Arab King, in Whose Prisons Torture is ‘Widespread,’ Says U.S. Engaged in Torture
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” King Abdullah of Jordan was asked by host David Gregory about Justice Department memos, released by President Obama, that made the legal case for using “enhanced techniques” of interrogation—including waterboarding—on top al Qaeda detainees.
The techniques were used, for example, on Khalid Sheik Muhummad, the terrorist who masterminded the September 11, 2001 attacks.
“Do you think the United States lost its moral bearing?” asked Gregory.
“I think that the view of America was negatively affected by, by this issue,” said the king. “Look, I mean, the questions that have been asked of the president, me as a non-American, it's in a way none of my business. But all I will say is that when you want to go down that path that you're opening sort of Pandora's box of where, where does it end.”
“Do you think the United States engaged in torture?” asked Gregory.
“Well,” said King Abdullah, “from what we've seen and what we've heard, that--there are enough accounts to show that that is the case. But there is still a major battle out there, and I think that America--and I think this is what President Obama is trying to do, is make sure that the, the legal system that America is known for is, is, is transparent to make sure that illegal activities aren't taking place.”
Asked Gregory again: “You actually do believe that the United States engaged in torture?”
“From what I see on, on, on, on the press, that shows that there were illegal ways of, of dealing with detainees,” said the king.
“Does torture work? Does it produce valuable intelligence?” asked Gregory.
“I'm not an expert to be able to say one way or another if it does,” said King Abdullah. “Again, it's such a gray area when it comes to, to a country at war. I think there, there are smarter ways of being able to deal with getting information.”
Gregory than explored the question of whether King Abdullah’s monarchy helped the U.S. engage in “torture.”
“But yet Jordan is one of the most stalwart U.S. allies in the Middle East. There's a lot of business that's done between the two countries and a very tight relationship. Did Jordan engage in torture in concert with the United States?” asked Gregory.
“No,” said King Abdullah. : And I, I, I have been told by my people that I've asked on, on many occasions, as these international issues came up, I think that we have been very smart in, in, in being intelligent of convincing operatives that we have come across to, to end up working for us. And you can't do that when it comes to torture.”
Gregory then pointed out that Human Rights Watch has accused King Abdullah’s Jordan of engaging in torture.
“The Human Rights Watch issued a report about Jordan which contradicts that, and it said the following. … ‘From 2001 until at least 2004, Jordan's General Intelligence Department served as a proxy jailer for the U.S. CIA, holding prisoners that the CIA apparently wanted kept out of circulation, and later handing some of them back to the CIA. More than just warehousing these men, the GID interrogated them using methods that were even more brutal than those in which the CIA has been implicated to date,’” said Gregory. “‘If the Jordanians did indeed promise the U.S. authorities that prisoners rendered there would not be tortured, it was a promise that neither the U.S. nor Jordan believed.’”
King Abdullah said he had checked with his intelligence director who told him such reports were not true.
“I--when that report came out, or when I was asked that question I think by one of your colleagues several years ago, I went straight back to my director of intelligence at the time and I said, ‘Is there any foundations to this?’” said King Abdullah. “And he said categorically no. And I made it quite clear to him and all the colleagues that have come up the ranks since then that we don't tolerate that. So I'd like to think that my people were telling me the truth.”
The most recent State Department report on Human Rights in Jordan, released at the end of February cited multiple international organizations that said Jordanian authorities engaged in torture. A United Nations special rapporteur said that torture was “widespread” in Jordan.
“Although torture is illegal in the country, an October report by the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), ‘Torture and Impunity in Jordan's Prisons,’ concluded that torture remained a widespread practice,” said the State Department report.
“Interviews with 66 prisoners in seven of the country's 10 prisons produced allegations of ill-treatment, which HRW concluded often amounted to torture,” said the report. “Common forms of torture detailed in the interviews were beatings with cables and sticks and suspension in metal cuffs for hours at a time. Political prisoners, including Islamists convicted of crimes against national security, reportedly received greater abuse than ordinary prisoners.”
State said the Human Rights Watch report also “documented the severe lack of punishment and failure to investigate abusive guards.”
“In a January 2007 report the UN special rapporteur on torture described police and security forces as practicing "widespread" torture based on ‘consistent and credible allegations,’ which he stated were substantiated by forensic medical evidence,” said the State Department report.
“April and May 2007 reports from the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR) and Amnesty International (AI), respectively, alleged torture and ill-treatment in government detention centers,” said the State Department.
King Abdullah said that with President Obama now approaching 100 days in office as the U.S. president the United States has a renewed excellent image in the Middle East.
“What's the image of the United States in the Middle East today?” asked “Meet the Press” moderator Gregory.
“Fantastic,” said King Abdullah.
“I want to say that I have been following, by chance, President Obama around the world,” said the king. “I was in England, a day or two behind him. I was in the Czech Republic. I just come from Japan on the way here to Washington. Wherever you go, and all the leaders that I've spoken to--in the Middle East--this president provides hope.
“Now, there was tremendous sympathy internationally for the United States and anger after 9/11, but today there’s a collective hope that there's a new America,” said King Abdullah. “And a new America means new values for, for the world. What everybody believed America to stand for is what I think Obama encompasses. But how long is that goodwill going to last? And that's some of the challenges that you have.”