitted for publishing torture fax:


My congrats to Larisa. A major scoop indeed. And, hopefully, the first of many spotlights cast on this despicable, dirty business. Expect the WH to squeal like stuck pigs.

Just released [ref: George Tenet]:

“House Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif., invited the former CIA chief to testify May 10 on his views about claims used to justify the war in Iraq. In a letter to Tenet on Friday, Waxman indicated he's specifically interested in the allegation that Iraq tried to import uranium from Niger.”

White knuckle suspense, I can't wait.


I don't like the prosecution of journalists.

I liked it when Judith Miller was in jail, but that is only because she helped start a war which has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the deaths of over 3,000 US troops, and the deaths of other people including journalists.

Judith Miller is the exception. Otherwise, I don't want journalists jailed/prosecuted for what they reveal or refuse to reveal.

Within the past two hours, this article appeared on the wire service:

*U.S. Army officer accuses generals of failures in Iraq*
Excerpt: "For reasons that are not yet clear, America's general officer corps underestimated the strength of the enemy, overestimated the capabilities of Iraq's government and security forces, and failed to provide Congress with an accurate assessment of security conditions in Iraq," Lt. Col. Paul Yingling wrote in an article published Friday in the Armed Forces Journal. “In 2007, Iraq's grave and deteriorating condition offers diminishing hope for an American victory and portends an even wider and more destructive regional war," he said.

Another interesting bit: An anti-war group, Appeal for Redress, says about 2,000 active duty personnel and veterans have signed a petition calling for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.

It appears the administration’s rationale for the “Surge” and “stay the course” is beginning to unravel. High drama, indeed, and long overdue.


Eric, Judith Miller was in jail for refusing to co-operate with an investigation into the disclosure of the identity of a covert CIA operative. This had nothing to do with her pre-Iraq War work as a conduit for WMD misinformation. Both things involved the Bush Administration's use of "journalists" as mouthpieces, but we have to careful distinguish their slimy operations: one was designed to punish critics, the other was misinformation designed to confuse the public.

John Protevi -

Yes, I know that she wasn't jailed for her WMD reporting. I should have made that clear in my comment.

And I'm proud to be an American...

... where at least I know I'm free.

Can we still sing this under this Administration? Embarrassing to know what our country is doing in our name. The end justifies the meeans, eh? Too damn bad we're not winning this thing with all these unAmerican tactics. SHameful really

Aren't you getting a little ahead of yourself with the "torture fax" title?

A hearsay account contained in "purported" fax from an Egyptian minister of foreign affairs about the location of a detention facility in Romania.

Meanwhile, where does the document say much less reveal anything about "torture"?

Take a close look at the "original" document. My kids can cut and paste better than that.

Congratulations to Larissa for what, exactly? I never understood why she was claiming a month or two ago to be exposing the existence of the CIA's use of Szymany in Poland, any more than I understand how she has a "major scoop" now by obtaining a copy of a document published in Europe in January 2006.

If this document is authentic, as the prosecution of the journalists seems to require, then it alone would confirm the news reports (already in wide circulation in late 2005) about these particular CIA interrogation centers. On top of that, the European Parliament investigation during 2006 turned up such massive evidence of the CIA's use of Szymany and other interrogation centers, that Larissa's claim earlier this year to be exposing the Polish prison struck me as bizarre...and I told her so.

Raw Story's obsessive self-promotion stops being fine when it starts falsifying history. I recall that the Wikipedia entry for the Downing Street Memo was at one time edited to insert the false information that Larissa was the one who exposed the document. Let's be clear: she had nothing to do with breaking that story, either.

Smintheus: your confused take on facts is rather amusing. I will leave it to Lindsay to answer your points - assuming she wants to waste her time. At least get the basics right, like the spelling of my name.

Larisa, I'd be interested to learn what facts I've gotten wrong, amusingly or otherwise. The documentation on the CIA's presence in Poland was already pretty overwhelming long before you claimed to have broken the story open.

April 27, 2007, Larisa Alexandrovna, "CIA Torture FAX":
"As you might recall, I broke the story that Poland had a torture camp and did Romania."


Published on Friday, December 9, 2005 by Reuters
Poland Was Main CIA European Detention Base: Group

WARSAW - Poland was the heart of the CIA's secret detention network in Europe, with bases there until recently holding a quarter of the 100 detainees estimated held in such camps worldwide, a human rights group said.

Reports of the CIA operating secret jails in Poland and Romania as part of its war on terrorism have caused controversy on both sides of the Atlantic and dogged U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's European trip this week. [...]

Polish media said this airport in Szymany, northeastern Poland, was identified by Human Rights Watch as a potential site of alleged CIA prisons used to interrogate al Qaeda captives.

"Poland was the main base for CIA interrogations in Europe, while Romania played more of a role in the transfer of detained prisoners," Marc Garlasco, a leading analyst at Human Rights Watch, was quoted by Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza on Friday as saying [...]

(In another interview in 2005, Tom Malinowski, the director of Human Rights Watch, said that the second major eastern European site was the Mihail-Kogalniceanu military airbase in Romania.)

Axel, there's also this article in the same Polish paper, also from Dec. 2005 (Larisa links to it in the article she claims "broke the story" in March 2007):,0,3070115.html

And then there was this story from ABC, also in Dec. 2005:

That's just for starters. Long, long before Dick Marty's committee produced its draft report for the Euro Parliament, I had concluded that there couldn't be any reasonable doubt that the CIA was flying prisoners into Poland and Romania.

If Raw Story was able to add that it had seen a British memo referring to the existence of the Polish CIA site, that's all to the good. But it is a disservice to history for Larisa to pretend that "I broke the story that Poland had a torture camp and did Romania."


thanks for your additional information. In 2005, the whole story caused some political dispute and publicity in European media because of Poland's recent EU entry in 2004 and it's "loyality" to Europe in comparison to the US (you know, Rumsfeld's old vs. new Europe). So I was really, ahem, surprised that someone in the US "reanimated" the whole story.

By the way, the super-secret "Torture Fax" is publicly available on the Internet for months. See for example the version on the Swiss activists' website "", the most obvious Internet adress dealing with the trial...

By the way, the super-secret "Torture Fax" is publicly available on the Internet for months.

Not surprising. It was published, after all. That's how the Swiss journalists got in trouble, remember?

The fact that scattered allegations were made prior to Raw Story's exclusive is neither here nor there.

Breaking intelligence stories is a lot like intelligence itself--it's not just about being the first to repeat an allegation, it's about assembling and assessing the underlying evidence.

It's one thing to report that a well-connected source claims X, or that the European parliamentarians heard testimony to the effect that X, or that Human Rights Watch believes X. It's quite another to synthesize and investigate allegations and publish the results of your inquiry under your own by-line.

Lindsay, Nobody is against synthesis. What we are challenging is the presentation of Larisa's work as if she had broken the story, was the first to identify the black sites, etc.

Lindsay, Nobody is against synthesis. What we are challenging is the presentation of Larisa's work as if she had broken the story, was the first to identify the black sites, etc.

Not surprising. It was published, after all. That's how the Swiss journalists got in trouble, remember?

The original fax exchanged between Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit and his ambassador in London was never published. The document that was mentioned by Sonntags-Blick in 2006 actually is a Swiss intelligence COMINT-report in French summarizing the intercepted fax. Larisa Alexandrovna is constantly speaking of "the fax" when she's actually referring to the COMINT-report. Not very professional.

"Sonntags-Blick" is a tabloid - title of the actual cover story: "Stark naked with 50!" - and in the eyes of most journalists who followed the story, the whole "scoop" instantly collapsed. Why? Simply because the intercepted fax - probably unencrypted - was completely based on mass media reports like the Washington Post article from November 2, 2005 or Dick Marty's inquiry. There's no proof at all that the mentioned "own sources" had additional information. That's also why the three journalists were acquitted - because, according to the court decision, the publication of the fax revealed no military secrets.

And I was referring to the "pure" version of the document (Larisa: "Here is the document (fax) for which the Swiss reporters were arrested and which was provided to me this morning."), not the German translation of the report in "Sonntags-Blick". This image with the name "geheimfax.jpg" is publicly available on the Internet for months. You don't have to be someone with important contacts to get the image - just visit So why did she make such a fuss about it?

Breaking intelligence stories is a lot like intelligence itself--it's not just about being the first to repeat an allegation, it's about assembling and assessing the underlying evidence.

Sure. So let's look again at the "As you might recall, I broke the story that Poland had a torture camp and did Romania" article for assessing the credibility of Larisa Alexandrovna and her obscure and anonymous British and Polish intelligence sources:

Only the Polish prime minister and top Polish intelligence brass were told of the plan, in which agents of the United States quietly shuttled detainees from other holding facilities around the globe for stopovers and short-term interrogation in Poland between late 2002 and 2004.[...]
US, United Kingdom invited Poland to join program in 2002 [...]
After a series of secret meetings chaired by MI6 chief Sir John Scarlett in London and then-CIA Director George Tenet in Washington, Polish intelligence was invited to join the project, British and Polish intelligence sources say.

Sir John Scarlett is head of the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) since August 2004. In 2002, it was Sir Richard Dearlove.

Axel, she's saying that Scarlett chaired the meetings where Polish intelligence came on board.

The implication is tha Polish intel wasn't organizationally engaged until relatively late in the game. Sounds like some senior operatives knew what the CIA was doing on that desolate airstrip, but Polish intel wasn't actively engaged in the rendition program until later.

Is it so hard to believe that the CIA might have been renting remote secret airstrips without a full buy-in from the host country's intelligence service?

As far as the nomenclature surrounding the Swiss fax, the AP uses the same terminology as Larisa to refer to the fax.

The comments to this entry are closed.