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Bush acknowledges secret CIA prisons for terror suspects

U.S. President George W. Bush has acknowledged for the first time that key terror suspects are being held at secret CIA prisons outside the United States.

U.S. President George W. Bush has acknowledged for the first time that suspects accused of terrorism have been detained abroad insecret CIA prisons.

The official admission on Wednesday confirmed rumours and media reports that have stirred controversy for months, both in the United States and in countries accused of hosting the facilities.

Bush defended the secret prisons, saying the detainees had provided vital information that preventedfurther attacks in the years after al-Qaeda militants killed about 3,000 people in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

"The most important source of information on where the terrorists are hiding and what they are planning is the terrorists themselves," Bush said in a White House speech.

"It has been necessary to move these individuals to an environment where they can be held in secret, questioned by experts and, when appropriate, prosecuted for terrorist acts."

Suspects allegedly includedal-Qaeda's No. 3

The president said the suspects, who have all been transferred to the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, include:

  • Khalid Sheik Mohammed, believed to be the No. 3 al-Qaeda leader before he was captured in Pakistan in 2003.
  • Ramzi Binalshibh, accused of training to be one of theSept. 11 militants who hijacked four planes.
  • Abu Zubaydah, who was believed to be a link between al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and many of the group's cells before he was captured in Pakistan in March 2002.

Detainees had 'unparalleled knowledge'

Media reports began surfacing in November 2005 that said the U.S. spy agency had been running a covert prison system that has been run for nearly four years in at least eight countries, including several democracies in Eastern Europe as well as Thailand and Afghanistan. The secret detention system was said to have been conceived in the first months after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The reports ignited great controversy in many countries, with the European Unionwarning its members thatsuch prisons would be viewed as violations of the European Convention on Human Rights and various EU treaties.

On Wednesday, Bush defended the covert system, saying the security of theUnited Statesdepended on its ability to learn what suspected terrorists know.

He described the detaineesas dangerous men with "unparalleled knowledge" of militant networks and plans for new attacks.

Bush said theCentral Intelligence Agency employed "alternative" procedures to extract information from the suspects. The president insisted those techniques complied with U.S. laws, the constitution and international treaty obligations.

He refused to describe the methods of interrogation used by CIA agents, saying it would give terrorists a tool to learn how toresist such questioning.

Bush said the procedures were "tough and safe and lawful and necessary."

Prisons blocked 2nd Al-Qaeda attack: Bush

The president also alleged that without the secret prisons,al-Qaeda would have succeeded in launching another attack against the Americans.

Although he said he couldn't provide details, Bush said some of the alleged plots included attacks in theUnited States"probably using airplanes."

He said another plot involved attacks on buildings in his country.

The suspectsalso provided information on al-Qaeda's efforts to obtainbiological weapons, he said.

Bush said he was acknowledgingthe program now because the CIA and military have finishedquestioning thesuspects and are ready to prosecute them in military tribunals.

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