World

Powell's ex-aide speaks of torture 'cabal'

A former top official in the Bush administration is making new allegations that Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved the use of torture against al-Qaeda suspects and other foreign-held prisoners.

A former top official in the Bush administration is making new allegations that Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved the use of torture against al-Qaeda suspects and other foreign-held prisoners.

"They began to authorize procedures in the armed forces that led to, in my view, what we've seen," said Col. Larry Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to former secretary of state Colin Powell.

Wilkerson claims that Cheney and Rumsfeld formed what he called a "cabal" – a small secret group within the administration that tacitly approved torture.

According to a report published in the Washington Post this week, much of the alleged torture may be taking place in a number of covert Central Intelligence Agency prisons called "black sites."

Several of them are allegedly located in Eastern Europe, where they are used to house and interrogate al-Qaeda suspects.

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter said that if the Washington Post story is true, the existence of the prisons is a disgrace.

"It's an abomination," he said. "It's a discredit to our country; it's an embarrassment to our country, and it's a direct violation of the fact that America in the past has been looked upon as a champion of human rights."

The Bush administration declined to either confirm or deny the existence of secret CIA prisons around the world. It has also repeated its claim that it does not condone torture.

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