Despite the warnings, the United States continued to transfer detainees to Afghan intelligence service custody, the officials said. Even as other countries stopped handing over detainees to problematic facilities, the U.S. government did not.
U.S. Special Operations troops delivered detainees to Department 124. CIA officials regularly visited the facility, which was rebuilt last year with American money, to interrogate high-level Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects, according to Afghan and Western officials familiar with the site. Afghan intelligence officials said Americans never participated in the torture but should have known about it.
When the United Nations on Aug. 30 brought allegations of widespread detainee abuse to Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. military commander here, he took swift action ahead of the public release of the findings. Coalition troops stopped transferring detainees to Department 124 and 15 other police and intelligence agency prisons. They also hastily began a program to monitor those facilities and conduct human rights classes for interrogators.
But the prospect that U.S. officials failed to act on prior warnings raises questions about their compliance with a law, known as the Leahy Amendment, that prohibits the United States from funding units of foreign security forces when there is credible evidence that they have committed human rights abuses.
The State Department is investigating whether the law applies and what funding might be affected, according to U.S. officials.
American officials denied that they had ignored credible warnings of detainee abuse and said that whenever such an allegation was raised, they took action. For instance, Gen. David H. Petraeus, when he was the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, ordered a halt to detainee transfers to Afghan intelligence and police custody in Kandahar in July.
“Anyplace that we’ve had a concern in the past, we’ve taken the appropriate steps, I’m confident of that, and we’re taking the appropriate steps now,” Lt. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said in an interview. “I don’t see it as a systemic problem, as some have said it might be.”
White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the United States has a “long-standing policy against transferring individuals to torture” and that “whenever allegations of human rights violations are raised with us, we move quickly to work with the host government to investigate and resolve them.”