Senate report on CIA torture excludes UK and US Iraq-based torture centres: details here

The 500 page, heavily-redacted version of this week’s US Senate report on the CIA’s post-9/11 detention and interrogation programme, organised by the George W Bush administration, is missing around 5500 pages. These unpublished pages are only available to a select few on grounds that the information they contain could throw up even more shocking revelations about the torture and rendition conducted by the CIA and its allies, such as Britain. Unless these pages are leaked, the only way a fuller picture of what happened can be seen would be by piecing together some of the many accounts of torture that are available and published via a number of sources. Some of these accounts are given below in section ‘B’. There is also the not insignificant matter of the torture centres in Iraq that were controlled by US and UK military: though missing in the report’s synopsis, details of these, together with a list of detainees renditioned/tortured can also be found below in section ‘C’. An extensive list of links on rendition is given at the end (section ‘D’).

Much of the information in the Senate report was first revealed by Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning via Wikileaks and the publication of the report adds impetus to the demand that Manning be pardoned and the persecution of Julian Assange (editor-in-chief of Wikileaks) cease.

1. Introduction

In the Land of the Free it must take a remarkably imaginative and particularly sadistic mind to devise some of the torture techniques mentioned in the Senate’s report. These include rectal feeding (food inserted in puréed form up the anus), rectal rehydration (blasting water up the anus), excessive rectal examinations (self-explanatory), waterboarding (one detainee alone suffered 183 instances), sleep deprivation (made to stand in stress position for up to 180 hours), mock executions and auditory overload (music blasting continuously to drive someone mad). Other methods that were listed as being used include detainees stripped naked and hooded and shackled to beams and covered with faeces and having mad dogs forced on them.

All torture is barbaric and the torture meted out by the CIA as listed in the report is no exception and is, together with the kidnappings and illegal deportation of over 100 suspects, contrary to international conventions, equating to war crimes. The UN’s special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights has said on reading the shortened version of the Senate report: “The individuals responsible for the criminal conspiracy revealed… must face criminal penalties commensurate with the gravity of their crimes”.

As they say in America, the buck stops here – meaning the US President. And in a just world George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Michael Hayden, together with CIA chiefs and Intelligence operatives, would be arraigned before the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague. However, that is unlikely as George W Bush withdrew USA support for the ICC. President Obama has also made it clear that no CIA officer will be prosecuted. Should Bush, Cheney et al travel to another country they are likely to be arrested.

Prosecutions for torture and/or rendition and/or kidnapping could be extended beyond the USA, however, given that a total of 54 countries participated to differing degrees in these processes. These countries include 21 European countries and of these 16 can be singled out for taking an active role in rendition – namely Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovinia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Portugal, Spain, Thailand and the United Kingdom.

There is also substantial evidence of US military and Intelligence handing over Iraqi captives to Iraqi torture squads (see also case study on James Steele, below).

As for Chelsea Manning, in her statement to the military court she made it clear that she decided to leak information to Wikileaks because the US military had turned a blind eye to corruption and torture (much of which is detailed in the Senate report). It’s time she was pardoned and released from prison, where she is serving a 35 years sentence.

See also US soldiers accounts of detainees abuse in Iraq and US military leaks via the Iraq War Logs (based on what Manning had revealed). Here are the full Iraq War Logs (courtesy of Wikileaks).

B. Specific examples of rendition and/or torture

Here are just a few examples of persons renditioned and/or tortured by US and/or UK intelligence/military.

Abu Omar had been granted asylum in Italy but, with the co-operation of Italian military and intelligence officers, was renditioned by the CIA to Egypt, where he was tortured. For more on this, click here.

Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen, was kidnapped in Macedonia and transported by the CIA to Afghanistan, where he was detained and tortured. It later transpired that this was a case of mistaken identity. For more on this, click here.

Ahmed Agiza and Muhammed al-Zery were in Sweden seeking asylum but were snatched by Swedish police, then handed to the CIA, who renditioned them to Egypt, where the pair were tortured. For more on what happened to these two men, click here.

Abdel Belhadj and Fatima Bouchar. Just over a month back the UK Court of Appeal ruled that the case against the former foreign secretary Jack Straw and a senior MI6 officer alleging they were involved in the torture and rendition of a Libyan man and his pregnant wife – Abdel Belhadj and Fatima Bouchar – to Gaddafi’s Libya in 2004 can be heard in an English Court. This is a landmark judgement that could affect similar cases (see below) in the UK and elsewhere (including the USA). To see Abdel Belhadj and Fatima Bouchar’s successful legal submission in the Court of Appeal against Jack Straw (former UK Foreign Secretary), Sir Mark Allen (former Head of Counter-Terrorism at MI6), MI6, MI5, the (UK) Attorney-General, the (UK) Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the (UK) Home Office, click here. (Here is the original letter of claim made against head of MI6.) For more on this case, click here.

Sami al-Saadi. A few weeks after the rendition of Mr Belhaj and his wife another prominent LIFG member, Sami al-Saadi, his wife and their four young children, aged 6 to 12 years, were forced aboard an Egyptian aircraft in Hong Kong and also rendered to Libya. During the six years of his detention Mr al-Saadi was subjected to horrific treatment, including violent assaults, flogging and electrocution. As with Mr Belhaj, he was held incommunicado, subjected to a flagrantly unfair trial and sentenced to death. His wife and children were imprisoned for approximately 2.5 months. Following their release, they were prohibited from leaving Libya and were subjected to surveillance by the Gaddafi regime. For more on this, click here.

Khadija Al Saadi was rendered by the CIA at 12 years old. He told Reprieve:  “When I was 12 years old, I was bundled onto a dark plane, separated from my parents, and told to keep my two younger brothers and younger sister quiet and calm. They were 11, nine and six years old. All we could hear was our mother crying, saying that we were being taken back to Libya to be executed by Colonel Gaddafi. When we landed, I was told to go and say goodbye to my father, who was bound up and had a needle in his arm. I fainted, because I was sure we were going to be killed. We now have the actual faxes and flight plans that prove that the CIA arranged the whole thing. That is what the rendition programme involved, however hard the politicians try to black out the truth from their report.” For more on this, click here.

More cases, click here.

Detainees By Category

C. Torture centres: two case studies

1. James Steele and the Wolf Brigade

The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the “dirty wars” in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq and to set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. Colonel James Steele was a 58-year-old retired special forces veteran when he was chosen by Donald Rumsfeld to help organise the paramilitaries to quell aSunni insurgency. A second special adviser, retired Colonel James H Coffman, worked with Steele in detention centres. Coffman reported directly to General David Petraeus. Steele, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2005, and returned to there in 2006, reported directly to Rumsfeld. “They worked hand in hand,” said General Muntadher al-Samari, who worked with Steele and Coffman for a year while the commandos were being set up. “I never saw them apart in the 40 or 50 times I saw them inside the detention centres. They knew everything that was going on there … the torture, the most horrible kinds of torture. Every single detention centre would have its own interrogation committee. Each one was made up of an intelligence officer and eight interrogators. This committee will use all means of torture to make the detainee confess like using electricity or hanging him upside down, pulling out their nails, and beating them on sensitive parts.”

New York Times writer Peter Maass, who was in Samarra at the time, told Guardian Films: “The interior ministry commandos took over the public library in Samarra, and turned it into a detention centre”. The Wolf Brigade was created by the US in order to re-employ elements of Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard, but this time to terrorise insurgents. Members typically wore red berets, sunglasses and balaclavas and drove out on raids in convoys of Toyota Landcruisers. They were accused by Iraqis of beating prisoners, torturing them with electric drills and sometimes executing suspects. The then interior minister in charge was alleged to have been a former member of the Shia Badr militia.

See: a video on James Steele first aired by Channel 4 News, a Guardian article on James Steele, details of Operation Frago 242 and a Guardian article on Pentagon organised torture centres.

2. The secret UK interrogation centre in Iraq

British soldiers and airmen helped operate a secretive US detention facility in Baghdad that was at the centre of some of the most serious human rights abuses to occur in Iraq after the invasion. Many of the detainees were brought there by snatch squads formed from Special Air Service and Special Boat Service squadrons.

Suspects were brought to the prison, known as Camp Nama, not far from Baghdad International airport, for questioning by US military and civilian interrogators. Former members of TF 121 and its successor unit TF6-26 later described the abuses they witnessed: Iraqi prisoners held for prolonged periods in cells the size of large dog kennels; prisoners being subjected to electric shocks; prisoners being routinely hooded; inmates being taken into a sound-proofed shipping container for interrogation, and emerging in a state of physical distress.

Before setting up the prison at Nama, TF 121 was known as Task Force 20 and had run a detention and interrogation centre at a remote location known as H1 in Iraq’s western desert. The British were junior partners in TF 121: their contingent was known as Task Force Black, with US Delta Force troops making up Task Force Green and US Army Rangers making up Task Force Red. One half of Task Force Black comprised of SAS and SBS troopers, based a short distance away at the government compound known as the Green Zone. Military at Nama imprisoned ‘high-value detainees’. Other military personnel at the prison included air and ground crews of 7 Squadron and 47 Squadron of the RAF and 657 Squadron of the Army Air Corps, who lived on the camp, operating helicopters used in detention operations and a Hercules transport aircraft.

See also:

D. More links:

Interview with DR James Mitchell, one of the architects who developed CIA interrogation techniques (video) VICE News

Andy Worthington on the Senate report on CIA torture.

Unlock the Truth in Lithuania: Investigate Secret Prisons Now. Amnesty International, September 2011

Report to the Lithuanian Government on the Visit to Lithuania Carried Out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT): From 14 to 18 June 2010. Council of Europe, May 2011

Fabricating Terrorism III: British Complicity in Renditions and Torture. Cageprisoners, January 2011

‘No Questions Asked’: Intelligence Cooperation with Countries that Torture. Human Rights Watch, June 2010

Cruel Britannia: British Complicity in the Torture and Ill-Treatment of Terror Suspects in Pakistan. Human Rights Watch, November 2009

Scottish Involvement in Extraordinary Rendition. Reprieve, November 2009

Ghost Detention on Diego Garcia
Reprieve, May 2009

Extraordinary Rendition, Flights, Torture and Accountability: A European Approach
European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights, January 2009

Breaking the Chain: Ending Ireland’s Role in Renditions. Amnesty International, June 2009

Six Cases of Rendition in Europe. Amnesty International, June 2008

Rendition. UK Parliament, Intelligence and Security Committee, July 2007

Citizens No More: ‘War on Terror’ Abuses in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Cageprisoners, July 2007

Open Secret: Mounting Evidence of Europe’s Complicity in Rendition and Secret Detention. Amnesty International, November 2010

Dangerous Ambivalence: UK Policy on Torture since 9/11. Human Rights Watch, November 2006

Partners in Crime: Europe’s Role in US Renditions. Amnesty International, June 2006

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5 Responses to Senate report on CIA torture excludes UK and US Iraq-based torture centres: details here

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