The Guardian reports:
The head of the CIA moved yesterday to formalise the new Obama administration's break with the past in its approach to national security, when he ordered the final decommissioning of secret overseas sites where the US had held, and in some cases tortured, al-Qaida prisoners.
Leon Panetta told the agency's staff that he was overturning one of the causes of complaint of human rights groups about detentions of terrorist suspects under the Bush regime: the use of private contractors to secure prisoners. From now on private security firms will no longer have any role in the sites, a shift that has the added benefit of saving the CIA some $4m (£2.7m).
The rejection of the services of private security firms in itself marks a clean break with past practices. During the Bush era, contractors enjoyed a bonanza – particularly in Iraq, where they were used to perform many of the roles of the overstretched military.
Panetta said that the sites – which are now empty, having received no new detainees since he took over the agency in February – would be decommissioned under the auspices of the agency itself. His announcement puts into practice the signal given by President Obama on the second day of his administration that he would have the facilities closed.
The overseas detention sites, in Afghanistan, eastern Europe, Thailand and elsewhere, became one of the most potent symbols of George Bush's controversial reign in the White House. Human rights groups protested that they were used for "renditions" of suspects to locations where they were withheld habeas corpus and subjected to harsh interrogations, in some cases amounting to torture.
Up to 100 suspects were held in the sites, about a third of whom were put through interrogation methods that were toughened up after 9/11 well beyond the limitations previously laid down in the army field manual. That included the technique known as water-boarding in which the prisoner has water poured over a cloth placed over his face, inducing the sensation of drowning.
In his email statement to CIA employees, Panetta also made clear that suspects would no longer be "renditioned" to foreign security forces in order for them to be tortured outside the ethical rules set by the US. Under the Bush administration, several suspects are understood to have been flown to countries such as Syria and put at the mercy of their interrogators.
"CIA officers do not tolerate, and will continue to promptly report, any inappropriate behaviour or allegations of abuse. That holds true whether a suspect is in the custody of an American partner or a foreign liaison service," he said.
This week the Red Cross issued a report in which it said that CIA doctors had been used to monitor the health impacts of torture, which it condemned as a "gross breach of medical ethics".
Waterboarding aside, the methods used included slamming prisoners heads against walls and making them stand naked with arms above their heads for two or three days.
Friday, April 10, 2009
The Guardian reports: