Swiss Investigate Leak to Paper on C.I.A. PrisonsDOREEN CARVAJAL
International Herald Tribune
PARIS, Jan. 11 - Switzerland is conducting criminal investigations to track down the source of a leak to the Zurich-based newspaper SonntagsBlick of what it reported was a secret document citing clandestine C.I.A. prisons in Eastern Europe.
The Sunday weekly published what it reported was a summary of a fax in November from Egypt's Foreign Ministry to its London embassy that said the United States had held 23 Iraqi and Afghan prisoners at a base in Romania. It also referred to similar detention centers in Bulgaria, Kosovo, Macedonia and Ukraine.
"The Egyptians have sources confirming the presence of secret American prisons," said the document, dated Nov. 15 and written in French to summarize the contents of the fax.
"According to the embassy's own sources, 23 Iraqis and Afghans were interrogated at the Mikhail Kogalniceau base at Constanza, on the Black Sea."
The leaked fax, which the newspaper said was sent by satellite and intercepted by the Swiss Strategic Intelligence Service, was signed by Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the report said.
Christoph Grenacher, the newspaper's editor in chief, said that before the article was published, newspaper officials met with high-ranking Swiss government officials, who urged the paper to withhold the information. "We concluded that the discussion about so-called secret prisons is much more important than the interests of the secret service in Switzerland," he said.
During those discussions, he said, no one contested the authenticity of the document. Egypt has not commented on the report, but it quickly reignited a political fury in Europe that began in the fall with news reports that said there were C.I.A. interrogation centers in Europe and that there had been secret flights through European countries transferring terrorism suspects for questioning.
After the article was published on Sunday, Romania and Ukraine issued denials, and the Swiss criminal investigations were opened. Some European lawmakers seized on the information as evidence of dissembling by European Union members. "This is a piece of real evidence to back up the gut instinct many of us have that the denials of complicity we are hearing from E.U. member and candidate states cannot be relied upon," Sarah Ludford, a Liberal Democratic member of the British Parliament, said in a statement.
The Swiss Army's chief prosecutor opened an investigation of Mr. Grenacher and two of his reporters to determine whether military secrets were exposed and to find the source of the leaks. The Swiss attorney general's office is also investigating the issue, adding another layer to its existing investigation of whether there were C.I.A. flights in Swiss airspace.
Germany and Denmark are also examining accusations that the agency used their airspace to transport terrorism suspects.
The United States has acknowledged flights but not the existence of prisons. A C.I.A. spokeswoman declined to comment on the report in the newspaper.
Conceivably, the journalists could face five years in prison for revealing military secrets, although no one prosecuted under the law has ever served any prison time, the authorities said.
Martin Immenhauser, a spokesman for the military prosecutor, said of the document: "Nobody has told us that it's not authentic. I think you can say that it's 99 percent certain that it's authentic."