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Jordan's Spy Agency: Holding Cell for the CIA

Independent monitors have become increasingly critical of Jordan's record. Since 2006, the United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have issued reports on abuses in Jordan, often singling out the General Intelligence Department.

Former prisoners have reported that their captors were expert in two practices in particular: falaqa, or beating suspects on the soles of their feet with a truncheon and then, often, forcing them to walk barefoot and bloodied across a salt-covered floor; and farruj, or the "grilled chicken," in which prisoners are handcuffed behind their legs, hung upside down by a rod placed behind their knees, and beaten.

In a report released in January 2007, Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special investigator for torture, found that "the practice of torture is routine" at GID headquarters and concluded "that there is total impunity for torture and ill-treatment in the country."

Officials with the GID did not respond to a letter seeking an interview for this article. The Jordanian Foreign Ministry also did not respond to interview requests.

The CIA declined to comment on its relationship with the GID but defended in general the covert transfer of terrorism suspects to other countries, a practice known as rendition.

"The United States does not transfer individuals to any country if it believes they will be tortured there," said Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman. "Setting aside the myths, rendition is, in fact, a lawful, effective tool that has been used over the years on a very limited scale, and is designed to take terrorists off the street."

'In Jordan, Nobody Asks'

Immediately after Sept. 11, the CIA had nowhere to hold terrorism suspects it had captured abroad. The military prison at Guantanamo did not open until January 2002. And it took the CIA until the spring of 2002 to get its own network of secret overseas prisons up and running.

Short on options, the CIA sought help from its counterparts in Jordan. Soon, CIA airplanes began carrying prisoners to Amman.

Jamil Qasim Saeed Mohammed, a Yemeni microbiology student, was captured in a U.S.-Pakistani operation in Karachi a few weeks after 9/11 on suspicion of helping to finance al-Qaeda operations. Witnesses reported seeing masked men take him aboard a Gulfstream V jet at the Karachi airport Oct. 24, 2001.

Records show that the plane was chartered by a CIA front company and that it flew directly to Amman. Mohammed has not been seen since. Amnesty International said it has asked the Jordanian government for information on his whereabouts but has not received an answer.

About the same time, Jamal Alawi Mari, another Yemeni citizen, was apprehended at his home in Karachi by Pakistani and U.S. agents. Records show that U.S. officials suspected him of working for Islamic charities that allegedly supported al-Qaeda.

Soon after, Mari was also flown by the CIA to Amman. "They never told me where I was going," he testified later before a U.S. military tribunal. "I found out later I was in Jordan."

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