The US Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) controversial "rendition"
program was launched under US president Bill Clinton, a former US counter-terrorism
agent has told a German newspaper.
Michael Scheuer, a 22-year veteran of the CIA who resigned from the agency
in 2004, has told Die Zeit that the US administration had been looking in the
mid-1990s for a way to combat the terrorist threat and circumvent the cumbersome
US legal system.
"President Clinton, his national security adviser Sandy Berger and his
terrorism adviser Richard Clark ordered the CIA in the autumn of 1995 to destroy
Al Qaeda," Mr Scheuer said.
"We asked the president what we should do with the people we capture.
Clinton said 'That's up to you'."
Mr Scheuer, who headed the CIA unit that tracked Al Qaeda leader Osama bin
Laden from 1996 to 1999, says he developed and led the "renditions"
He says the program includes moving prisoners without due legal process to
countries without strict human rights protections.
"In Cairo, people are not treated like they are in Milwaukee," he
"The Clinton administration asked us if we believed that the prisoners
were being treated in accordance with local law.
"And we answered, 'yes, we're fairly sure'."
He says at the time the CIA did not arrest or imprison anyone itself.
"That was done by the local police or secret services," he said,
adding the prisoners were never taken to US soil.
"President Clinton did not want that," he said.
He says the program changed under Mr Clinton's successor, President George
W Bush, after the attacks of September 11, 2001.
"We started putting people in our own institutions - in Afghanistan, Iraq
and Guantanamo," he said.
"The Bush administration wanted to capture people itself but made the
same mistake as the Clinton administration by not treating these people as prisoners
He accused Europeans of being hypocritical in criticising the US administration
for its anti-terrorism tactics while benefiting from them.
"All the information we received from interrogations and documents, everything
that had to do with Spain, Italy, Germany, France, England was passed on,"
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended renditions on a trip to Europe
this month as a "vital tool" for fighting international terrorism
but insisted that the US does not condone torture.