- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 15, 2005

The prime minister of Egypt said yesterday that more than “60 or 70” terror suspects had been sent to his country by the United States since September 11, the first public acknowledgment by any country that it receives detainees from U.S. agencies in the legal practice known as rendition.

“I don’t know the exact number, but I know that people have been sent” to Egypt, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif told NBC’s “Meet The Press.”

“The numbers vary — there have been over 60 or 70,” he said.

Mr. Nazif denied, however, that the suspects were tortured as a matter of policy, an accusation made by human rights groups, although he acknowledged that abuses did occur.

“To say that we’re bringing them back to torture them, I think, is not a very accurate statement,” he said. “We shouldn’t be doing that, we’re not doing that, but it happens sometimes, and we’ve seen police abuses all over the world, but I don’t think it should be taken as a standard practice.”

Rendition is a procedure in which the United States hands terror suspects over to foreign governments for interrogation or trial, avoiding what officials regard as the overly burdensome process of extradition.

“The secretary of state has to sign off on an extradition,” Elisa Massimino of Human Rights First told United Press International yesterday. “It is more highly regulated [than rendition], and the courts are rightly reluctant to let people be sent to places where they might be tortured.”

Ms. Massimino said the CIA has practiced rendition for nearly two decades as a matter of routine and publicly acknowledged counterterrorism policy.

“It’s outsourcing torture, effectively,” she said.

The Bush administration insists that it “neither uses nor condones torture,” as one CIA official authorized to speak for the agency told UPI recently.

Other officials say the scope, nature and frequency of the practice, the authority for which dates to the 1986 presidential finding that established the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, has been significantly expanded since September 11, 2001.

But the new authorities were granted in a highly classified presidential memorandum signed by President Bush on Sept. 17, 2001, and officials generally decline to comment in detail.

In the past, however, U.S. officials have publicly discussed the practice. On Feb. 2, 2000, CIA Director George J. Tenet told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that more than two dozen terror suspects had been rendered in the previous 18 months.

A former senior intelligence official said yesterday that “the large majority” of pre-September 11 renditions were to Egypt. The former official added that the people handed over were Egyptians and were wanted by the authorities in their home country.

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