Following the recent revelations about Ethiopia, a second African country has been named as hosting secret US detention center for terror suspects. Seymour Hersh‘s latest in the June 25 New Yorker, “The General’s Report”—a reference to Antonio Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib scandal—includes some quotes from a “recently retired high-level C.I.A. official” (anonymous, and therefore unverfiable, of course) about the “wrangling” over interrogation guidelines in the wake of the scandal. Writes Hersh:
The Pentagon consultant said in an interview late last year that “the C.I.A. never got the exact language it wanted.” The findings, when promulgated by the White House, were “very calibrated” to minimize political risk, and limited to a few countries; later, they were expanded, turning several nations in North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia into free-fire zones with regard to high-value targets. I was told by the former senior intelligence official and a government consultant that after the existence of secret C.I.A. prisons in Europe was revealed, in the Washington Post, in late 2005, the Administration responded with a new detainee center in Mauritania. After a new government friendly to the U.S. took power, in a bloodless coup d’état in August, 2005, they said, it was much easier for the intelligence community to mask secret flights there.
Mauritania has officially denied the charges. “Mauritania is a law-abiding country that upholds internationalconventions and can never accept to harbor such a center on its soil,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The Chinese news agency Xinhua, reporting on the denial June 22 (via AfriCast), writes: “Currently ‘the center has about 39 suspected terrorists,’ the article says adding that American soldiers do not require visas to enter Mauritania.” However, the quoted text does not actually appear in Hersh’s story, which does not offer a figure for the number of detainees at the alleged center.
Where did the 39 figure come from?