Another C.I.A. Ghost Detainee
Salon today has an article about another CIA ghost detainee, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, kept in a secret overseas prisons for months, undisclosed to the Red Cross and finally transferred to Guantanamo.
The C.I.A. (read White House) takes the position that these detainees are unlawful combatents and not entitled to protections of the Geneva conventions.
While the U.S. military recently adopted new rules for interrogation in the wake of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, legal and human rights experts say the CIA may be continuing to flout the law -- potentially using abusive interrogation tactics at secret prisons known as "black sites" -- at the direction of the Bush White House.
Red Cross officials confirmed to Salon that the CIA did not alert them during the months that al-Hadi was a prisoner with the agency. "We have repeatedly asked U.S. authorities to be notified and have access to all detainees, including those held by the CIA," said Simon Schorno, a spokesman for the Red Cross in Washington. "But we did not have access to Mr. al-Hadi before his transfer [to military custody]. For us, that is problematic."
Congress made it clear in passing the Military Commissions Act that torture was not an available option for the C.I.A.
The White House apparently lost when Congress overwhelmingly passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006. It forbids detainee abuse, using specific language that experts on human rights and international law say would be hard, if not impossible, to circumvent legally.
Those experts were subsequently shocked by what Bush said in the East Room of the White House when he signed the bill last October. "This bill will allow the Central Intelligence Agency to continue its program for questioning key terrorist leaders and operatives," Bush said. "[The CIA] program has been one of the most successful intelligence efforts in American history."
Since the Red Cross wasn't told about al-Hadi, there's no way to know if he was tortured while in CIA custody.
In its statement to Salon, the CIA also said that it had no legal responsibility to alert the Red Cross of al-Hadi's status, calling him an "unlawful combatant," a categorization that critics charge the Bush administration has used to circumvent the Geneva Conventions. The CIA acknowledged that the Department of Defense alerted the Red Cross about al-Hadi -- but suggested DoD was not required to do so.
The Red Cross is being allowed to see all the Guantanamo detainees, although grudgingly:
"Although, as unlawful combatants, these detainees have no legal claim to ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] visits, those visits have been arranged at Guantánamo," the CIA said.
The question arises whether the CIA detainees, the ghost prisoners, are being treated differently than the DOD detainees.
Specific authority for covert operations in the war on terrorism were put in place by a secret "presidential finding" signed by Bush six days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, authorizing broad covert action by the CIA to capture, detain or kill members of al-Qaida anywhere in the world. Mary Ellen O'Connell, a professor of international law at Notre Dame Law School, said the al-Hadi case raises the possibility that the president has secretly given the CIA a new mandate to operate outside the constraints of the new law put in place by Congress last year. "This suggests that the president has signed some sort of additional authority for the CIA," she said.
John Sifton of Human Rights Watch adds:
"It is better to speak of it as a divergence between the military and the White House," rather than the military and the CIA, he said. "The White House has wanted to take the gloves off with detainees and has used the CIA as their proxy."
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