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America accused

From Mary Snow

Wolf Blitzer Reports
Amnesty International
Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (Cuba)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Amnesty International's criticism of the United States is scathing. It compares U.S. treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay to the old Soviet prison system, calling it the "gulag of our times."

"We have documented the use of torture and mistreatment, widespread throughout the world. We have documented that the U.S. government is a leading purveyor and practitioner of the odious human rights violation," says William Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International.

The human rights watchdog group accuses U.S. officials of engaging in secrecy around interrogation policies at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.

It cites what it calls "ghost detainees" -- inmates hidden from the Red Cross -- beatings, the use of dogs to incite fear among inmates and transferring detainees to countries that practice torture.

It says if the United States fails to hold those responsible accountable, then other countries should step in.

"Amnesty International calls today on foreign governments to uphold their obligations under international law by investigating all senior U.S. officials involved in the torture scandal," Schulz said Wednesday.

It calls for an investigation of President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whom it labels a "torture architect," along with former CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, among others.

The White House did not mince words.

"I think the allegations are ridiculous and unsupported by the facts. The United States is leading the way when it comes to protecting human rights and promoting human dignity. We have liberated 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan," said White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan.

"The U.S. detains enemy combatants to prevent them from continuing to wage terror and war ... The combatant status review tribunals provided an appropriate venue for detainees to meaningfully challenge their enemy combatant designation" said a statement the Defense Department.

Those are unprecedented rights for detainees, the Defense Department says.

And from the State Department, spokesman Richard Boucher said, "In country after country, around the world, you'll see the United States is supporting democracy in the fight against terrorism."

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