Filed by Michael Roston
A report released yesterday by Human Rights Watch revealed that at
least thirty-eight men detained in the Central Intelligence Agency's
secret prisons are still unaccounted for. The report's lead author,
Joanne Mariner, said in an interview with RAW STORY that it was time
for Congress to boost its oversight in order to "monitor and police
the abuses" that were suffered by these detainees.
Yesterday, Human Rights Watch released, Ghost Prisoner: Two Years in
Secret CIA Detention. The report prominently features the experiences
of Marwan Jabour, a Palestinian who was detained in Pakistan in May
2004 and released in Jordan in July 2006. In the interim, Jabour was
"disappeared," and held in a secret prison run by the CIA, which he
believes was in Afghanistan. Jabour alleges that he was tortured,
beaten, and often deprived of sleep.
Human Rights Watch used Jabour's testimony to help shore up its
investigation into the fate of "ghost" inmates in the CIA's secret
prison system. In September of last year, the Bush administration
transferred four*** previously secret detainees to Guantanamo Bay.
While acknowledging the existence of the secret prison system for the
first time, the president said, "There are now no terrorists in the
But Human Rights Watch warns that "it is certain that there were many
more than 14." It presents partial information on 38 detainees that it
believes were in the program. The group warns that the US "may have
transferred some of them to foreign prisons where for practical
purposes they remain under CIA control."
"Another worrying possibility is that prisoners were transferred from
CIA custody to places where they face a serious risk of torture," the
Mariner, who heads the organization's terrorism and counterterrorism
program, said no one could say right now if the 38 are the tip of the
iceberg or most of the individuals detained.
"They've done everything in their power to keep this system secret, so
all we can do is document what we can find out," she said.
But she explained that Jabour's example demonstrated how prisoners who
disappeared for long periods of time can come back to light. The White
House, she argued, had a key role to play in making this happen.
"The administration can make public who these people are, what
happened to them and where they were transferred," she explained.
"It's in their power to inform families of their whereabouts and put
the detainees inside a system of legality."
Having no illusions of a sudden change in the administration's
approach, Mariner called on the Democratic Congress, particularly the
Intelligence Committees, to "shoulder the responsibility of monitoring
and policing abuses, and put pressure on the White House to make this
As one bright spot in coming Congressional oversight, she pointed to
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary
Committee, and his promise to press the administration to hand over
the directive that created the CIA's secret prisons system.
"It was pretty shameful that the previous Congress didn't even obtain
that directive in closed hearings," she remarked. "But the balance of
power has changed, and that gives them an opportunity to exercise