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Bush Acknowledges Existence of Secret CIA Prisons
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By announcing transfer of 14 key terror suspects from secret CIA custody to US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, US President George W. Bush acknowledged on Wednesday the prisons' existence.

Bush made the announcement during a speech on counterterrorism at the White House.

The move paves the way for those suspects to face war-crime trials at the hands of the US military.

The announcement marks the first time that the Bush administration publicly acknowledged the existence of secret CIA prisons.

Speaking before an audience of families of 9/11 victims, Bush said the "small number" of prisoners in secret CIA custody include people responsible for 9/11 attacks, the bombing of the US warship Cole in 2000 in Yemen and the 1998 attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

He said the security of the United States, and the ability to protect American lives, depends on the ability to learn what the terror suspects know, adding that information gathered from these suspects has helped to "connect the dots," and to stop attacks before they occur.

Bush asserted that if there is no such a secret CIA custody program, the terrorists would have succeeded in launching another attack.

"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."

He said the program has been reviewed by administration lawyers and been the subject of strict oversight from within the CIA.

Bush declined to detail the type of interrogation techniques that are used through the program, but said there was no torture.

The president said there are no longer any terror suspects being held at CIA secret prisons but did not say the program will be shut down.

The 14 key suspects to be transferred to Guantanamo were previously in the secret CIA custody all over the world, including Khalid Sheik Mohammed, reportedly the No. 3 al-Qaida leader, Ramzi Binalshibh, an allegedly would-be 9/11 hijacker, and Abu Zubaydah,allegedly an associate of Osama bin Laden.

Among them there is also Riduan Isamuddin, also known as Hambali, suspected of being Jemaah Islamiyah's main link to al-Qaida and the mastermind of a string of deadly bomb attacks in Indonesia until his 2003 arrest in Thailand.

The announcement came at a time when Bush is making a series of speeches to highlight the issue of national security, a strong area for the Republicans, two months ahead of the midterm elections.

(Xinhua News Agency September 7, 2006)

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