Peace Negators: A Litany of Abduction, Torture, Deprogramming, Rendition and Murder by First World Governmental Security Agencies
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 6 Feb 2023
Prof Hoosen Vawda – TRANSCEND Media Service
“Carte Blanche, Extrajudicial Escapades of Governmental Agencies”[i]
This publication, discusses the extra judicial excesses of the American Government’s security apparatus and how the workings of the organization, impacts upon the lives of ordinary people globally. One such example is the case of Mr Khaled El Masri, who was illegally abducted by the Central Intelligence Agency personnel and taken to a secret prison near Kabul. His case brought the CIA’s worldwide so called extrajudicial “rendition program” to light.
The American dream is symbolized by the Statue of Liberty. She is an icon, a national treasure, and one of the most recognizable, as well as photographed public places of interest in the world. Each year millions who cherish her ideals make the journey to experience her history and grandeur in person. She is the Statue of Liberty, a symbol of freedom, inspiration, and hope. It was 1865 when Frenchman Édouard de Laboulaye proposed the idea of presenting a monumental gift from the people of France to the people of the United States. An ardent supporter of America, Laboulaye wished to commemorate the centennial of the Declaration of Independence as well as celebrate the close relationship between France and America. He was equally moved by the recent abolition of slavery in the Unitd States, which furthered America’s ideals of liberty and freedom. Sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi was in attendance for Laboulaye’s proclamation. Of like mind with Laboulaye’s cause, Bartholdi began conceptualising the colossal structure that would soon be known as “Liberty Enlightening the World”. Bartholdi’s design encompassed much symbolism: her crown representing light with its spikes evoking sun rays extending out to the world; the tablet, inscribed with July 4, 1776 in Roman numerals, noting American independence; to symbolise the end of slavery, Bartholdi placed a broken shackle and chains at the Statue’s foot. Fundraising and bringing people together have always been integral to Lady Liberty’s history. It began with efforts to finance this unprecedented undertaking. France would be responsible for creating the Statue and assembling it in the United States while the American people would fund and build the pedestal. To raise funds in France, public fees, various forms of entertainment, and a lottery were used. In the U.S., to finance the pedestal, benefit theatrical events, art exhibitions, auctions, and prizefights were held. Poet Emma Lazarus wrote her famous sonnet The New Colossus in 1883 for an art and literary auction. Construction of the Statue was completed in France in July 1884. The massive sculpture stood tall above the rooftops of Paris awaiting her voyage across the sea. Back in America that same year architect Richard Morris Hunt was selected to design the Statue’s granite pedestal, and construction got underway. For its trans-Atlantic voyage aboard the frigate Isère, the Statue was reduced to 350 individual pieces and packed in 214 crates. The ship arrived in New York Harbour on 17th June, 1885. While awaiting construction of its pedestal, the Statue remained in pieces on what was then called Bedloe’s Island. The pedestal was completed in April 1886 and finally, on October 28, 1886, President Grover Cleveland oversaw the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in front of thousands of spectators. After its dedication, the statue became an icon of freedom and of the United States.
However, the present era of clandestine operations carried out by the state security apparatus, indicate that there is neither freedom, nor hope for million of immigrants into United States. This is particularly evident after the tragic events of 9/11, when the war on terror was officially launched against organisations and any individual who may be deemed, even as remotely connected to any of the listed terrorist bodies. This is often based on stereotyping individuals when may have a middle eastern name or surname, or if they have an Arabic phenotype. Such individuals run the greatest risk of being classified as ideal candidates for the Rendition Programme initiated after 9/11, when state paranoia ruled supreme.
One such individual is a German citizen, who incidentally has middle eastern features, is Mr Khaled El Masri, who was nowhere linked to the 9/11 tragedy inflicted by Al Qaeda Organisation, led by Osama bin Laden, a Saudi Prince. It is also interesting to note that this Afghani group, was trained by United States in the 1970’s to counteract the Russian occupation of Afghanistan, but when the Russians were literally chased away by Al Qaeda operatives, the organisation then began fighting with the “master of old”, United States, who was not wanted in Afghanistan, any longer. This led to various campaigns against Al Qaeda, over many decades, but the grand finale was 9/11 when 2996 innocent lives were lost in the multiple passenger planes crashed by Al Qaeda agents in and around New York. This was the climatic revenge of Al Qaeda, against United States, for years of suffering, abuse, discrimination, oppression and exploitation of Afghanis, by the Americans. This was a strategy, adopted by the Afghanis, of the “master being attacked by the pet, whom he had trained. 9/11 was admittedly the darkest hour in the history of United States, the repercussions of which are still being felt, while America is trying to recoup some of its standing, pride, dignity and potency lost by the attack, itself, about which they were warned, but arrogantly unprepared. Therefore, 9/11 was a series of four coordinated terrorist attacks reportedly funded by al-Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden. After hijacking four domestic US passenger jets, the terrorists set course for Washington D.C. and New York City.
On that day, 2,996 people lost their lives between the attacks at the Pentagon, World Trade Center, and the Twin Towers. The detailed breakdown of the deaths includes:19 terrorist hijackers, 2,763 civilians at the World Trade Center, 189 people at the Pentagon, 44 people on Flight 93. Along with almost 3,000 deaths, another 25,000 were injured as a result f these well-orchestrated attacks on United States. Following these attacks, President George W. Bush sent troops over to Afghanistan to track down bin Laden, where he remained at large until 02nd May 2011 almost ten years later in a special operation, aided by Osama bin Laden’s personal physician, who was the proverbial “whistle blower”. He was Dr Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA find Osama bin Laden, reportedly for a reward. While the doctor is considered a hero in the United States, in Pakistan he is seen by many as a traitor who brought humiliation to the country. The American Navy Seals had been able to fly in, kill the 9/11 attacks mastermind, Osama bin Laden and get away with his body without even being challenged, far less stopped.
It is therefore appropriate to review the facts surrounding the ongoing attempts by CIA to capture, individuals associated with 9/11. The author has selected the case of Mr Khaled El-Masri, also known as Khalid El-Masri and Khaled Masri,, born 29 June 1963, who is a German and Lebanese citizen who was mistakenly abducted by the Macedonian police in 2003, and handed over to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). While in CIA custody, he was flown to Afghanistan, where he was held at a black site and routinely interrogated, beaten, strip-searched, sodomized, and subjected to other cruel forms of inhumane and degrading treatment and torture. After El-Masri held hunger strikes, and was detained for four months in the “Salt Pit”, the CIA finally admitted his arrest was a mistake and released him. He is believed to be among an estimated 3,000 detainees, including several key leaders of al Qaeda, whom the CIA captured from 2001 to 2005, in its campaign to dismantle terrorist networks. In May 2004, the U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Daniel R. Coats, convinced the German interior minister, Otto Schily, not to press charges or to reveal the program. El-Masri filed suit against the CIA for his arrest, extraordinary rendition and torture. In 2006, his suit El Masri v. Tenet, in which he was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), was dismissed by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, based on the U.S. government’s claiming the state secrets privilege. The ACLU said the Bush administration attempted to shield its abuses by invoking this privilege. The case was also dismissed by the Appeals Court for the Fourth Circuit, and in December 2007, the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
On 13th December 2012, El-Masri won an Article 34 case at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The court determined he had been tortured while held by CIA agents and ruled that Macedonia was responsible for abusing him while in the country, and knowingly transferring him to the CIA when torture was a possibility. It awarded him compensation. This marked the first time that CIA activities against detainees was legally declared as torture. The European Court condemned nations for collaborating with the United States in these secret programs. Regarding his personal history, El-Masri was born in Kuwait to Lebanese parents. He grew up in Lebanon. He immigrated to Germany in the 1980s during the Lebanese civil war, where he applied for political asylum, based on his membership in the Islamic Unification Movement which had fought against the Lebanese government during the war years. He was granted asylum. In 1994 he obtained German citizenship through a previous marriage with a German woman, whom he later divorced. In 1996, El-Masri married a Lebanese woman in Ulm, Germany. They have had five children together.
His abduction and CIA torture in Macedonia, was related to his trip, using the cheapest mode of transfer to travel. At the end of 2003, El-Masri travelled from his home in Ulm to go on a short vacation in Skopje. He was detained by Macedonian border officials on 31st December 2003, because his name was identical (except for variations in Roman transliteration) to that of Khalid al-Masri, who was being sought as an alleged mentor to the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell, and because of suspicion that El-Masri’s German passport was a forgery. He was held in a motel in Macedonia for over three weeks and questioned about his activities, his associates, and the mosque he attended in Ulm. The Macedonian authorities contacted the local CIA station, who in turn contacted the agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia. According to a 04th December 2005, article in the Washington Post, CIA agents discussed whether they should remove El-Masri from Macedonia in an extraordinary rendition. The decision to do so was made by the head of the al Qaeda division of the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism Center, Alfreda Frances Bikowsky, on the basis of “a hunch” that El-Masri was involved in terrorism; his name was similar to suspected terrorist Khalid al-Masri. When the Macedonian officials released El-Masri on 23rd January 2004, American security officers immediately took him into custody and detained him. El-Masri later described them as members of a “black snatch team.” They beat him and sedated him for transport using a rectal suppository. “The CIA stripped, hooded, shackled and sodomized el-Masri with a suppository, in CIA parlance, subjected him to “capture shock”, as Macedonian officials stood by.” He was dressed in a diaper and a jumpsuit, with total sensory deprivation, and flown to Baghdad, then immediately to the “Salt Pit”, a black site or covert CIA interrogation center, in Afghanistan. It also held CIA prisoners from Pakistan, Tanzania, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
The ‘Salt Pit’ jails in Afghanistan: After his release, in 2006 El-Masri wrote in the Los Angeles Times that, while held by the CIA in Afghanistan, he was beaten and repeatedly interrogated. He also said that his custodians forcibly inserted an object into his anus. He was kept in a bare, squalid cell, given only meager rations to eat and putrid water to drink. According to a report by the inspector general of the CIA, El-Masri’s German passport was not examined for authenticity until three months into his detention. Upon examination, the CIA’s Office of Technical Services swiftly concluded it was genuine and that his continued detention would be unjustified. Discussion over what to do with El-Masri included secretly transporting him back to Macedonia and dumping him there without informing German authorities, and denying any claims he made.
In March 2004, El-Masri took part in a hunger strike, demanding that his captors afford him due process or watch him die. After 27 days without eating, he forced a meeting with the prison director and a CIA officer known as “The Boss”. They conceded he should not be imprisoned but refused to release him. El-Masri continued his hunger strike for 10 more days until he was force-fed and given medical attention. He had lost more than 27 kg since his abduction in Skopje.
While imprisoned in Afghanistan, Masri befriended several other detainees. The men memorized each other’s telephone numbers so that if one was released, he could contact the families of the others. According to the New York Times, Laid Saidi, an Algerian who was a former detainee, was released in 2006. His description of his abduction and detention closely matched that of El-Masri. El-Masri reports that Majid Khan, characterised by the Bush administration as a high-value detainee, was held in the Salt Pit at the same time as he was. Khan, a former resident of Catonsville, Maryland, US was held by the CIA for an additional three and a half years prior to being transferred to US military custody and Guantanamo on 05th September 2006.
In April 2004, CIA Director George Tenet was told by his staff that El-Masri was being wrongfully detained. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice learned of the German citizen’s detention in early May and ordered his release. Shortly before El-Masri was released, in May 2004 the US ambassador to Germany informed the government for the first time of his detention. The ambassador asked the interior minister Otto Schily not to disclose the events, as the US feared “exposure of a covert action program designed to capture terrorism suspects abroad and transfer them among countries, and possible legal challenges to the CIA from Mr Masri and others with similar allegations.” El-Masri was released on 28 May 2004 following a second order from Rice.
The CIA flew El-Masri out of Afghanistan and released him at night on a desolate road in Albania, without an apology or funds to return home. He later said that, at the time he believed his release was a ruse, and he would be executed. He was intercepted by Albanian guards, who believed him to be a terrorist due to his haggard and unkempt appearance. He was returned to Germany. It took time for him to be reunited with his wife; with no word of him for so long, she thought he had abandoned her and their family, and returned with their children to her family in Lebanon.
In 2005, a German prosecutor started aiding El-Masri to validate his case. Using isotope analysis, scientists at the Bavarian archive for geology in Munich analyzed his hair; they verified that he was malnourished during his disappearance.
It is necessary to summarise the timeline of events. On 9 January 2005, The New York Times journalists Don van Natta and Souad Mekhennet broke the story about the El-Masri case after months of research. Van Natta and Mekhennet also worked on follow-up stories about the involvement of German and Macedonian authorities. Mekhennet later travelled to Algeria and other countries and interviewed prisoners who had been held with El-Masri. A 9 November 2005 Reuters story stated that a German prosecutor is investigating El-Masri’s kidnapping “by persons unknown”, and that another lawyer, Manfred Gnjidic, would be flying to the U.S. to file a civil compensation suit. It noted that US authorities neither confirmed nor denied any element of El-Masri’s story. According to a 4 December 2005 article in The Washington Post, the CIA’s Inspector General was investigating a series of “erroneous renditions”, including El-Masri’s. The article was by Dana Priest, the journalist who broke the story on the covert interrogation centers known as the “black sites”. On 5 December 2005, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the United States had acknowledged holding El-Masri in error.
On 6 December 2005, the American Civil Liberties Union helped El-Masri file suit in the US against former CIA director George Tenet and the owners of the private jets, leased to the US government, that the CIA used to transport him. El-Masri had to participate via a video link because the American authorities had denied him entry when his plane landed in the United States. Some press reports attributed the Americans barring him entry due to his name remaining on the watch list and being confused with Khalid al-Masri. But his lawyer, Manfred Gnjidic, was also barred entry. On 17 December 2005, Front magazine reported that a member of a German Intelligence Agency had clandestinely passed a copy of El-Masri’s dossier to the CIA in April 2004. In December 2005, El-Masri published a first-person account of his experience in the Los Angeles Times. Time magazine reported on 2 March 2006 that El-Masri may have been a leader of a radical, Lebanese Sunni islamist group ideologically affiliated with the Muslim brotherhood called “el-Tawhid” in the early 1980s, which fought Alawites in Tripoli during the Lebanese Civil War. The description of the group fits the Islamic Unification Movement, also known simply as “Tawhid”. German reports assert that El-Masri reported being a member of El-Tawhid (also spelled Al-Tawhid when he applied to Germany for refugee status, in 1985.
On 18 May 2006, U.S. Federal District Judge T.S. Ellis, III dismissed a lawsuit El-Masri filed against the CIA and three private companies allegedly involved with his transport, based on the government’s position that it would “present a grave risk of injury to national security.” (This legal doctrine is known as the state secrets privilege. Ellis said that if Masri’s allegations were true, he deserved compensation from the US government.)
The BND (German intelligence agency) declared on 1 June 2006 that it had known of El-Masri’s seizure 16 months before the German government was officially informed in May 2004 of his mistaken arrest. Germany had previously claimed that it did not know of El-Masri’s abduction until his return to the country in May 2004. On 26 July 2006, the ACLU announced that “it will appeal the recent dismissal of a lawsuit brought by Khaled El-Masri against the US government.” According to the ACLU attorney Ben Wizner, “If this decision stands, the government will have a blank check to shield even its most shameful conduct from accountability.”
In September 2006, a German public TV program revealed the names the pilots of the El-Masri rendition flight as Eric Robert Hume (alias Eric Matthew Fain), James Kovalesky and Harry Kirk Elarbee. On 4 October 2006, The Washington Post reported that Munich prosecutors were complaining that a lack of cooperation from US authorities was impeding their investigation into El-Masri’s abduction. The article reported that Munich prosecutors have a list of the names, or known aliases, of 20 CIA operatives who they believe played a role in the abduction. On 31 January 2007, Munich Prosecutor Christian Schmidt-Sommerfeld announced that warrants for 13 people were issued for suspected involvement in El-Masri’s rendition. According to a WikiLeaks document, on February 6, 2007, U.S. officials warned the German government not to issue international warrants, saying such action could adversely affect relations between the two countries. On 21 February 2007, the German Government decided to pass the warrants to Interpol.On 2 March 2007, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of El-Masri v. Tenet. On 30 April 2007, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany ruled as unconstitutional the tapping of the phones of El-Masri’s lawyer by Munich’s DA office. The DA had requested the tapping, claiming they expected the CIA to contact the lawyer “to find a solution to the case”. In June 2007, the ACLU filed a petition for certiorari at the U.S. Supreme Court to have El-Masri’s suit heard. On 12 July 2007, the European Parliament issued the 2006 Progress Report on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in which the authorities of Macedonia were urged to cooperate in the investigation of the abduction. In July 2007, the CIA prepared an internal report examining the CIA’s handling of El-Masri, stating “The report notes that all agency attorneys interviewed agreed that Masri did not meet the legal standard for rendition and detention, which required that a suspect be deemed a threat.” In September 2007, the German Government decided not to ask the US officially for extradition of CIA personnel associated with El-Masri’s abduction, as an unofficial request had been denied. On 5 September 2007, the Constitution Project filed an amicus curiae, a legal brief in support of El-Masri’s petition for certiorari. On 9 October 2007, the ACLU petition is declined for hearing by the U.S. Supreme Court, without comment. On 10 June 2008, German and US civil rights lawyers representing El-Masri filed a new civil suit, seeking to force the German government to reconsider the extradition requests it issued in January 2007. In May 2009, prosecutors attached to the Spanish National Court asked for an arrest order for thirteen CIA agents involved in the kidnapping. On 4 March 2010, in a written statement, former Macedonian Interior Minister Hari Kostov confirmed that El-Masri was arrested by the Macedonian security authorities, held in Skopje without contact to the outside world under the supervision of intelligence officials, and was later handed over to a CIA team.
In May 2012, the European Court of Human Rights held a hearing on the case between El-Masri and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (application number 39630/09)), in which he had filed for damages for suffering due to treatment in Macedonian custody and for being handed over to the CIA. On 13 December 2012, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ruled that El-Masri’s account was established beyond a reasonable doubt, and that “Macedonia was “responsible for his torture and ill-treatment” both in the country and after turning him over to US authorities.” It awarded him compensation of 60,000 euros for his abuse.
In June 2016, a redacted version of the July 2007 internal CIA report was obtained by the ACLU under the FOIA.
Other legal troubles On May 17, 2007, El-Masri was arrested on suspicion of arson. According to Die Welt Online, the problem arose over a dispute over an iPod that El-Masri had bought at a METRO warehouse club store back in April in the Bavarian city of Neu-Ulm. He claimed the iPod malfunctioned just hours after purchase. When he tried to return it, the store refused, and the situation escalated into a shouting match. El-Masri spat in the face of a female employee, and was barred from the store. On May 17, 2007, El-Masri kicked in a door of the Metro store and used gasoline to start a fire. The fire caused almost €90,000 in damages. Nobody was hurt. El-Masri was arrested near the scene of the crime. After arrest, a judge ordered him held in a psychiatric hospital. On May 18, El-Masri’s attorney, Manfred Gnjidic, conceded his client did set fire to the store, but blamed it on his client’s torture experiences and claimed that the German government did not provide enough therapy to him after his return from Afghanistan. He had actually requested extended therapy for his client shortly before the incident, as El-Masri stated he felt threatened, and believed himself to be pursued by cars and strangers. He stated the act of arson was executed on impulse and could not have led to a larger fire. While the courts recognized that El-Masri had never breached the law before his CIA abduction, and ruled that he had been traumatized, they also stated that this did not now justify acts of violence. He received a suspended sentence. Prosecutors in the arson case also revealed that El-Masri faced charges for allegedly attacking a truck driving instructor. They said El-Masri lost his temper after the instructor criticized him for failing to attend his lessons.
On September 11, 2009, El-Masri was arrested after attacking Gerold Noerenberg, the mayor of Neu-Ulm. Shortly before the attack El-Masri tried to meet Noerenberg, but was prevented from entering the office and sent off by the police. He then took three of his six children with him, stormed the office and struck Noerenberg repeatedly in the face and threw a chair after him. He was arrested two hours after the attack in Senden. He confessed the attack, but kept silent about the motives at the time. Writing from his cell, he complained about the increasing licensing of brothels by the city, one of which he said desecrated a Muslim prayer room. He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment on 30 March 2010. His lawyer, Manfred Gnjidic, explained that El-Masri believed he was pursued by the secret services, trying to break or recruit him, and he intended to file an appeal. In the European Court of Human Rights El-Masri filed a complaint against the Macedonian government asking for damages for his “suffering, anguish and mental breakdown”, due to his mistaken arrest, torture and abuse after being transferred to CIA custody.
On December 13, 2012, the Grand Chamber for the European Court of Human Rights issued a ruling, finding that El-Masri’s account of his abduction, rendition and torture “was established beyond reasonable doubt” and that Macedonia “had been responsible for his torture and ill-treatment both in the country itself and after his transfer to the U.S. authorities in the context of an extra-judicial rendition.” It awarded El-Masri 60,000 Euros in compensation. The Court termed El-Masri’s abduction, detention and torture in Macedonia, and subsequent rendition to Afghanistan, a forced disappearance. The Court stated that El-Masri’s allegations were supported by previous investigations into flight logs, as well as forensic evidence about his physical condition.
This was the first time that a court had found in favor of El-Masri since his release by the CIA. In a statement before the Grand Chamber, the Open Society Institute, which had prosecuted the case, called upon the United States to apologize to El-Masri. James Goldston, Executive Director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, said: For Mr. El-Masri, the most important thing that he was hoping for was to have the European court officially acknowledge what he did and say that what he’s been claiming is in fact true and it was in fact a breach of the law. … It’s an extraordinary ruling. Goldston also said, the court’s ruling was “a comprehensive condemnation of the worst aspects of the post-9/11 war-on-terror tactics that were employed by the CIA and governments who cooperated with them.”
The Bottom Line is, that the case of Masri is not unique in the greater scheme of governmental abduction and rendition. There are many such Masris who have been abducted and do not exist in the society, any longer. Some individuals may have been forgotten, others are probably shot in the back and their bodies left in some dark forest to decompose with nobody caring about such a missing person. However, what is unique, is that if you look middle eastern, Arabic or have a middle eastern name, then the possibility of that person being subjected to rendition is extremely high, based on the algorithms of the security agents on the prowl for terrorists. It is also shocking to note that the agencies are operating without legal constraints as well as their respective superiors being unaware of the detention, of their victims, for prolonged periods of time. The program was intended to protect America. But, as described in the Open Society Justice Initiative’s new report, it stripped people of their most basic rights, facilitated gruesome forms of torture, at times captured the wrong people, and debased the United States’ human rights reputation world-wide.
To date, the United States and the vast majority of the other governments involved, more than 50 in all, have refused to acknowledge their participation, compensate the victims, or hold accountable those most responsible for the program and its abuses. Here are additional facts from the new report that expose just how brutal and mistaken the program was:
At least 136 individuals were reportedly extraordinarily rendered or secretly detained by the CIA and at least 54 governments reportedly participated in the CIA’s secret detention and extraordinary rendition program; classified government documents may reveal many more.
A series of Department of Justice memoranda authorized torture methods that the CIA applied on detainees. The Bush Administration referred to these methods as “enhanced interrogation techniques.” “Enhanced interrogation techniques” included “walling” (quickly pulling the detainee forward and then thrusting him against a flexible false wall), “water dousing,” “waterboarding,” “stress positions” (forcing the detainee to remain in body positions designed to induce physical discomfort), “wall standing” (forcing the detainee to remain standing with his arms outstretched in front of him so that his fingers touch a wall five four to five feet away and support his entire body weight), “cramped confinement” in a box, “insult slaps,” (slapping the detainee on the face with fingers spread), “facial hold” (holding a detainee’s head temporarily immobile during interrogation with palms on either side of the face), “attention grasp” (grasping the detainee with both hands, one hand on each side of the collar opening, and quickly drawing him toward the interrogator), forced nudity, sleep deprivation while being vertically shackled, and dietary manipulation.
President Bush has stated that about a hundred detainees were held under the CIA secret detention program, about a third of whom were questioned using “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
The CIA’s Office of Inspector General has reportedly investigated a number of “erroneous renditions” in which the CIA had abducted and detained the wrong people. A CIA officer told the Washington Post: “They picked up the wrong people, who had no information. In many, many cases there was only some vague association” with terrorism.
German national Khaled El-Masri was seized in Macedonia because he had been mistaken for an Al Qaeda suspect with a similar name. He was held incommunicado and abused in Macedonia and in secret CIA detention in Afghanistan. On December 13, 2012, the European Court of Human Rights held that Macedonia had violated El-Masri’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, and found that his ill-treatment by the CIA at Skopje airport in Macedonia amounted to torture.
Wesam Abdulrahman Ahmed al-Deemawi was seized in Iran and held for 77 days in the CIA’s “Dark Prison” in Afghanistan. He was later held in Bagram for 40 days and subjected to sleep deprivation, hung from the ceiling by his arms in the “strappado” position, threatened by dogs, made to watch torture videos, and subjected to sounds of electric sawing accompanied by cries of pain.
Several former interrogators and counterterrorism experts have confirmed that “coercive interrogation” is ineffective. Col. Steven Kleinman, Jack Cloonan, and Matthew Alexander stated in a letter to Congress that that U.S. interrogation policy “came with heavy costs” and that “[k]ey allies, in some instances, refused to share needed intelligence, terrorists attacks increased world wide, and Al Qaeda and like-minded groups recruited a new generation of Jihadists.”
After being extraordinarily rendered by the United States to Egypt in 2002, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under threat of torture at the hands of Egyptian officials, fabricated information relating to Iraq’s provision of chemical and biological weapons training to Al Qaeda. In 2003, then Secretary of State Colin Powell relied on this fabricated information in his speech to the United Nations that made the case for war against Iraq.
Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded at least 83 times by the CIA. FBI interrogator Ali Soufan testified before Congress that he elicited “actionable intelligence” from Zubaydah using rapport-building techniques but that Zubaydah “shut down” after he was waterboarded.
Torture is prohibited in all circumstances under international law and allegations of torture must be investigated and criminally punished. The United States prosecuted Japanese interrogators for “waterboarding” U.S. prisoners during World War II.
On November 20, 2002, Gul Rahman froze to death in a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan called the “Salt Pit,” after a CIA case officer ordered guards to strip him naked, chain him to the concrete floor, and leave him there overnight without blankets.
Fatima Bouchar was abused by the CIA, and by persons believed to be Thai authorities, for several days in the Bangkok airport. Bouchar reported she was chained to a wall and not fed for five days, at a time when she was four-and-a-half months pregnant. After that she was extraordinarily rendered to Libya.
Syria was one of the “most common destinations for rendered suspects,” as were Egypt and Jordan. One Syrian prison facility contained individual cells that were roughly the size of coffins. Detainees report incidents of torture involving a chair frame used to stretch the spine (the “German chair”) and beatings.
Muhammed al-Zery and Ahmed Agiza, while seeking asylum in Sweden, were extraordinarily rendered to Egypt where they were tortured with shocks to their genitals. Al-Zery was also forced to lie on an electrified bed frame.
Abu Omar, an Italian resident, was abducted from the streets of Milan, extraordinarily rendered to Egypt, and secretly detained for fourteen months while Egyptian agents interrogated and tortured him by subjecting him to electric shocks. An Italian court convicted in absentia 22 CIA agents and one Air Force pilot for their roles in the extraordinary rendition of Abu Omar.
Known black sites—secret prisons run by the CIA on foreign soil—existed in Afghanistan, Lithuania, Morocco, Poland, Romania, and Thailand.
Abd al Rahim al Nashiri was secretly detained in various black sites. While secretly detained in Poland, U.S. interrogators subjected al Nashiri to a mock execution with a power drill as he stood naked and hooded; racked a semi-automatic handgun close to his head as he sat shackled before them; held him in “standing stress positions;” and threatened to bring in his mother and sexually abuse her in front of him.
President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order repudiating torture does not repudiate the CIA extraordinary rendition program. It was specifically crafted to preserve the CIA’s authority to detain terrorist suspects on a short-term, transitory basis prior to rendering them to another country for interrogation or trial.
President Obama’s 2009 Executive Order also established an interagency task force to review interrogation and transfer policies and issue recommendations on “the practices of transferring individuals to other nations.” The interagency task force report was issued in 2009, but continues to be withheld from the public. It appears that the U.S. intends to continue to rely on anti-torture diplomatic assurances from recipient countries and post-transfer monitoring of detainee treatment, but those methods were not effective safeguards against torture for Maher Arar, who was tortured in Syria, or Ahmed Agiza and Muhammed al-Zery, who were tortured in Egypt.
The Senate Select Intelligence Committee has completed a 6,000 page report that further details the CIA detention and interrogation operations with access to classified sources. In December, 2014, the committee released a redacted 525-page portion of the report, which included its key findings and an executive summary of the full report. The rest of the report remains classified.
In addition, even if senior government officials instruct their subordinates to release individuals who were incarcerated mistakenly, the orders are not followed, as with Rice’s order on two different occasions. It is also most shocking that democratic countries like Germany are involved in such anarchy in association with the Americans. Hence, there is no accountability, nor respect for human dignity and a carte blanche operation progresses regularly, on a global scale, with great loyalty between government agents, carrying on brazenly with their clandestine operations, which are negators of peace. Only the fortunate victims are able to secure some justice, let alone compensation, often after great personal disharmony, often leaving them totally traumatized.
[i] Personal quote by the author, December 2022.
 “Extraordinary Rendition – Khaled El-Masri – Statement”, American Civil Liberties Union, June 12, 2005
 Priest, Dana (December 4, 2005). “Wrongful Imprisonment: Anatomy of a CIA Mistake”. The Washington Post. Retrieved July 2, 2013.
Professor G. Hoosen M. Vawda (Bsc; MBChB; PhD.Wits) is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.
Director: Glastonbury Medical Research Centre; Community Health and Indigent Programme Services; Body Donor Foundation SA.
Principal Investigator: Multinational Clinical Trials
Consultant: Medical and General Research Ethics; Internal Medicine and Clinical Psychiatry:UKZN, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine
Executive Member: Inter Religious Council KZN SA
Public Liaison: Medical Misadventures
Activism: Justice for All
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 6 Feb 2023.
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