Torture Roundup

TORTURE ROUNDUP….A while back I posted about Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an al-Qaeda prisoner who was turned over to Egypt for questioning in January 2002. Libi provided some false information about ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda, but the reporting about this last month didn’t make it absolutely clear if Libi provided that information before or after he was turned over to Egypt. Today, the New York Times clears this up for us:

Mr. Libi was indeed initially held by the United States military in Afghanistan, and was debriefed there by C.I.A. officers, according to the new account provided by the current and former government officials. But….it was not until after he was handed over to Egypt that he made the most specific assertions, which were later used by the Bush administration as the foundation for its claims that Iraq trained Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons.

….American officials including [Condoleezza] Rice have defended the practice, saying it draws on language and cultural expertise of American allies, particularly in the Middle East, and provides an important tool for interrogation. They have said that the United States carries out the renditions only after obtaining explicit assurances from the receiving countries that the prisoners will not be tortured.

Ah yes, “cultural expertise.” It’s funny how little we normally care about these countries’ cultural expertise, but then suddenly develop trememdous respect for it as soon as it comes time to interrogate prisoners.

In other related news, a U.S. official essentially admitted for the first time on Thursday that we are indeed holding prisoners at black sites:

The state department’s top legal adviser, John Bellinger….stated that the group International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had access to “absolutely everybody” at the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which holds suspects detained during the US war on terror.

When asked by journalists if the organisation had access to everybody held in similar circumstances elsewhere, he said: “No”. He declined to explain further.

And in still other news, Britain’s highest court has ruled that intelligence extracted by torture is not admissible in any British court:

Home Office sources confirmed that they now expected “coerced evidence” to be a key issue in the appeals yet to be heard in the cases of 22 men held pending their deportation to countries such as Algeria and Libya, and a further five placed under anti-terror “control orders”.

The damage that all this has done to our moral standing to fight radical extremism in the Muslim world is hard to calculate. The Bush and Blair administrations have probably set our cause back by a decade by refusing to take a clear and immediate stand against state sanctioned torture from the very beginning.