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August 03, 2006

Human Rights First Observing CIA Contractor Abuse Trial

On Monday August 7, the trial of David Passaro, a CIA contractor, opens in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Judge Terrence Boyle presiding. Passaro is implicated in the June 2003 death of detainee Abdul Wali in Afghanistan and. is charged with four counts of assault for allegedly beating Wali during interrogation. 

Passaro’s trial raises larger questions about the responsibility of senior U.S. officials for failing to provide clear and lawful guidance on acceptable interrogation techniques to interrogators in Afghanistan. Passaro plans to argue that his actions were consistent with authorized interrogation policies and permitted by a series of Executive Branch memos. 

It is unclear whether the CIA is currently in compliance with the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, which held that the prohibition against cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in the Geneva Conventions applies to the conflict against al Qaeda. While the CIA has long said that it conforms its interrogation policies to legal guidance issued by the Justice Department, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales recently testified that he was unaware of any new guidance issued by the CIA to ensure compliance with the ban on cruel treatment. Passaro’s case highlights the need for clear policy guidance on detainee interrogation standards from the CIA leadership to its agents and contractors. 

Priti Patel, Associate Attorney in the Law & Security Program, will be present at the trial. Priti is an expert on U.S. detention and interrogation policy and has traveled repeatedly to Afghanistan to meet with released detainees.

If you'd like to speak with Priti, please contact Danielle Lewis at 202/293-6200, ext. 208 or Cynthia Burns at 212/845-5237.

For more information regarding deaths in U.S. custody, click here. http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/our-work/law-and-security/end-torture/commands-responsibility-detainee-deaths-in-u-s-custody-in-iraq-and-afghanistan/