* New waterboarding allegations detailed
* CIA says its job is to collaborate with foreign
* U.S. Justice Department recently closed probe of CIA
By Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON, Sept 6 A human rights organization
says it has collected evidence of two previously unreported
cases in which U.S. agents used waterboarding or a similar harsh
interrogation technique on Libyan militants held by American
forces in Afghanistan.
In a report released on Thursday, Human Rights Watch also
says it acquired new evidence of the extent to which the United
States and some of its allies, including Great Britain,
allegedly detained exiled opponents of late Libyan leader
Muammar Gaddafi and forcibly transferred them back to Libya.
Human Rights Watch said that it assembled its report by
interviewing victims and witnesses familiar with alleged abuses
and by combing through once-secret archives that became public
during the Libyan revolution that led to Gaddafi's ouster and
Documents found in the archives following the collapse of
Gaddafi's regime included classified correspondence between top
Libyan officials and officials from the CIA and Britain's spy
agencies MI5 and MI6.
They illustrate how, between late 2003 when Gaddafi agreed
to give up his weapons of mass destruction programs, and the
2011 Libyan revolution, Gaddafi and Western intelligence
agencies quietly cooperated in battling Islamic militants.
"Not only did the U.S. deliver Gaddafi his enemies on a
silver platter, but it seems the CIA tortured many of them
first," Laura Pitter, a counterterrorism expert at Human Rights
Watch and author of the report, said in a written statement.
"The scope of Bush administration abuse appears far broader
than previously acknowledged and underscores the importance of
opening up a full-scale inquiry into what happened," she said.
Waterboarding is a form of simulated drowning that President
Barack Obama and human rights activists have condemned as
But U.S. and British officials defended their governments'
"It can't come as a surprise that the Central Intelligence
Agency works with foreign governments to help protect our
country from terrorism and other deadly threats. That is exactly
what we are expected to do," said Jennifer Youngblood, a CIA
"The context here is worth revisiting. For example, by 2004,
the U.S. government had convinced Gaddafi to renounce Libya's
WMD programs and to help stop those terrorists who were actively
targeting Americans," Youngblood said.
A spokesman for Britain's Foreign Office said: "The
government has been clear that it stands firmly against torture
and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment. We do
not condone it, nor do we ask others to do it on our behalf.
"In addition, we have published the Consolidated Guidance
which provides clear directions for intelligence officers and
service personnel dealing with foreign liaison services
regarding detainees held overseas," the spokesman said.
Some of the other nations that Human Rights Watch alleged to
be U.S. collaborators in these operations are the Netherlands,
Pakistan, China, Malaysia, Morocco and Sudan.
DETAINEE SAYS HE WAS WATERBOARDED
The most dramatic, and potentially controversial, of the
report's 14 case studies relate to alleged waterboarding.
Human Rights Watch said that testimony from former detainee
Mohammed Shoroeiya about how he allegedly was waterboarded
repeatedly by U.S. interrogators was "detailed and credible."
Shoroeiya claimed he had been waterboarded while in U.S. custody
in Afghanistan, and that a doctor was present during the
interrogation sessions, the group said.
It said that a second former Libyan detainee, Khalid
al-Sharif, described how he was subjected to a "similar type of
treatment," though this did not involve being strapped to a
Human Rights Watch said both detainees claimed that they
were hooded and had ice water poured over their noses and mouths
until they felt like they were suffocating - the sensation
associated with waterboarding.
The accounts by the Libyan detainees, one-time members of a
militant faction called the Libyan Islamist Fighting Group,
contradict claims by former President George W. Bush, former CIA
director Michael Hayden and other U.S. officials that
waterboarding was only used on three militants in the wake of
the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks - none of them Libyan.
U.S. officials expressed skepticism about the waterboarding
allegations. And there are apparent differences in how the
Libyans describe their treatment and the waterboarding
procedures used in three cases that U.S. authorities have
confirmed - those of alleged al Qaeda militants Abu Zubaydah,
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
In those cases, official investigations reported, the
interrogation subjects were doused repeatedly, but in short
bursts, with bottled water.
"The agency has been on the record that there are three
substantiated cases in which detainees were subjected to the
waterboarding technique," the CIA's Youngblood said.
"Although we cannot comment on these specific allegations,
the Department of Justice has exhaustively reviewed the
treatment of more than 100 detainees in the post-9/11 period -
including allegations involving unauthorized interrogation
techniques - and it declined prosecution in every case," she
PIVOTAL 2003 ADDRESS
One case discussed at length by Human Rights Watch is that
of a Libyan militant known as Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, who ran a
training camp for militants in Afghanistan.
Information gleaned from al-Libi under interrogation about
alleged contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda helped drive the Bush
administration's campaign to build public support for the 2003
U.S. invasion of Iraq. Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell
highlighted the allegations in his pivotal February 2003 address
to the U.N. Security Council.
However, al-Libi subsequently recanted his allegations about
Iraq and al Qaeda.
Human Rights Watch said it was told by al-Libi's relatives
that even though he led a militant training camp, he was opposed
to al Qaeda's philosophy and activities and was focused on
Nonetheless, he was captured by Pakistan, turned over to
U.S. authorities, sent for a time for allegedly abusive
imprisonment in Egypt, turned back over to U.S. forces and
subsequently sent to Libya.
Human Rights Watch says that in 2009, it arranged a brief
visit with al-Libi in a Libyan prison. But the group said
al-Libi refused to speak to it. Two weeks later, Human Rights
Watch says, Libya reported that he committed suicide.
Human Rights Watch demanded that Obama direct the U.S.
Attorney General to open a criminal investigation into U.S.
interrogation and detention practices.
Only last week, however, Attorney General Eric Holder
announced he was closing the last elements of what had become a
wide-ranging investigation into these issues, without bringing
any criminal charges.