As human rights lawyers sought to block U.S. Government efforts to stop a lawsuit against a Boeing subsidiary accused of flying detainees to ‘black sites’ where they were tortured, a legal advocacy group published the first testimony of a victim of the Central Intelligence Agency’s ‘enhanced interrogation’ program.
In the first-ever report of its kind, the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (CHRGJ) at New York University School of Law released a first-hand account of a survivor of enforced disappearance and torture at several Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) ‘black sites’. The 63-page report, "Surviving the Darkness: Testimony from the U.S. 'Black Sites'," is an in-depth account of a former CIA detainee's experience in his own words.
The bone-chilling narrative tells the story of Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah, a Yemeni national who spent more than a year and a half in the CIA's secret detention program. He was never charged with a terrorism-related crime.
The full report can be found at http://www.chrgj.org/projects/docs/survivingthedarkness.pdf.
The CHRGJ charges that Bashmilah was “illegally detained by the Jordanian intelligence service in October 2003, tortured into signing a false confession, and then handed over to an American rendition team.”
The group says he spent the next eighteen months in the U.S. secret detention network -- in sites believed to be in Afghanistan and possibly Eastern Europe. In May 2005, he was transferred to the custody of the Yemen government, which held him in proxy detention at the behest of the U.S. until he was put on trial and finally released in March 2006.
Bashmilah’s story was made public as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed legal papers opposing the CIA’s attempt to throw out a lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc. for its participation in the CIA’s "extraordinary rendition" program.
The ACLU charged that the U.S. government is improperly invoking the "state secrets" privilege to avoid judicial scrutiny of this unlawful policy.
Steven Watt, an attorney with the ACLU’s Human Rights Program, told us, “Five men have been brutally abused with the help of a U.S. corporation, and they are entitled to their day in court." He added, " Jeppesen must not be given a free pass for its profitable participation in a torture program. And the government should not be allowed to use the national security defense as a way to cover up its mistakes or, worse, its egregious abuses of human rights.”
The ACLU filing comes in a lawsuit brought on behalf of five victims of the rendition program who were kidnapped and secretly transferred by the CIA to U.S.-run overseas prisons or foreign intelligence agencies where they were interrogated and tortured.
According to the lawsuit, Jeppesen knowingly provided flight planning and essential logistical support to aircraft and crew used by the CIA for the clandestine rendition flights.
After the lawsuit was filed, the U.S. government intervened to seek its dismissal, contending that further litigation of the case would be harmful to national security. But the ACLU contends that the information needed to pursue this lawsuit, including details about the rendition program, is already in the public domain.
It adds, “Jeppesen’s involvement in the program is also a matter of public record. It has been confirmed by extensive documentary evidence and eyewitness testimony, including the sworn declaration of a former senior Jeppesen employee, which was submitted in support of the ACLU filing.
In recent years, the government has asserted the once-rare “state secrets” claim with increasing regularity in an attempt to throw out lawsuits and justify withholding information from the public not only about the rendition program, but also about illegal wiretapping, torture, and other breaches of U.S. and international law. It has been 50 years since the United States Supreme Court last reviewed the use of the "state secrets" privilege. The Supreme Court recently refused to review the "state secrets" privilege in a lawsuit brought by Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen also represented by the ACLU, who was kidnapped and rendered to detention, interrogation, and torture in a CIA "black site" prison in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, more than 250 people once held in Iraqi prisons, including Abu Ghraib, have filed suit against a U.S. military contractor for alleged torture of detainees. The Center for Constitutional Rights filed the lawsuit seeking millions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages against CACI International Inc. of Arlington, Virginia.
The complaint alleges that CACI interrogators who were sent to Iraqi prisons directed and engaged in torture between 2003-2004. The lawsuit charges that the detainees were repeatedly beaten, sodomized, threatened with rape, kept naked in their cells, subjected to electric shock and attacked by unmuzzled dogs, among other humiliations.