News & Politics

54 Nations Were Complicit In CIA's Global Torture Operation

In the fullest accounting yet of the Bush administration's "extraordinary rendition" program, the Open Society Foundation reports that 54 countries were complicit in a practice that ensnared 136 people.

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A total of 54 countries around the globe were complicit in the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) program of extraordinary rendition, which refers to the practice of capturing terrorist suspects and whisking them off to another country where torture would be used. The news comes in a report published by the Open Society Foundation, which also highlights how the CIA was permitted to run secret interrogation prisons where torture was used and to refuel airplanes that were used to transport prisoners.

The secret interrogation prisons used by the CIA were known as “black sites.” The “black sites” where terror suspects were held were the site of torture practices like waterboarding.

The report is the fullest accounting to date of the Bush administration’s extraordinary rendition program. The Open Society Foundation report, titled “Globalizing Torture,”also notes that a total of 136 people were caught up the extraordinary rendition dragnet. The nations involved include 25 countries in Europe, 14 in Asia, and 13 in Africa, The New York Timesnotes. The countries the CIA sent prisoners to included notorious torturers like Syria, Egypt and Libya.

“By enlisting the participation of dozens of foreign governments in these violations, the United States further undermined longstanding human rights protections enshrined in international law -- including, in particular, the norm against torture,” wrote Amrit Singh, the report’s author, as the Huffington Post noted. “Responsibility for this damage does not lie solely with the United States, but also with the numerous foreign governments without whose participation secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations could not have been carried out.”

As the Huffington Post’s Joshua Hersh notes, a “few of the nations involved, such as Australia and Sweden, have begun a process of public accounting and compensation for their roles in the process. Others, including Italy and Macedonia, have recently become embroiled in trials of local officials and CIA agents in absentia over their actions.”

The Obama administration closed the CIA’s program of using black sites when he first entered into office. But his administration has not fully spurned the practice of using other countries to do the U.S.’s dirty work. Known as “proxy detentions,” the Obama administration has outsourced interrogation work to some countries like Djibouti, Nigeria and the United Arab Emirates. Instead of the CIA doing the transporting, the Obama administration or the FBI has reportedly asked security forces in allied countries to pick up suspects and then have American intelligence agents come in and interrogate them. Allegations of torture have also been raised by suspects who have experienced these “proxy detentions.”

Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.