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Defending the Indefensible

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Libyans searching for documents inside Abu Salim prison in Tripoli, Libya where torture and abuse occurred under Qaddadi rule with U.S. cooperation. Photo Francois Mori/AP



Human Rights Watch yesterday released a 156 page report entitled, "Delivered Into Enemy Hands: U.S.-led Abuse and Rendition of Opponents to Qaddafi's Libya".

The report cites details of how the CIA captured so called "Libyan extremists" in Pakistan and other places, detained and questioned them in Afghanistan and then sent them back to Libya during Qaddafi's reign in power.

The Rights Watch interviewed the previously detained Libyans five of which described being chained naked, diapered, in dark windowless cells for weeks and months, restrained in painful positions and forced into cramped spaces, being beaten and slammed into walls and constantly exposed to loud music in an effort to deprive them of sleep." One of the Libyans described being "strapped to a board with his head lower than his feet and buckets of cold water poured over his nose and mouth for as long as a minute, making him feel he was going to suffocate." Although he didn't describe this ordeal as such, the practice he was being subjected to was clearly water boarding.

The Rights report comes two days after the Justice Department "closed two unrelated investigations into detainee deaths in CIA custody with no charges". Also unrelated to the Rights report, the CIA has previously acknowledged water boarding only three detainees, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al Nashiri, all admittedly connected to al Qaeda and again no charges of torture have ever been brought against the interrogators or those who authorized it.

As to the allegations made in the Human Rights Watch report, a CIA spokesman John Tomczyh said, "We can't comment on these specific allegations" and referred to Justice Department reviews of suspected interrogation techniques saying the Department "declined prosecution in every case". Hmm!

Benjamin Witter, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution responded, "The CIA seems to be leaving open the possibility that there may have been unsubstantiated additional cases of water boarding outside of the agency's formal high-value detention program." In other words some CIA interrogators somehow went "off the reservation" and used torture practices that had "supposedly" been ended by the Obama administration. Hmm!

The bottom line in all this:

The Obama administration has refused to investigate and prosecute those who authorized torture in the former Bush administration namely former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo, ex V.P. Dick Cheney, ex Defense Department Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or former President George W. Bush et al, NOT because as Obama once said, "We don't want to look back" but simply because Obama's hands are also dirty in continuing CIA renditions, indefinite detention of suspects without charges and the CIA's use of torture using other "enhanced interrogation techniques".

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