A new report from Human Rights Watch alleges that in the years before Libya's popular revolution, the U.S. served up several captured anti-Gadhafi militants to the Libyan dictator -- but not before the Americans "tortured" some of the militants directly, including at least one alleged instance of waterboarding that has gone previously unreported.
Human Rights Watch says the 215-page report, compiled through interviews with 14 former detainees and documents uncovered after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi's regime, gives detailed accounts of the alleged abuse at least five of the detainees suffered while in CIA-run prisons in Afghanistan, including being chained to walls, being forced to stay in so-called "stress positions" and the one case of waterboarding.
In other cases, some of the detainees were allegedly "ill-treated" by officials from other countries, but it was the Americans who interrogated them about possible plots against the U.S. or information on al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. In each case, the detainees were eventually turned over to Libyan authorities, despite their protests, where many were further abused, the report said.
The report from the non-profit group comes just days after the Department of Justice announced it had completed a lengthy probe into harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA on detainees, including possible links to the deaths of two terror suspects, and had determined no criminal charges would be filed.
"The stories of the Libyans held by the U.S. and then sent to Libya make clear that detainee abuse, including mistreatment not necessarily specifically authorized by Bush administration officials, was far-reaching," the Human Rights Watch report's author, Laura Pitter, said. "The closure of the [Department of Justice] investigation, without any charges, sends a message that abuse like that suffered by the Libyan detainees will continue to be tolerated."
In a statement, the CIA declined to comment on the specific allegations made in the report, but said the agency has "been on the record that there are three substantiated cases in which detainees were subjected to the waterboarding technique under the program." The agency's statement apparently refers to three instances of waterboarding publicly acknowledged in 2008 by former CIA director Michael Hayden and does not recognize the new allegation included in the Human Rights Watch report.
The CIA also noted that the agency had been cleared by the Justice Department's probe when it came to allegations of other abuses, but officials at Justice declined to comment on the Human Rights Watch report and would not say if the cases described in the report were included in their investigation. Today the U.S. State Department also referred all questions on the report to the Justice Department.
In response to Human Rights Watch's criticism of the apparent close ties between the CIA and the Libyan regime's intelligence arm, the CIA said, "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."
In the report, Human Rights Watch acknowledges that most of the detainees they interviewed were self-identified former members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group -- a group that has been designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department since December 2004.