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
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.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 29, 2005