US embassy on alert after CIA probe report

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US embassy on alert after CIA probe report
The Nation / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The US embassy in Bangkok and others all over the world stepped up security and issued warnings for US citizens to be aware that the release of a Senate report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s harsh interrogation program against terrorism suspects could prompt anti-American protests and violence.

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The US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the declassified versions of the executive summary, findings, and conclusions of the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program on Tuesday, saying the US spy agency used brutal techniques in its operations against terrorists.

“US citizens should pay attention to their surroundings and take appropriate safety precautions, including avoiding demonstrations or confrontational situations,” the embassy statement said.

“We strongly recommend that US citizens travelling to or residing in Thailand enrol in the Department of State’s Smart Traveller Enrolment Programme (STEP) at www.travel.state.gov.”

The embassy in Bangkok and the US consular office in Chiang Mai are available for Americans to keep in contact, it said. US embassies and other sites were taking precautions amid “some indications” of “greater risk”, a White House spokesman said.

The Senate’s report said the CIA’s interrogation of terrorism suspects in secret prisons between 2002 and 2006 were more brutal than policy-makers were told and in some cases amounted to torture that failed to generate effective intelligence.

Methods and techniques of interrogation used by the CIA ranged from waterboarding to the menacing whir of a power drill.

Records do not support CIA representations that the agency initially used an “an open, non-threatening approach” or that interrogations began with the “least coercive technique possible” and escalated to more coercive techniques only as necessary.

The waterboarding technique was physically harmful, inducing convulsions and vomiting. Abu Zubaydah, for example, became “completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth”, the Senate’s report said.

In May 2002, before the CIA used “enhanced interrogation” techniques, Abu Zubaydah had identified “Zubair” as a Malaysian national who was associated with “KSM” and who could be used by KSM to conduct attacks in Thailand. According to Abu Zubaydah, Zubair also assisted Abu Zubaydah in obtaining passports from a printer facility in either Thailand or Malaysia, the report said.

KSM stands for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is widely regarded as the main architect of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.

Thailand is mentioned in the Senate report many times for its role in facilitating and sheltering terrorism suspects as well as helping US authorities capture some key suspects. One of the prime suspects in the 2002 Bali bombing, Hambali, was arrested in Thailand in 2003 by a joint operation between US and Thai security officials.

The capture of Hambali is one of the eight most frequently cited examples provided by the CIA as evidence of the effectiveness of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, the Senate report said, but it questioned the agency’s spin on the incident.

Years ago, leaked reports indicated that the CIA used facilities in Thailand for detention, harsh interrogation and torture, but the US Senate report, which was heavily censored in many parts, did not mention these clearly.

The CIA operation took place while George W Bush was president of the United States and the Thai government was under Thaksin Shinawatra.

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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