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Report: U.S. Knew about Torture in Afghan Prison but Sent Detainees there anyway

U.S. government and military officials knew about torture in a notorious Afghan prison but continued to send detainees there anyway, Western and Afghan officials told the Washington Post

NDS: Rife with torture.

According to the Post, the abuse took place in Department 124, run by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s main intelligence agency. Department 124 houses high-level al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects; the NDS interrogates these men there in what former detainees describe as a “hell.”

According to the United Nations, Department 124 detainees were hung by their hands for hours, beaten with metal pipes, subjected to electric shocks and had their genitals twisted until they lost consciousness. Twenty-six of 28 detainees interviewed by the U.N. said they were tortured there.

The highly secretive nature of the NDS and Department 124 meant that the International Committee of the Red Cross, the U.N. and other human rights organizations were prohibited from monitoring the conditions in the hellish prison. Still, as far back as October 2010, ICRC officials were warning U.S. and Afghan authorities about torture in Department 124 and other detention facilities. The ICRC raised the issue of the “prevalence and pervasiveness” of detainee abuse by NDS personnel, with U.S. Embassy officials, C.I.A. personnel and members of the Joint Special Operations Command hearing the Red Cross’ concerns.

It is highly likely, Afghan government sources told the Post, that these American officials already knew about the abuse. U.S. forces routinely delivered detainees to Department 124, despite the repeated warning of torture. C.I.A. officials met each week with the prison’s leaders, where they reviewed intelligence gleaned from torture and used it in their own operations. A former Afghan intelligence officer told the Post that the C.I.A. was “totally aware” of the abuse.

“They work with us every other day, if not every day,” another Afghan intelligence official told the Post. “The C.I.A. guys should have known” about the torture, he said.

Indeed, coalition troops from other countries stopped sending detainees to Department 124 and other Afghan intelligence prisons as far back as 2007. Britain and Canada also started monitoring detainee treatment in Afghan custody. But not the U.S., as this Wikileaked U.S. Embassy cable from February 2010 reveals: “Human rights organizations point to a dubious distinction– we are the only detaining nation in Afghanistan that does not have a monitoring program.”

There is still no such U.S. program in place.

The United States has a very close relationship with the NDS. Washington foots the bill for most of the agency’s operations, and the C.I.A. benefits greatly from the local intelligence gathered by NDS personnel. The Afghans, in return, get much-needed funding, training and high-tech equipment.

U.S. officials stress that they do not approve of torture. They point to the fact that U.S. troops have made multiple inspections of Department 124 and have taught eight-hour human rights and interrogation classes to the Afghans. They also note that General David Petraeus, when he was in charge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, ordered a halt to Afghan security forces in Kandahar after learning of widespread abuse.

“Anyplace that we’ve had a concern in the past, we’ve taken the appropriate steps, I’m confident of that, and we’re taking the appropriate steps now,” Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti told the Washington Post.

White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told the Post that there is a “long-standing [U.S.] policy against transferring individuals to torture.” But that is a lie: under the George W. Bush administration, terrorism suspects captured during the War on Terror were transported to countries such as Egypt, Morocco, Syria and Russia where U.S. officials knew there was an almost 100% chance that they’d be tortured. This practice, called extraordinary rendition, was nearly universally condemned by world leaders and human rights groups.

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