Groups disappointed US not prosecuting CIA agents

By Rebecca Santana
Associated Press / April 18, 2009
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CAIRO - Human rights groups and former detainees in US custody expressed disappointment yesterday with the decision by President Obama not to prosecute CIA operatives who used interrogation practices described by many as torture.

Obama sought to turn a page on what he called "a dark and painful chapter" with his announcement a day earlier. He condemned the aggressive techniques - including waterboarding, shackling, and stripping - used on terror suspects while promising not to legally pursue the perpetrators.

But the decision left some bitter in the Muslim world, where there was widespread anger over abuse of detained terror suspects. It could tarnish somewhat Obama's growing popularity among Arabs and Muslims, who have cheered his promises to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facilities and withdraw US troops from Iraq.

"All of us in Guantanamo never had hope or faith in the American government," said Jomaa al-Dosari, a Saudi who spent six years in Guantanamo before being released last year. "We only ask God for our rights and to demand justice for the wrongs we experience in this life. There will be a time in history when every person who committed a wrong will be punished."

The editor of the Saudi Arabia-based Arab News daily, Khaled Almaeena, said the decision not to prosecute "sends the wrong message."

"They destroyed people's lives . . . Unfortunately, they're allowed to go scot free," he said of operatives who carried out the techniques.

The Obama administration on Thursday released secret CIA memos detailing interrogation tactics sanctioned under the Bush administration. As well as waterboarding, the memos authorized keeping detainees naked, in painful standing positions, and in cold cells for long periods of time. Other techniques included depriving them of solid food and slapping them. Sleep deprivation, prolonged shackling, and threats to a detainee's family also were used.

Obama's attorney general offered CIA operatives legal help if anyone else takes them to court, although the administration's offer of help did not extend to those outside the CIA who approved the so-called enhanced interrogation methods, or any CIA officers who may have gone beyond what was allowed.