Red Cross 'gravely concerned' about detainees who 'disappeared'
John Byrne
Published: Thursday April 9, 2009

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Secret prison detainees have effectively vanished

The Central Intelligence Agency -- under President George W. Bush and now President Barack Obama -- has refused to allow the International Red Cross access to tortured detainees captured in the US war on terror, a new human rights report reveals.

The CIA's refusal, caught by veteran Newsweek correspondent Michael Isikoff and The Public Record, has prevented the group from finding out more information about detainees that were transferred by the Bush Administration after the revelation that they were being held in secret prisons.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a former Bush official told Isikoff that the Red Cross has not been informed of the detainees' whereabouts. Nor has the State Department received assurances that the detainees won't be tortured in their home countries where many of them have been transferred to, the official said. The issue is particularly important to human rights groups because of a recently leaked Red Cross report that concluded the US tortured some terrorist suspects captured under the Bush Administration.

"This issue has been hiding in plain sightóbut nobody has connected the dots," the former official is quoted as saying.

"The majority of the people in the CIA program are unaccounted for," John Sifton, a human-rights investigator and lawyer told Isikoff. "We don't know what happened to them."

Vice President Cheney disclosed last year that at least 100 people had been captured and interrogated under the CIA's secret prison program. Thirty three, Cheney said, had been subjected to "enhanced interrogation," a euphemism devised by the Bush Administration for practices the US previously labeled as torture.

Red Cross investigators believe most detainees held in secret CIA prisons have been returned to their home countries. Many of the suspects' home countries continue to torture their domestic prisoners -- among them Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Syria.

President Obama's CIA director, Leon Panetta, told a Senate panel during his confirmation hearings that he wouldn't prosecute CIA employees who particpated in the program. He's also come under fire for allegedly protecting at least two CIA employees who took part -- and is purportedly part of an effort to convince President Obama not to release "torture" memos written under the Bush Administration.

Writing in the Daily Beast Wednesday, John Sifton, a private investigator and attorney, says Leon Panetta is giving cover to two of his subordinates by pleading with the Obama administration to not release three torture memos by a former Office of Legal Counsel attorney that the American Civil Liberties Union has sued to gain access to.

Contacted by Isikoff, the CIA refused to comment on any aspect of the Red Cross report. But CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said CIA Director Panetta
"has taken decisive steps to ensure that the CIA abides by the president's executive orders" prohibiting cruel and unusual treatment of detainees and has also "stated repeatedly that no one who took actions based on legal guidance from the Department of Justice at the time should be investigated, let alone punished."

President Obama's Attorney General, Eric Holder, has said the practice of waterboarding (simulated drowning), employed by the CIA in questioning some suspects under Bush, is torture and is now prohibited.

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