During the early years of the Bush administration, the United States detained and tortured several alleged members of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which the U.S. listed as a terrorist organization, according to a report by Human Rights Watch researcher Laura Pitter. Pitter surveyed several documents discovered in Libyan intelligence offices after the fall of Muammer Qaddafi and interviewed fourteen Libyans who claimed to have been detained by Americans during that time. The most explosive allegation in the report is Mohammed Shoroeiya’s claim that the CIA waterboarded him. Bush administration officials have only acknowledged three instances of waterboarding, none of which include Shoroeiya:
One former detainee, Mohammed Shoroeiya, provided detailed and credible testimony that he was waterboarded on repeated occasions during US interrogations in Afghanistan. While never using the phrase “waterboarding,” he said that after his captors put a hood over his head and strapped him onto a wooden board, “then they start with the water pouring. They start to pour water to the point where you feel like you are suffocating.” He added that, “they wouldn’t stop until they got some kind of answer from me.” He said a doctor was present during the waterboarding and that this happened numerous times, so many times he could not count.
A second detainee in Afghanistan described being subjected to a water suffocation practice similar to waterboarding, and said that he was threatened with use of the board. A doctor was present during his suffocation-inducing abuse as well. The allegations of waterboarding contradict statements about the practice from senior US officials, such as former CIA Director Michael Hayden, who testified to the Senate that the CIA waterboarded only three individuals: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Former President Bush similarly declared in his memoirs that only three detainees in CIA custody were waterboarded. Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has also denied the use of waterboarding by the US military.
While New York Times notes that the allegations in the HRW report have yet to be independently verified, it also finds that the testimony in the report “match[es] up with official documents on C.I.A. techniques” and “underscores how much is still not known about the United States’ treatment of terrorist suspects during the early years of the Bush administration.” Though torture techniques like waterboarding are both morally abominable and widely considered to be ineffective by intelligence experts, Mitt Romney will not rule out reintroducing the torture of alleged terrorists if he wins the election.