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U.S. officials: 'Inaccuracies' in reports of tough interrogations

From David Ensor
National Security Correspondent

A file photo showing Afghan detainees in Kandahar, Afghanistan
A file photo showing Afghan detainees in Kandahar, Afghanistan

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Responding to a Washington Post newspaper article that called interrogation by the CIA of Taliban and al Qaeda detainees a "brass-knuckled quest for information," U.S. officials said Thursday the report contained "many inaccuracies."

The officials declined to offer specifics, but stressed that the purpose of the interrogations is to try to prevent terrorist attacks that could kill hundreds or thousands of Americans.

The Thursday Washington Post article describes a secret CIA interrogation center at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, Afghanistan, where it says "those who refuse to cooperate" are sometimes "kept standing for hours, in black hoods, or spray-painted goggles" and are at times "deprived of sleep, with a 24-hour bombardment of lights"-- techniques the newspaper says are known as "stress and duress."

The newspaper quoted an unnamed official who "has supervised the capture and transfer of accused terrorists" as saying "If you don't violate someone's human rights some of the time, you probably aren't doing your job."

In the past, U.S. officials have told CNN that prisoners at Bagram are under the control of the U.S. military, not the CIA.

The newspaper notes -- and officials have in the past confirmed to CNN -- that U.S. officials at times threaten prisoners that they will be handed over to a Mideast country friendly to the United States, such as Egypt, Jordan or Saudi Arabia -- nations that prisoners fear may torture them.

Officials in the past have also confirmed to CNN that the United States has handed some prisoners over to such nations.

The Post says some of the nations the prisoners are "rendered" to are documented by international human rights groups to have tortured prisoners.

In the past, U.S. officials have told CNN that while the CIA and the U.S. military do not torture prisoners, methods used "are not always genteel." A senior official said prisoners may "no longer know if it is day or night" and can be fed false information to try to get them to talk.

Officials say, however, that the U.S. view is that besides being illegal under international law, torture does not work, since it tends to produce unreliable information from prisoners who want the pain to stop.

The Post report says that, according to U.S. officials, "nearly 3,000 suspected al Qaeda members and their supporters have been detained worldwide" since the September 11 attacks, including about 625 at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. "Some officials estimated that fewer than 100 captives have been rendered to third countries," the Post reported.



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