Newsweek : CIA renditions done "usually ... just to get [detainees] off the street"

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

An article in the November 21 edition of Newsweek by assistant managing editor Evan Thomas and senior editor Michael Hirsh, reporting on the alleged use of torture tactics by American intelligence agencies, sidestepped the Bush administration's reportedly extensive use of "rendition" for the purpose of interrogating suspected terrorists. Rendition, also known as "extraordinary rendition," involves bypassing normal extradition procedures to transfer American-held detainees to prisons in other countries -- some known to employ harsh, even torturous, interrogation tactics. Thomas and Hirsh wrote: "The CIA has done numerous renditions over the years, usually not for the purpose of seeing suspected terrorists subjected to torture, but just to get them off the street while the agency follows up leads from captured documents, laptop computers and the like." Thomas and Hirsh's assertion -- for which they offer no support -- that detainee rendition is typically used "just to get them off the street" while investigations proceed ignores reports of as many as 100, and possibly more, detainees having been rendered for the purpose of interrogation to countries known to use torture, with the Bush administration apparently satisfied merely by the country's assurances that it won't.

As recently as November 2, The Washington Post reported that "more than 70 detainees," some of whom were at one point interred at secret "black site" CIA prisons in Eastern Europe, were rendered to the intelligence services of African and Middle Eastern nations known to engage in abusive prisoner treatment. According to the Post:

A second tier -- which these sources believe includes more than 70 detainees -- is a group considered less important, with less direct involvement in terrorism and having limited intelligence value. These prisoners, some of whom were originally taken to black sites, are delivered to intelligence services in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Afghanistan and other countries, a process sometimes known as "rendition." While the first-tier black sites are run by CIA officers, the jails in these countries are operated by the host nations, with CIA financial assistance and, sometimes, direction.

Morocco, Egypt and Jordan have said that they do not torture detainees, although years of State Department human rights reports accuse all three of chronic prisoner abuse.

The New York Times reported on May 1 that the CIA had allegedly ferried dozens of terror detainees to Uzbekistan for "detention and interrogation," despite reports from human rights groups that Uzbek jails employed brutal interrogation tactics and a 2001 State Department report condemning the Uzbekistan as "an authoritarian state with limited civil rights." From the Times article:

Now there is growing evidence that the United States has sent terror suspects to Uzbekistan for detention and interrogation, even as Uzbekistan's treatment of its own prisoners continues to earn it admonishments from around the world, including from the State Department.

The so-called rendition program, under which the Central Intelligence Agency transfers terrorism suspects to foreign countries to be held and interrogated, has linked the United States to other countries with poor human rights records. But the turnabout in relations with Uzbekistan is particularly sharp. Before Sept. 11, 2001, there was little high-level contact between Washington and Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, beyond the United States' criticism.

Uzbekistan's role as a surrogate jailer for the United States was confirmed by a half-dozen current and former intelligence officials working in Europe, the Middle East and the United States. The C.I.A. declined to comment on the prisoner transfer program, but an intelligence official estimated that the number of terrorism suspects sent by the United States to Tashkent was in the dozens.

In a June 2003 article on Jordan's "notorious" Al Jafr Prison, U.S. News & World Report reported that the CIA had used Al Jafr as "a secret interrogation center since 9/11," and that "[a]s many as 100 al Qaeda prisoners" had passed through it. From the June 2, 2003, edition of U.S. News:

It's also the place where the CIA has used a secret interrogation center since 9/11, U.S. News has learned. As many as 100 al Qaeda prisoners have passed through al Jafr, according to U.S. and Jordanian intelligence sources. Among them are some of the biggest catches in the war on terror: al Qaeda operations head Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Persian Gulf chief Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri. Most stay just a few days before being shipped out to longer-term facilities.

In April 2005, Human Rights Watch issued a report on torture tactics allegedly used in Egyptian, Moroccan, and Uzbek prisons.

While it is unknown exactly how many renditions have taken place, The Washington Post reported on June 30 that the "CIA has conducted more than 100" renditions since September 11, 2001, citing "knowledgeable intelligence officials."

From Thomas and Hirsh's November 21 Newsweek article:

Sending a suspect off to languish (and possibly be abused) in the prison of a foreign country is called a "rendition." The CIA has done numerous renditions over the years, usually not for the purpose of seeing suspected terrorists subjected to torture, but just to get them off the street while the agency follows up leads from captured documents, laptop computers and the like. In the case of [captured Al Qaeda operative Ibn Al-Shaykh] al-Libi, however, the Bush administration was only too glad to make use of the "take" from al-Libi's interrogation, helpfully provided by Egyptian intelligence. Under questioning by the Egyptian authorities (techniques unknown, but not hard to imagine), al-Libi confessed that Al Qaeda terrorists, beginning in December 2000, had gone to Iraq to learn about chemical and biological weapons. This was just the evidence the Bush administration needed to make the case for invading Iraq and getting rid of Saddam Hussein. In his famous, now discredited speech to the United Nations in February 2003, the then Secretary of State Colin Powell cited the intelligence extracted from al-Libi, referring to him not by name but as a "senior Al Qaeda terrorist" who ran a training camp in Afghanistan.

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