WASHINGTON — A Libyan man says he was waterboarded while in CIA custody in Afghanistan, a new allegation that challenges the long-standing claim by U.S. officials that just three people since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, had been subjected to the simulated drowning technique many consider torture.
The account by Mohammed Shoroeiya, who says he was detained in Pakistan in April 2003 and kept in American custody in Afghanistan through 2004, is part of a series of new claims included in a report by Human Rights Watch published Thursday. The report comes two days after the Justice Department closed two unrelated investigations of the deaths of detainees in CIA custody with no charges.
The 156-page report provides new details about how the CIA captured Libyan extremists, held and questioned them at a secret CIA site in Afghanistan, and sent them back to Libya in cooperation with then-leader Moammar Gadhafi, who was mending relations with the United States.
Five Libyans describe being chained naked, sometimes diapered, in dark cells, for weeks or months; being restrained in painful stress positions and forced into cramped spaces; being beaten and slammed into walls; and being constantly exposed to loud music to deprive them of sleep.
Without using the term "waterboarding," Shoroeiya said he was strapped to a board with his head lower than his feet, and buckets of cold water were poured over his nose and mouth, making him feel he was going to suffocate.
The report recounts interviews with 14 Libyans, most of them former members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an extremist group whose members were found to have played a key role in the Iraq insurgency. They describe experiences consistent with official accounts of how the CIA treated detainees in the Bush administration's detention, interrogation and rendition program.
This reflects "just how little the public still knows about what went on in the U.S. secret detention program," author Laura Pitter wrote.