United States is now relying heavily on foreign intelligence services to capture and interrogate all but the highest-level terror suspects seized outside the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, a media report said on Sunday.
The change represents a significant loosening of the reins for the US, which has worked closely with allies to combat violent extremism since the 9/11 attacks but is now pushing that cooperation to new limits, the New York Times reported, citing current and former American government officials.
In the past 10 months, for example, about a half-dozen mid-level financiers and logistics experts working with al-Qaeda have been captured and are being held by intelligence services in four Middle Eastern countries after the US provided information that led to their arrests by local security services, a former American counter-terrorism official was quoted as saying.
In addition, Pakistan's intelligence and security services captured a Saudi suspect and a Yemeni suspect this year with the help of American intelligence and logistical support, Pakistani officials were quoted as saying.
The two are highest ranking operatives captured since President Obama took office, but they are still being held by Pakistan, which has shared information from their interrogation with the United States, the official told the newspaper.
The current approach, which began in the last two years of the Bush administration and has gained momentum under Obama, is driven in part by court rulings and policy changes that have closed the secret prisons run by the Central Intelligence Agency and all but ended the transfer of prisoners from outside Iraq and Afghanistan to American military prisons, it noted.
Human rights advocates say that relying on foreign governments to hold and question terrorist suspects could carry significant risks. It could increase the potential for abuse at the hands of foreign interrogators and could also yield bad intelligence, they say.
The fate of many terrorist suspects whom the Bush administration sent to foreign countries remains uncertain. One suspect Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who was captured by the CIA in late 2001 and sent to Libya, was recently reported to have died there in Libyan custody.