Viewing cable 09VILNIUS549

09VILNIUS5492009-10-22 12:33:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vilnius

DE RUEHVL #0549/01 2951233
P 221233Z OCT 09
C O N F I D E N T I A L VILNIUS 000549 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/22/2019 
Classified By: DCM Damian R. Leader for reasons 1.4(b) and (d). 
¶1.   (C) SUMMARY:  After a period in which the story had 
largely disappeared, Lithuanian media again began writing 
articles and editorials about the alleged existence of a CIA 
prison in Lithuania after President Grybauskaite addressed 
the issue in a press conference October 20 and said she 
suspected the reports might be true.  News articles have been 
largely factual, and editorials in newspapers with widely 
divergent views have criticized Grybauskaite for her 
statements, though for different reasons.  The press also 
reports that the Lithuanian Seimas (parliament) will launch 
another investigation, after Grybauskaite's criticism that 
their previous effort had been lax.  Comment: Grybauskaite 
has inexplicably given new life to an unsubstantiated story, 
reflecting a lack of political seasoning.  End summary. 
¶2.  (U)  On October 20, in a televised press conference, 
President Grybauskaite said the truth is not yet known about 
whether Lithuania housed a CIA prison reportedly used to 
detain and interrogate al-Qaeda suspects until late 2005. 
ABC News first reported the allegation on August 20. 
Lithuanian media covered the story extensively for several 
weeks (reftel), but it had largely disappeared from the news, 
until the presidential press conference revived it. 
President Grybauskaite also discussed the issue with visiting 
Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Thomas 
Hammarberg, and media also interviewed him and quoted his 
reactions as well. 
¶3.  (U) During her press conference, President Grybauskaite 
said she had suspicions that Lithuania did host a CIA prison, 
although internal government investigations so far have 
turned up no proof of that. "I have indirect suspicions," she 
said. "Not only I, but the international community.  When I 
was traveling abroad and being in Brussels, I only heard one 
question -- not a doubt about whether they existed in 
Lithuania but only a question.  The West does not doubt it 
could be true. The question was about Lithuania's reaction 
and further steps, therefore I do not want us to have any 
illusions here.  Both Lithuania and the United States should 
give answers to these questions.... If it is true, Lithuania 
should come clean and take responsibility, apologize and say 
it would never happen again.  Lithuania cannot be put in a 
situation... where (it) could become a target of 
international terrorists."  She also said, "I only want to 
say that we should not fear, hide and avoid the topic.  The 
quality of a political system and a democratic country 
depends on our ability to see and admit our mistakes and 
avoid them in the future; therefore, this has to be done by 
both countries:  namely, the country that spread the 
information and the country on the list." 
¶4.  (U) Grybauskaite said investigations thus far in 
Lithuania had been halfhearted and thus inconclusive.  "So 
far the investigation in Lithuania is only formal, with only 
inquiries sent out and nothing more done.... The West will 
await our answers and look at us with suspicion if Lithuania 
fails, in one way or another, to either clear the suspicions 
or, if it existed, to assume responsibility and apologize to 
the international community and human rights" community. 
¶5.  (U) Hammarberg, who was in Vilnius to lead a seminar on 
tolerance and discrimination issues, said after meeting with 
Grybauskaite:  "We see this as extremely serious because we 
know that torture was committed in these centers; whether it 
was here or not still has to be proven.  I think this is a 
serious matter that needs to be clarified.  Either it wasn't 
here, and the name of Lithuania would be cleared, or it was 
actually here so there is a need of clarifying how this could 
happen and to take action for this never to be possible in 
the future."  He also called on Lithuania to undertake a more 
thorough investigation into the issue. 
¶6.  (U) All major print, broadcast and online news media 
reported on the president's press conference, which was 
carried live on national television.  Reporting on the 
alleged CIA prison was generally straightforward and factual, 
and did not lead the news in either newspaper or TV coverage. 
¶7.  (U) The two largest daily newspapers editorialized on the 
topic.  Both criticized President Grybauskaite, but from 
different viewpoints.  "Lietuvos Rytas," which often is 
critical of the president, pointed out that the president had 
revived questions about the prison even though past and 
current GOL officials and diplomats had categorically denied 
its existence in Lithuania.  The newspaper said President 
Grybauskaite's statement "can be evaluated not only as a wish 
to damage the relationship with the most important ally of 
Lithuania, but also as tampering with Lithuania's 
international reputation."  "Respublika," the second-largest 
daily paper known for its nationalist and anti-American 
views, said that President Grybauskaite's words hinted that 
the alleged prison could make Lithuania a target of 
terrorists, but that she lacked the strength to take the next 
step and say that Lithuanian troops should "be withdrawn from 
the wars of others in Afghanistan and Iraq" because they also 
make Lithuania a terrorist target.  "Respublika" also 
criticized the president for what it called her bureaucratic 
attempt to avoid blame when she said she knew nothing about 
the alleged prison because she had been living and working in 
Brussels at that time. 
¶8.  (U) News media also questioned other officials about the 
investigation.  Arvydas Anusauskas, chairman of the 
parliament's National Security and Defense Committee, denied 
that the committee's investigation had been merely a 
formality, and said the committee was still awaiting answers 
from various institutions.  But deputy committee chairman 
Vytautas Bogusis said the investigation was never serious. 
The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Audronius 
Azubalis, said his committee and the defense committee 
continued to work hard, but were stymied.  "We have the full 
authority to make an investigation, but we do not have any 
hints where to start."  Media reported later on October 21 
that the defense committee would seek a mandate from the full 
Seimas to launch a more in-depth probe, which would include 
the interrogation of private individuals.  Anusauskas 
reportedly said that the committee now was "expecting answers 
from places that may have information in their possession, 
namely Swiss senator (and Council of Europe Parliamentary 
Assembly Rapporteur on Secret Detentions) Dick Marty (and) 
U.S. institutions." 
¶9.  (U) On October 22 the local media extensively covered an 
updated story from ABC News that reported details of alleged 
CIA-chartered flights between Afghanistan and Vilnius.  Also 
on October 22, Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius was quoted as 
saying "it would be best if heads of the U.S. special 
services gave answers; we hardly can find anything ourselves. 
 Lithuania's leaders of 2005 denied it.  I will not make any 
guesses.  The Seimas committee can do the investigation." 
¶10. (C) Comment: Grybauskaite's lack of political seasoning 
may be largely responsible for reviving an aging story that 
continues to lack substantiation.  Rather than help quiet a 
story that does not reflect favorably on Lithuania, her 
comments instead have suggested that there may be a kernel of 
truth to the allegation, and have reignited a parliamentary 
investigation that in the end likely will result in another 
inconclusive finding.  The president's comments are all the 
more puzzling given her concerns about Russian influence in 
the Lithuanian media, as the story tends to cast doubt on the 
strength of the U.S.-Lithuanian relationship.  By contrast, 
the prime minister, by his comments, more capably distances 
himself from a story to which he has no connection.  End