US officials acknowledge use of torture on captives - Washington Post
michele at maui.net
Thu Dec 26 18:26:54 MST 2002
<Some who do not cooperate are turned over -- "rendered," in official
parlance -- to foreign intelligence services whose practice of torture has
been documented by the U.S. government and human rights organizations.>
<-- notably those of Jordan, Egypt and Morocco -- with a list of questions
the agency wants answered. These "extraordinary renditions" are done without
resort to legal process and usually involve countries with security services
known for using brutal means.>
<The picture that emerges is of a brass-knuckled quest for information,
often in concert with allies of dubious human-rights reputation, in which
the traditional lines between right and wrong, legal and inhumane, are
evolving and blurred.>
<While the U.S. government publicly denounces the use of torture, each of
the current national security officials interviewed for this article
defended the use of violence against captives as just and necessary. They
expressed confidence that the American public would back their view. The
CIA, which has primary responsibility for interrogations, declined to
<"If you don't violate someone's human rights some of the time, you probably
aren't doing your job," said one official who has supervised the capture and
transfer of accused terrorists.>
U.S. uses tough tactics on silent terrorists
Captives held in painful positions, deprived of sleep
Dana Priest, Barton Gellman, Washington Post
Thursday, December 26, 2002
©2002 San Francisco Chronicle
Deep inside the forbidden zone at the U.S.-occupied Bagram air base in
Afghanistan sits a cluster of metal shipping containers protected by a
triple layer of concertina wire. The containers hold the most valuable
prizes in the war on terrorism -- captured al Qaeda operatives and Taliban
Those who refuse to cooperate inside this secret CIA interrogation center
are sometimes kept standing or kneeling for hours, in black hoods or spray-
painted goggles, according to intelligence specialists familiar with CIA
interrogation methods. At times they are held in awkward, painful positions
and deprived of sleep with a 24-hour bombardment of lights -- subject to
what are known as "stress and duress" techniques.
Those who cooperate are rewarded with creature comforts, interrogators whose
methods include feigned friendship, respect, cultural sensitivity and, in
some cases, money. Some who do not cooperate are turned over -- "rendered,"
in official parlance -- to foreign intelligence services whose practice of
torture has been documented by the U.S. government and human rights
In the multifaceted global war on terrorism waged by the Bush
administration, one of the most opaque -- yet vital -- fronts is the
detention and interrogation of captured terrorism suspects. U.S. officials
have said little publicly about the captives' names, numbers or whereabouts,
and virtually nothing about interrogation methods. But interviews with
several former intelligence officials and 10 current U.S. national security
officials - - including several people who witnessed the handling of
prisoners -- provide insight into how the U.S. government is prosecuting
this part of the war.
The picture that emerges is of a brass-knuckled quest for information, often
in concert with allies of dubious human-rights reputation, in which the
traditional lines between right and wrong, legal and inhumane, are evolving
While the U.S. government publicly denounces the use of torture, each of the
current national security officials interviewed for this article defended
the use of violence against captives as just and necessary. They expressed
confidence that the American public would back their view. The CIA, which
has primary responsibility for interrogations, declined to comment.
"If you don't violate someone's human rights some of the time, you probably
aren't doing your job," said one official who has supervised the capture and
transfer of accused terrorists.
DISGUISE AND DECEPTION
The off-limits patch of ground at Bagram is one of a number of secret
detention centers overseas where U.S. due process does not apply, according
to several U.S. and European national security officials, where the CIA
undertakes or manages the interrogation of suspected terrorists. Another is
Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean that the United States leases
U.S. officials oversee most of the interrogations. In some cases, highly
trained CIA officers question captives through interpreters. In others, the
intelligence agency undertakes a "false flag" operation using fake decor and
disguises meant to deceive a captive into thinking he is imprisoned in a
country with a reputation for brutality, when, in reality, he is still in
CIA hands. Sometimes, female officers conduct interrogations, a
psychologically jarring experience for men reared in a conservative Muslim
culture where women are never in control.
In other cases, usually involving lower-level captives, the CIA hands them
to foreign intelligence services -- notably those of Jordan, Egypt and
Morocco -- with a list of questions the agency wants answered. These
"extraordinary renditions" are done without resort to legal process and
usually involve countries with security services known for using brutal
According to U.S. officials, nearly 3,000 suspected al Qaeda members and
their supporters have been detained worldwide since Sept. 11, 2001. About
625 are at the U.S. military's confinement facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Some officials estimated that fewer than 100 captives have been rendered to
third countries. Thousands have been arrested and held with U.S. assistance
in countries known for brutal treatment of prisoners, the officials said.
According to one official who has been directly involved in rendering
captives into foreign hands, the understanding is, "We don't kick the
(expletive) out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick
the (expletive) out of them."
Abu Zubaida, who is believed to be the most important al Qaeda member in
detention, was shot in the groin during his apprehension in Pakistan in
March. National security officials suggested that Zubaida's painkillers were
used selectively in the beginning of his captivity. He is now said to be
cooperating, and his information has led to the apprehension of other al
DEPRIVED OF SLEEP
U.S. National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack declined to comment
earlier this week on CIA or intelligence-related matters. But, he said: "The
United States is treating enemy combatants in U.S. government control,
wherever held, humanely and in a manner consistent with the principles of
the Third Geneva Convention of 1949."
The convention outlined the standards for treatment of prisoners of war.
Suspected terrorists in CIA hands have not been accorded POW status.
Other U.S. government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity,
acknowledged that interrogators deprive some captives of sleep, a practice
with ambiguous status in international law.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, the authoritative interpreter
of the international Convention Against Torture, has ruled that lengthy
interrogation may incidentally and legitimately cost a prisoner sleep. But
when employed for the purpose of breaking a prisoner's will, sleep
deprivation "may in some cases constitute torture."
U.S. officials who defend the renderings say the prisoners are sent to the
third countries not because of their coercive questioning techniques, but
because of their cultural affinity with the captives. Besides being illegal,
they said, torture produces unreliable information from people who are
desperate to stop the pain. They look to foreign allies more because their
intelligence services can develop a culture of intimacy that Americans
In a speech on Dec. 11, CIA Director George Tenet said interrogations
overseas have yielded significant returns recently. He calculated that
worldwide efforts to capture or kill terrorists had eliminated about
one-third of the al Qaeda leadership. "Almost half of our successes against
senior al Qaeda members has come in recent months," he said.
Many of these successes have come as a result of information gained during
interrogations. The capture of al Qaeda leaders Ramzi Binalshibh in
Pakistan, Omar al-Faruq in Indonesia, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri in Kuwait and
Muhammad al Darbi in Yemen were all partly the result of information gained
during interrogations, according to U.S. intelligence and national security
All four remain under CIA control.
"We know so much more about them now than we did a year ago -- the
personalities, how the networks are established, what they think are
important targets, how they think we will react," said retired Army Gen.
Wayne Downing, the Bush administration's deputy national security adviser
for combatting terrorism until he resigned in June.
Although no direct evidence of mistreatment of prisoners in U.S. custody has
come to light, the prisoners are denied access to lawyers or organizations,
such as the Red Cross, that could independently assess their treatment. Even
their names are secret.
Al Qaeda suspects are seldom taken without force, and some suspects have
been wounded during their capture. After apprehending suspects, U.S.
take-down teams -- a mix of military special forces, FBI agents, CIA case
officers and local allies -- aim to disorient and intimidate them on the way
to detention facilities.
According to Americans with direct knowledge and others who have witnessed
the treatment, captives are often "softened up" by MPs and U.S. Army Special
Forces troops who beat them up and confine them in tiny rooms. The alleged
terrorists are commonly blindfolded and thrown into walls, bound in painful
positions, subjected to loud noises and deprived of sleep. The tone of
intimidation and fear is the beginning, they said, of a process of piercing
a prisoner's resistance.
Bush administration appointees and career national security officials
acknowledged that, as one of them put it, "our guys may kick them around a
little bit in the adrenaline of the immediate aftermath." Another said U.S.
personnel are scrupulous in providing medical care to captives, adding in a
deadpan voice, that "pain control (in wounded patients) is a very subjective
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