( Reuters ) - A secret CIA overseas detention program revealed by President George W. Bush last year is still active and has held at least one al Qaeda militant since then, a U.S. official said on Thursday.
The official confirmed the detention as the White House skirted around whether the agency had begun using secret sites again and insisted that the United States does not torture.
The New York Times on Thursday reported the CIA was again holding prisoners at "black sites" overseas, and that the Justice Department under then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had issued a secret opinion in 2005 that endorsed the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the CIA.
The detention program, first revealed by The Washington Post in late 2005 and then acknowledged by Bush in September 2006, provoked an international outcry, with critics accusing the administration of secretly using torture to interrogate terrorism suspects.
Bush said all 14 high-level terrorism suspects held at that time had been transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But the Defense Department said in April it had taken custody of a suspected al Qaeda leader who had spent months in CIA custody before his transfer.
A U.S. counterterrorism official, asked about detentions under the program, said: "In late 2006, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, a high-ranking al Qaeda terrorist who planned and conducted attacks against U.S. military forces, was captured and held in CIA custody. Earlier this year, this veteran jihadist was transferred to (Defense Department) custody at Guantanamo Bay."
An al Qaeda leader said in May that Iraqi had been arrested in Turkey and handed over to the Americans.
It was not known whether any more suspects were being held under the program. Asked if the CIA currently has people in detention, agency spokesman George Little said, "We do not comment on this question as a matter of course."