Sunday, March 06, 2005

Rule Change Lets C.I.A. Freely Send Suspects Abroad to Jails

By DOUGLAS JEHL and DAVID JOHNSTON

“The Bush administration's secret program to transfer suspected terrorists to foreign countries for interrogation has been carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency under broad authority that has allowed it to act without case-by-case approval from the White House or the State or Justice Departments, according to current and former government officials.

The unusually expansive authority for the C.I.A. to operate independently was provided by the White House under a still-classified directive signed by President Bush within days of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the officials said.

The process, known as rendition, has been central in the government's efforts to disrupt terrorism, but has been bitterly criticized by human rights groups on grounds that the practice has violated the Bush administration's public pledge to provide safeguards against torture.

In providing a detailed description of the program, a senior United States official said that it had been aimed only at those suspected of knowing about terrorist operations, and emphasized that the C.I.A. had gone to great lengths to ensure that they were detained under humane conditions and not tortured.

The official would not discuss any legal directive under which the agency operated, but said that the "C.I.A. has existing authorities to lawfully conduct these operations."

The official declined to be named but agreed to discuss the program to rebut the assertions that the United States used the program to secretly send people to other countries for the purpose of torture. The transfers were portrayed as an alternative to what American officials have said is the costly, manpower-intensive process of housing them in the United States or in American-run facilities in other countries.

Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, who was detained at Kennedy Airport two weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks and transported to Syria, where he said he was subjected to beatings. A year later he was released without being charged with any crime.

Before Sept. 11, the C.I.A. had been authorized by presidential directives to carry out renditions, but under much more restrictive rules. In most instances in the past, the transfers of individual prisoners required review and approval by interagency groups led by the White House, and were usually authorized to bring prisoners to the United States or to other countries to face criminal charges.

As part of its broad new latitude, current and former government officials say, the C.I.A. has been authorized to transfer prisoners to other countries solely for the purpose of detention and interrogation.

The covert transfers by the C.I.A. have faced sharp criticism, in part because of the accounts provided by former prisoners who say they were beaten, shackled, humiliated, subjected to electric shocks, and otherwise mistreated during their long detention in foreign prisons before being released without being charged. Those accounts include cases like the following:

¶Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian, who was detained at Kennedy Airport two weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks and transported to Syria, where he said he was subjected to beatings. A year later he was released without being charged with any crime.

¶Khaled el-Masri, a Lebanese-born German who was pulled from a bus on the Serbia-Macedonia border in December 2003 and flown to Afghanistan, where he said he was beaten and drugged. He was released five months later without being charged with a crime.

¶Mamdouh Habib, an Egyptian-born Australian who was arrested in Pakistan several weeks after the 2001 attacks. He was moved to Egypt, Afghanistan and finally Guantánamo. During his detention, Mr. Habib said he was beaten, humiliated and subjected to electric shocks. He was released after 40 months without being charged.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/06/politics/06intel.html?pagewanted=all&position=
con·cept: Rule Change Lets C.I.A. Freely Send Suspects Abroad to Jails