Torture Is Good for You

WASHINGTON, D.C.—There are more charges of torture by detainees in U.S. custody. Yesterday the ACLU filed suit against former CIA head George Tenet, charging the CIA with torturing a detainee. Today an Australian detainee tells BBC he was tortured during his 4 years in detention in Egypt.

Mamdouh Habib claims he was caught up in the U.S. rendition policy, under which detainees are allegedly shipped to countries where interrogations can more readily include torture. Habib says he was kidnapped in Pakistan in 2001, then moved through Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay until he was finally set free in 2005.

Habib doesn’t know who was holding him, but he tells BBC, "I saw Americans . . . Australians . . . Pakistanis . . . and Egyptians." He says he was forced to make confessions. He describes his treatment in Egypt, where he was born, this way: "It is a place for torture. I was beaten, electric shock . . . no sleep, injections, brainwashed—unbelievable stuff."

American officials claimed Habib had close ties with al Qaeda and had known about the impending attacks on New York and Washington. Habib denies any involvement in terrorism. He was released without charge in January of this year.

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In its lawsuit, the ACLU attacked Tenet’s "abduction of a foreign national for detention and interrogation in a secret overseas prison. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Khaled El-Masri, an innocent German citizen victimized by the CIA’s policy of 'extraordinary rendition. ' "

El-Masri's case appears to have been a clear mistake. Reports Newsday:

The CIA inspector general is investigating a growing number of what it calls "erroneous renditions," according to former and current intelligence officials. One official said about three dozen names fall in that category; others say it is fewer. One turned out to be an innocent professor offered up by an al-Qaida member who had been given a bad grade, one official said.

While the CIA admitted to Germany's then-interior minister, Schily, that it erred, it has labored to keep quiet the case specifics. Al-Masri was held for five months largely because the head of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center's al-Qaida unit "believed he was someone else," one former CIA official said.

All this comes as the debated over U.S. torture policies reaches a boil in Europe. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has making a defensive tour of the continent, where the U.S. was revealed recently to have been running secret interrogation centers. Rice told the Europeans that American renditions save lives.

Now we'll see whether they believe her.

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