U.S. Relies More on Aid of Allies in Terror Cases
The United States is now relying heavily on foreign intelligence services to capture, interrogate and detain all but the highest-level terrorist suspects seized outside the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, according to current and former American government officials.
In the past 10 months, for example, about a half-dozen midlevel financiers and logistics experts working with Al Qaeda have been captured and are being held by intelligence services in four Middle Eastern countries after the United States provided information that led to their arrests by local security services, a former American counterterrorism official said.
Human rights advocates say that relying on foreign governments to hold and question terrorist suspects could carry significant risks. It could increase the potential for abuse at the hands of foreign interrogators and could also yield bad intelligence, they say.
American officials say that in the last years of the Bush administration and now on Mr. Obama’s watch, the balance has shifted toward leaving all but the most high-level terrorist suspects in foreign rather than American custody. The United States has repatriated hundreds of detainees held at prisons in Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan, but the current approach is different because it seeks to keep the prisoners out of American custody altogether.
As a safeguard against torture, Mr. Panetta said, the United States would rely on diplomatic assurances of good treatment. The Bush administration sought the same assurances, which critics say are ineffective.