Wed, Dec 07, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Most allies don't want interrogations

NO WAY About two-thirds of the people living in countries allied to the US say they would oppose allowing the CIA to secretly interrogate terror suspects in their countries


Most people in eight countries that are US allies don't want the US conducting secret interrogations of terror suspects on their soil -- a sensitive question after recent reports of clandestine prisons run by the CIA in eastern Europe.

Anxiety about reports of secret prisons has been heightened by the ongoing debate on the use of torture. The AP-Ipsos poll found Americans and residents of many of the allied countries divided on the question of torture, with about as many saying it's OK in some cases as those saying it never should be used.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is traveling in Europe this week, said on Monday that the US is following all laws and treaties on the treatment of terrorism suspects and has shared intelligence with its allies that has "helped protect European countries from attack, saving European lives."

Like other US officials, Rice has refused to answer the underlying question of whether the CIA operated secret, Soviet-era prisons in Eastern Europe and whether CIA flights carried al-Qaeda prisoners through European airports.

She said the US "will use every lawful weapon to defeat these terrorists."

About two-thirds of the people living in Canada, Mexico, South Korea and Spain say they would oppose allowing the US to secretly interrogate terror suspects in their countries. And almost that many in Britain, France, Germany and Italy said they feel the same way. Almost two-thirds in the US support such interrogations in the US by their own government.

Officials with the EU and in at least a half-dozen European countries are investigating the reports of secret US interrogations in eastern Europe. And the EU has threatened to revoke voting rights of any nation in the EU that was host to a clandestine detention center.

After the report of secret prisons overseas, US President George W. Bush said pointedly: "We do not torture."

US military forces have held hundreds of suspects at known installations outside the US, including at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And the US has adopted aggressive interrogation techniques since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks -- a move some fear occasionally crosses the line into torture.

"I thought we were the good guys," said Alan Schwartz, a political independent who lives near Buffalo, New York. "I thought we were the ones with the high standards."

Almost four in 10, 38 percent, in the US said they thought torture could be justified at least sometimes. About a fourth said it could be justified rarely, and 36 percent said it could never be justified.

About four in 10 in Mexico and France said torture is never justified. About half in Britain, Spain, Germany and Canada felt torture could never be justified, while only one in 10 South Koreans said torture is never OK, according to the polls of about 1,000 adults in each of the nine countries.

The polls were conducted between Nov. 15 and Nov. 28. Each poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The strongest opposition to torture came in Italy, where six in 10 said it is never justified.

"It doesn't matter if these people are dangerous, they still have a dignity and the right not to be tortured for whatever reason," said Maurizio Longo, an Italian real estate agent, in Rome.

The Bush administration has taken the position that some terrorism suspects are "enemy combatants" not protected by the Geneva Conventions, which are international treaties that, among other things, spell out the rights of prisoners of war. In 2002, a group of Justice Department lawyers prepared internal memos that gave the government more freedom in the aggressive interrogation of terrorist suspects.

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