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Outlawed: Extraordinary Rendition, Torture and Disappearances in the 'War on Terror'

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As Spain acknowledges its territory may have been used as a stopover for the CIA’s transfer of prisoners known as extraordinary rendition, we excerpt a new documentary by the human rights group Witness. “Outlawed” tells the stories of two men who have survived extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and torture by the U.S. government working with various other governments worldwide. [includes rush transcript]

A Senate committee defied President Bush on Thursday by rejecting his revised plan to interrogate and prosecute terrorism suspects and approving alternative legislation that he strongly opposed.

The Senate Armed Services Committee passed the bill affirming Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits inhumane treatment. The White House wants military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay to maintain the right to use evidence obtained through coercion and to keep elements of prosecution cases secret from those accused.

Four Republicans, including Arizona’s John McCain and committee chair John Warner, joined Democrats in approving the measure. The White House says it will fight the legislation because it would mean the end of the CIA’s program of interrogating detainees.

Meanwhile in Europe, the Spanish government has admitted Spain may have been used as a stopover for secret CIA flights in the practice of transferring prisoners known as extraordinary rendition–what others call kidnapping. The news comes a week after President Bush acknowledged for the first time that the CIA has been operating a secret network of overseas prisons.

Today we turn to a new documentary that tells the stories of two men who have survived extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and torture by the U.S. government working with various other governments worldwide. It’s called * “Outlawed”* and it’s produced by the international human rights organization * Witness*. The film highlights the cases of Khalid El-Masri and Binyam Mohamed.

  • Outlawed: Extraordinary Rendition, Torture and Disappearances in the 'War on Terror'–an excerpt of the * documentary* produced by the international human rights group * Witness*.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Today, we turn to a new documentary that tells the stories of two men who survived extraordinary rendition, secret detention and torture by the U.S. government, working with various other governments worldwide. It’s called Outlawed, and it’s produced by the international human rights organization Witness. The film highlights the cases of Khalid El-Masri and Binyam Mohamed.

Mohamed is a 23-year-old Ethiopian national who was arrested by Pakistani forces at Karachi airport in 2002 while boarding a flight to return to his home in Britain. He was then handed over to U.S. custody. His family was given an unclassified copy of his diary. In the documentary Outlawed, Binyam Mohamed’s brother, who wanted to keep his identity concealed, reads from Binyam’s diary.

BINYAM MOHAMED: [read by his brother] “I refused to talk in Karachi until they gave me a lawyer. I said it was my right to have a lawyer. The FBI said, 'The law has changed, there are no lawyers. You can cooperate with us the easy way or the hard way.' On the first day of the interrogation 'Chuck' said, 'If you don't talk to me you are going to Jordan. We can’t do what we want here. The Arabs will deal with you.’”

NARRATOR: July 21, 2002, Pakistan to Morocco. Mohamed is flown from Pakistan to Morocco in a CIA plane and imprisoned in an undisclosed location. Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

LOUISE ARBOUR: The rendition actually is the transfer of a person who is in the custody of state a to state b with no judicial supervision.

NARRATOR: Michael Scheuer, chief architect of the CIA’s rendition program.

MICHAEL SCHEUER: The goals of the rendition program were only two at the beginning, and I think primarily they remain the same. They were, one, to get individuals off the street, who we knew were senior in al-Qaeda or its allies and who posed a threat to the United States. The second goal of the rendition program was very simply at the time of the capture of any individual or the time a cell was disrupted, to seize whatever documents were available. Interrogation was never a central goal. After 9/11, the rendition program shifted, in the sense that we were going to begin holding people ourselves.

BINYAM MOHAMED: [read by his brother] “I was taken from airport, blindfolded and cuffed by a van to the security zone. It was when I got to Morocco that they said that some big people in Al Qaeda were talking about me. They told me that the U.S. had a story they wanted from me and that it was their job to get it. They talked about Jose Padilla, and they said I was going to testify against him and big people. The interrogator told me that we have been working with the British. I was surprised that the British were siding with the Americans. I sought asylum in Britain rather than America because it’s known as the one country that has laws that it follows.”

NARRATOR: According to the 2006 report by Swiss Senator Dick Marty on behalf of the Council of Europe, governments throughout Europe have actively participated in unlawful CIA operations, leading to the rendition and secret detention of European citizens and residents.

BINYAM MOHAMED: [read by his brother] “It never crossed my mind that I would end up being hauled half way across the world by the Americans to face torture in a place I had never been, Morocco.”

NARRATOR: U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE: The United States has not transported anyone and will not transport anyone to a country when we believe he will be tortured. Where appropriate, the United States seeks assurances that transferred persons will not be tortured.

NARRATOR: Again, CIA analyst Michael Scheuer.

MICHAEL SCHEUER: Ultimately diplomatic assurances are worthless. No country, whether it’s the United States or France or Egypt or Saudi Arabia, is going to let you inside their prisons to see how they’re handling their prisoners.

BINYAM MOHAMED: [read by his brother] “They would say, 'There is this guy who would say you are a big man in Al Qaeda.' I would say, 'It is a lie.' They would torture me. I would say, 'OK it is true,' they would say, 'OK tell us more.' I would say, 'I don't know more,’ they would torture me again. The guards would say, ’America’s really pissed off at what happened, and they have said to the world, “either you are with us or against us.” We Moroccans say, “We are with you,” so we will do whatever they want.’”

NARRATOR: Once again, Michael Scheuer.

MICHAEL SCHEUER: We, as an intelligence service, because we are fortunate enough to have a large budget, can bring to the table, in dealing with third world intelligence services, money, modern computer equipment, armaments, other things that can attract their interest in working with us. All of those things are important, and they’re necessary to forge the relationship. But there are also elements which make you very cautious about the information you receive from those intelligence services. They are not going to want to give you, for example, information that might make you think the relationship isn’t worth the money you’re investing in it.

NARRATOR: January 23rd, 2004, Macedonia to Afghanistan. After being beaten, Khalid El-Masri is shackled, blindfolded and pulled onto a waiting plane. He is given two injections and falls unconscious. He awakens shortly before arriving in a prison in Afghanistan

KHALID EL-MASRI: [translated] I was then brought to my cell. The next day, I was interrogated by a Lebanese man, also dressed in black, with a south Lebanese accent. And standing in the room were also six or seven disguised men, also all in black. And he shouted at me and said, “You are in a country with no laws. Do you know what this means? We can lock you up here for 20 years or bury you, nobody would know.”

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We do not condone torture. I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture. The values of this country are such that torture is not a part of our soul and our being.

NARRATOR: August 2002, Morocco. Mohamed is tortured by “Marwan” and his masked accomplices.

BINYAM MOHAMED: [read by his brother] “They cut off my clothes with some kind of doctor’s scalpel. I was totally naked. They took the scalpel to my right chest. It was only a small cut, maybe an inch. At first I just screamed. One of them took my penis in his hand and began to make a cut. He did it once and then stood still for maybe a minute, watched my reaction. It was an agony, crying, trying desperately to suppress my feelings, but I was screaming. There was blood all over. 'If I told you I was going to teach you — I told you I was going to teach you who is the man,' 'Marwan' eventually said. They cut all over my private parts. One of them said it would be better just to cut it off, as it would only breed terrorists. I suffered the razor treatment about once a month for the remaining time I was in Morocco. It became like a routine. They used to be very slow. Deliberately slow. One would cut me. They would take a rest. Then another would take his turn.

“In all 18 months I was there, I never went outside. I never saw the sun, not even once. I never saw any human being except the guards and my tormentors. When the Americans told me in Karachi, 'Our friends the Arabs know how to deal with you,' I didn’t really know what they were talking about. Now I understand why the Americans called the Moroccans 'our Arab friends.'”

AMY GOODMAN: The brother of Binyam Mohamed reading from his detained brother’s diary. An excerpt of the documentary, Outlawed: Extraordinary Rendition, Torture and Disappearances in the 'War on Terror', produced by the human rights group, Witness.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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