CIA may have paid SA ‘lump sum’ for torture centres
The eagerly awaited US Senate’s report on the CIA’s detention and interrogation programme under former US president George W Bush has put US embassies around the world on high alert.
The report revealed that in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the CIA offered “lump sum payments” to foreign countries to encourage their “willingness” to house secret detention centres.
It also said that US Ambassadors “were aware” of the centres - known as “black sites” - and would have been kept informed on developing legal, media or policy issues by the local CIA station chiefs.
The landmark report, which listed some of the brutal torture tactics used in the CIA’s war on terror, said many foreign governments were “enthusiastic” about assisting the CIA in its counter-terrorism mission.
The US Senate report said: “It is certainly true that the CIA, as did the US government as a whole, called on allies and friends after 9/11 to assist in a variety of ways in the fight against international terrorism.”
It added: “Most of those [countries] approached were willing to host detention facilities on the understanding that CIA would keep their co-operation secret”.
However, it admits that various leaks in the press of black sites did put local diplomatic relations under pressure.
The report said it was “true that leaks resulted in varying amounts of domestic fallout in these countries.
However, the assessment...do not support the conclusion that the leaks ‘strained relations’ between the US and its partners”.
‘Black sites’ in South Africa
The 600-page summary of the 6 000-page report, published on Tuesday by the Senate intelligence committee, has redacted - or blanked out - the names of the countries involved.
A spokesperson for the US Embassy in Pretoria told News24: “We will not confirm which countries were or were not involved, nor will we comment on any specific findings or conclusion in the committee’s report, the minority report, of the CIA response.”
South Africa however has previously been listed by the Open Society Foundations as one of the 54 countries that has participated in CIA operations.
What’s more, UK newspaper The Guardian claimed in 2009 that the CIA had black sites in South Africa.
Brian Dube, spokesperson for South Africa’s State Security department, told News24: “We work with our partners and counterparts to share information. It is important - we can’t work in isolation. But it is difficult to say - with our line of work - exactly what we do.”
For these reasons Dube would not comment on the existence of black sites in South Africa, or any further assistance our government may offer the CIA.
The US Embassy spokesperson added: “The United States greatly values our close co-operation with our allies on a range of shared initiatives. This will not change.”
‘Stain on our values’
The US Senate meanwhile said there was “nothing improper” about paying foreign governments to host detention centres.
“To encourage governments to clandestinely host detention sites, the CIA provided cash payments to foreign government officials...Through legislation however...CIA has independent authority to make subsidy payments,” the report said.
Yet the report revealed that the CIA lied repeatedly about the tactics they used to extract information at these sites - which included sleep deprivation, mock executions and simulated drowning or "water boarding".
Senate intelligence committee chairperson Dianne Feinstein, in a statement summarising the findings, said that the CIA’s programme was a “stain on our values and on our history”.
The US Embassy spokesperson told News24 that though post-9/11 decisions are part of US history, they “are not representative of the way we deal with the threat from terrorism we still face today”.
He pointed out that President Barack Obama has “made it clear” that some of the CIA’s tactics are contrary to US values, and one of his first acts in office was to prohibit harsh interrogation techniques.
According to a study by the Open Society Foundations, South Africa is known to have participated in the CIA secret detention of Saud Memon, a Pakistani suspected in the murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
The study claimed that in 2003 South Africa appeared to give US intelligence agencies “carte blanche” to pursue Memon, abduct him and transfer him to Pakistan.
It has also been alleged by the lawyer for Pakistani national Khalid Rashid that the South African government was involved in Rashid’s “rendition” in October 2005 from South Africa to Pakistan, and that Rashid may have been handed over to US agents.
At the time, the South African minister of home affairs claimed that Rashid was arrested and deported because he resided in the country illegally. Four years later, the Supreme Court of Appeal found that his deportation was unlawful.