U.S. law and international conventions bar sending prisoners to another nation unless there are strong assurances of humane treatment. The CIA says with a straight face that it gets those assurances before delivering suspects to jailers in Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Pakistan—countries that have such abysmal human rights records that promises of decent treatment are a joke. Editorial, Los Angeles Times, March 11
But of course they’re out of control, there’s only so much we can do. Porter Goss, director of Central Intelligence, quoted by Democratic congressman Edward Markey of Massachusetts in a letter to his colleagues, March 8
During a White House press conference on March 16, George W. Bush was asked: “Mr. President, can you explain why you’ve approved of and expanded the practice of what’s called ‘rendition’—of transferring individuals out of U.S. custody to countries where human rights groups and your own State Department say torture is common for people under custody?”
The president: “[In] the post-9-11 world, the United States must make sure we protect our people and our friends from attack. . . . One way to do so is to arrest people and send them back to their country of origin with the promise that they won’t be tortured. That’s the promise we receive. This country does not believe in torture.”
Question: “As commander in chief, what is it that Uzbekistan can do in interrogating an individual that the United States can’t?”
George W. Bush repeated his talking point: “We seek assurances that nobody will be tortured.”
Actually, there is much that U.S. interrogators can learn from their counterparts in Uzbekistan on how to break down prisoners. One of the CIA’s jet planes used to render purported terrorists to other countries—where information is extracted by any means necessary—made 10 trips to Uzbekistan. In a segment of CBS’s 60 Minutes on these CIA torture missions (March 5), former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray told of the range of advanced techniques used by Uzbek interrogators:
“drowning and suffocation, rape was used . . . and also immersion of limbs in boiling liquid.”
Two nights later on ABC’s World News Tonight, Craig Murray told of photos he received of an Uzbek interrogation that ended with the prisoner actually being boiled to death!
Murray, appalled, had protested to the British Foreign Office in a confidential memorandum leaked to and printed in the Financial Times on October 11 of last year:
“Uzbek officials are torturing prisoners to extract information [about reported terrorist operations], which is supplied to the U.S. and passed through its Central Intelligence Agency to the U.K., says Mr. Murray.” (Emphasis added.)
Prime Minister Tony Blair quickly reacted to this undiplomatic whistle-blowing. Craig Murray was removed as ambassador to Uzbekistan.
On the BBC (October 15), Steve Crawshaw, director of the London office of Human Rights Watch, spoke plainly about George W. Bush’s continual, ardent assurances that this country would never engage in torture:
“You can’t wash your hands and say we didn’t torture, but we will use what comes out of torture.”
CIA director Porter Goss also engages in what George Orwell called doublespeak. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 17, Porter Goss said, “The United States does not engage in or condone torture.”
As for our ally Uzbekistan, run by the merciless dictator Islam Karimov, Philip Stephens, a forthright columnist for the Financial Times, noted on October 19:
“Uzbekistan provides a vital base for U.S. operations in neighbouring Afghanistan. U.S. financial aid [to Uzbekistan] provides a bulwark against Russian influence.” And—dig this—an October 16 Financial Times editorial points out that because the Bush administration supports the barbaric government of President Karimov, the U.S. “has given [Karimov] the confidence to sell a long-running campaign against internal dissidents as part of the campaign against Al Qaeda.” (Emphasis added.)
In 2003, Fatima Mukhadirova sent photographs of her son—who was tortured to death in an Uzbek prison—to the British embassy. As reported in Muslim Uzbekistan (February 12, 2004): “His teeth were smashed, his fingers were stripped of nails, and his body had been cut, bruised and scalded.” His mother was put on trial “for attempted encroachment on the constitutional order” to convince her to shut up about what was done to her son. (She was subsequently convicted and sentenced to six years in prison.)
Meanwhile, Porter Goss told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 17 that one of the CIA’s own techniques, waterboarding, is “an area of what I call professional interrogation techniques.”
As Reed Brody, special counsel for Human Rights Watch, noted in a March 21 letter to The New York Times: “Waterboarding, known in Latin America as the submarino, entails forcibly pushing a person’s head under water until he believes he will drown. In practice, he often does. Waterboarding can be nothing less than torture in violation of United States and international law.
“Mr. Goss, by justifying the practice as a form of professional interrogation, renders dubious his broader claim that the C.I.A. is not practicing torture today.” (Emphasis added.)
I cannot resist repeating what George W. Bush said on the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture (June 26, 2003): “The United States is committed to the worldwide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example. I call on all governments to join with the United States . . . in prohibiting, investigating, and prosecuting all acts of torture.” Let’s start at home.