Just days before counterterrorism czar John Brennan appeared on Capitol Hill for his confirmation hear- ing to head the Central Intelligence Agency, a new report provided a detailed look at global involve- ment in the agency’s secret program of prisons, rendition and torture in the years after 9/11.
In Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition, the Open Society Justice Initiative says
54 countries helped the CIA detain 136 people, the largest
tally to date.
The report’s author, Amrit Singh, joined Democracy Now to
discuss her findings and Brennan’s role in the expansive program she’s documented.
Excerpts from the interview conducted in February:
‘There has been virtually
no accountability in the
US for these abuses’
Amrit Singh discusses her report,
Amy Goodman: Let’s talk about John Brennan first. He
goes to Capitol Hill today (February 7, two days after the
report was published) for his confirmation hearing… What
do you think of the nomination of John Brennan to be head of
Well, I think John Brennan should be asked what he meant
when he said that he was ‘intimately familiar’ with cases of
rendition and that rendition is an absolutely vital tool in
combating terrorism, because by the time Brennan made
that statement in December of 2005, a number of people had
been rendered to foreign governments where they were tortured.
By December of 2005, Ahmed Agiza and Muhammad al-Zery had been rendered to Egypt and subjected to electric
By December of 2005, Maher Arar, a Canadian national,
had been rendered to Syria and subjected to being locked up
in a tiny grave-like cell and beaten with cables. By December
2005, a number of other individuals, including Khalid El-Masri, had been rendered. Khalid El-Masri was captured and
kidnapped in Macedonia and transferred to Afghanistan and
abused. A recent court decision by the European Court of
Human Rights found that Khalid El-Masri’s treatment by
the CIA amounted to torture.
So, I think that John Brennan has a lot of explaining to do
as to what exactly he meant.
Juan González: Well, Brennan also said (on a PBS show)…
that the government sought assurances from the other countries to which these individuals were rendered that human
rights would be respected. But you, in your report, clearly
indicate that mere blanket assurances are insufficient to be
able to deal with the — obviously, with the kind of abuse that
That’s correct. Maher Arar was transferred to Syria after
assurances were obtained from Syria not to torture him, but
he was tortured nonetheless.
Ahmed Agiza and Muhammad al-Zery were transferred
from Sweden to Egypt with assurances from Egypt not to torture him, but they were tortured. They were subjected to
So, I think that there’s a wealth of information in the public domain that shows that these diplomatic assurances in
fact don’t work. High-level Bush administration officials
themselves acknowledged that there’s only so much you can
do once a prisoner is out of your custody.
So, the onus really is on the Obama administration to
explain what is its policy and how is it going to work.
AG: What do you think of John Brennan (now CIA
Globalizing Torture, with
Amy Goodman and Juan González.
Well, I think he has many questions to answer. I think that
rendition is obviously, as documented in this report, the
source of grave human rights violations. It damaged the
United States’ reputation around the world. It co-opted as
many as 54 governments into a torture program. It was flagrantly illegal. And I think it really requires a serious examination by the Senate Intelligence Committee.
JG: This issue of John Brennan saying the US has to take off
the gloves, given the necessity of the fight against the war on
terrorism, your response?
Well, I think that that was a sentiment that was echoed
across the Bush administration.
The report opens with a quote from Vice President Dick
Cheney saying that we have to go to the dark side, and was
repeated by a number of counterterrorism officials in the
Bush administration… The fact that this report documents as
many as 136 cases of human rights violations, including torture, demonstrates what that paradigm led to. It was a paradigm that essentially ignored longstanding prohibitions
against torture, that violated not only international but also
JG: I’m interested — your report, in the 54 countries that
you mention, mentions some countries that most Americans
are not aware are cooperating in the — Zimbabwe and Iran.
The particular case of Iran’s involvement in some of these renditions, could you talk about that?
Yes, it’s interesting. There are a number of individuals who
were captured in Iran who were then handed over to Afghan
authorities as part of a prisoner exchange. But the Iranians
must have known at the time that the Afghans would hand
them over to the US because of the ongoing hostilities in
AG: So, summarize the findings in your report. It’s extremely extensive. And what surprised you most as you did this
Well, I think, at a very basic level, just the horrific kinds of
abuse that was meted out by the United States and its partners to the human beings who were subjected to these operations, that of course stands out, but also just the scale and
sweep of these operations, the number of people who were
put through this and the number of governments that were
And I think that, of course, the US was a ringleader. This
was the CIA’s invention. But moral responsibility does not
rest with the United States alone; it rests also with those 54
Amrit Singh joins a discussion on ‘Courtroom perspectives on the war
on terror’ in 2006, when she was part of the American Civil Liberties
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