Human Rights Groups: U.S. Is Secretly Holding 39 'Ghost Detainees'

A coalition of human rights groups has drawn up a list of 39 terror suspects it believes are being secretly imprisoned by U.S. authorities and published their names in a report released Thursday.

Information about the so-called "ghost detainees" was gleaned from interviews with former prisoners and officials in the U.S., Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen, according to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and four other groups.

"What we're asking is where are these 39 people now, and what's happened to them since they 'disappeared'?" Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said "there's a lot of myth outside government when it comes to the CIA and the fight against terror."

"The plain truth is that we act in strict accord with American law, and that our counterterror initiatives — which are subject to careful review and oversight — have been very effective in disrupting plots and saving lives," Gimigliano said. "The United States does not conduct or condone torture."

Information on the purported missing detainees was, in some cases, incomplete, the report acknowledged. Some detainees had been added to the list because Marwan Jabour, an Islamic militant who claims to have spent two years in CIA custody, remembered being shown photos of them during interrogations, it said.

Others were identified only by their first or last names, like "al-Rubaia," who was added to the list after a fellow inmate reported seeing the name scribbled onto the wall of his cell.

But information for at least 21 of the detainees had been confirmed by two or more independent sources, said Anne Fitzgerald, a senior adviser for Amnesty International.

President Bush acknowledged the existence of secret detention centers in September 2006, but said that the prisons were then empty.

Bush said 14 terrorism suspects that the CIA had been holding, including a mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, had been transferred to military custody at Guantanamo Bay for trials.

Fitzgerald said she wasn't convinced that the sites were ever emptied, and claimed a program of secret detentions was ongoing.

"We wanted (the detainees') names in the public eye because of the impression that this is over, this is finished, and they're not doing this anymore," Fitzgerald said. "That's clearly not the case."

Detainees on the list include Hassan Ghul and Ali Abd al-Rahman al-Faqasi al-Ghamdi, who were both named in the 9-11 Commission report as Al Qaeda operatives.

Another is Mustafa Setmarian Nasar, a jihadist ideologue named as one of the FBI's "Most Wanted Terrorists." U.S. officials have confirmed that Nasar was seized in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta in November 2005, and the activists' report said that he was taken into U.S. custody after his arrest, citing unnamed Pakistani officials. His current location is unknown.

Also missing is Mohammed Omar Abdel-Rahman, the son of the Omar Abdel-Rahman, the "Blind Sheik" behind the first plot against the World Trade Center in New York, the report said.

Most of the 35 other detainees mentioned in the report have been previously identified, with the exception of four Libyans, alleged members of the Al Qaeda-linked Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.

The report says they were handed to U.S. authorities and have not been heard from since.

The four other groups involved in drafting the report were the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University's School of Law, and Reprieve and Cageprisoners — both London-based rights groups.