In a report that reads like a frightening global spy novel, the Open Society Foundation stripped the covers off the covert world of torture, abuse and illegal renditions carried out after 9/11 by the United States — with as many as 54 other nations assisting the CIA. The report is a disturbing investigation that demonstrates once again the hypocritical nature of much of America’s foreign policy.
Called “Globalizing Torture,” the report by the New York City-based Open Society Foundation provides the first-ever detailed look at how the Bush administration used a startling web of covert tactics after 9/11 to try to stamp out terrorism with the help of 54 other nations, including Austria, Belgium, Canada, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Spain, South Africa, Turkey and Thailand.
The list of countries that assisted the U.S. is so long that one analyst suggested that it is more interesting to look at the nations not on the list, such as France, the Netherlands, Hungary and Russia.
There has long been an almost mythical quality to the accusations lodged against the U.S. and its world of “Black Ops.” Many U.S. critics are accused of launching conspiracy theories when they weave tales of the exorbitant measures the U.S. has taken to conduct its program of secret detention and extraordinary rendition of terrorist suspects — a world explored by Hollywood in such movies as “Rendition” and “Zero Dark Thirty.”
The Open Society Foundation points out the primary objective of the program was to “place detainee interrogations beyond the reach of law.” The 216-page report traced the plight of 136 known victims.
“Suspected terrorists were seized and secretly flown across national borders to be interrogated by foreign governments that used torture, or by the CIA itself in clandestine ‘black sites’ using torture techniques,” the foundation report said.
The release of the report appears to be timed to coincide with the confirmation hearings of John Brennan, President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, who goes before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday to be confirmed as the new director of the CIA.
In addition to the many questions that will be directed at him as the mastermind of the controversial and deadly drone program, Brennan will surely be grilled about the nation’s troubling and possibly illegal use of extraordinary rendition, secret detention and torture.
Obama issued an executive order in 2009 to halt the CIA’s use of detention, but the order “did not apply to facilities used for short term, transitory detention.”
The Obama administration claims that it won’t transfer detainees to countries without a pledge from a host government not to torture them — but this sometimes is a meaningless distinction. President Bashar Assad in Syria made exactly that pledge to the U.S., but Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, was tortured in 2002 by the Syrians after he was snatched from Kennedy Airport by the CIA because they mistakenly thought he was a terrorist.
“By engaging in torture and other abuses associated with secret detention and
extraordinary rendition, the U.S. government violated domestic and international
law, thereby diminishing its moral standing and eroding support for its
counterterrorism efforts worldwide as these abuses came to light,” wrote Open Society investigator Amrit Singh. “By enlisting the participation of dozens of foreign governments in these violations, the United States further undermined long-standing human rights protections enshrined in international law — including, in particular, the norm against torture.
“As this report shows, responsibility for this damage does not lie solely with the United States, but also with the numerous foreign governments without whose participation secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations could not have been carried out,” he writes. “By participating in these operations, these governments too violated domestic and international laws and further undermined the norm against torture.”