WASHINGTON — A civil liberties group investigating allegations of prisoner abuse will report today that since the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. agents have secretly transported up to 150 detainees to countries that may practice torture. Such transporting, known as rendition, is more widespread than the government has reported, according to Human Rights Watch. In a report issued a year after the earliest revelations of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, the group said the renditions, along with abuses of foreign detainees by U.S. forces, were possible violations of international law. The group also said an Army investigation clearing top U.S. military commanders of wrongdoing in the scandal at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad established the need for an outside inquiry. "This just proves the military can't investigate itself," said Reed Brody, a lawyer for Human Rights Watch, which monitors civil rights issues around the world.
"It seems like another in a long line of attempts at self-absolution." Brody's organization and the American Civil Liberties Union are among the groups that have sought the appointment of a special counsel to investigate U.S. detention practices since a string of Pentagon inquiries found few cases of wrongdoing, especially in higher military ranks or among civilian officials. Revelations on Friday that an upcoming report by the Army inspector general would exonerate Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former chief U.S. commander in Iraq, and three other top officers proves the inadequacy of the military's probes, the rights groups said. "These findings only show that the president must appoint a special counsel — who is not beholden by rank or party and who is able to look up the military chain of command," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero in a statement Saturday. The Human Rights Watch report comes amid growing concern on Capitol Hill over sending prisoners to countries such as Syria and Egypt, which are widely believed to torture prisoners for interrogation purposes.
The Bush administration has acknowledged that renditions have occurred, but officials at the CIA and elsewhere have not definitively said how many captives may have been detained by the United States in one country, then clandestinely flown to a third nation. Former CIA Director George J. Tenet has said his agency took part in more than 70 renditions before Sept. 11, but he has not made clear whether any involved sending detainees to countries that permitted torture. His successor, CIA Director Porter J. Goss, testified in February before the Senate Intelligence Committee that experts did not believe prisoner abuse was an effective way to get information. (MORE)