Pentagon officials apparently lied to reporters last Friday when they said
that the top US general in Iraq had not permitted the use of banned interrogation
techniques such as stripping prisoners, sleep deprivation, un-muzzled military
dogs, and "environmental manipulation."
Speaking from the Pentagon briefing room on Friday, officials claimed
that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez had never even received requests for permission
to use the banned techniques. Now, documents prove that not only did Lt. Gen.
requests for permission to use the banned techniques, but he actually issued
orders directing implementation of the banned interrogation techniques.
On Friday, the Pentagon said that prior to May 13, certain harsh techniques
for interrogating prisoners had been allowed, but rarely used. Those harsh techniques
had included sleep deprivation, use of muzzled dogs, "environmental manipulation,"
and "segregation." They explained that segregation is essentially solitary confinement
for longer than one month.
The officials explained that those harsh interrogation techniques had been
only theoretically available -- for use in exceptional circumstances. They said
that "exceptions," meaning the use of harsh interrogation techniques, required
Lt. Gen. Sanchez’s approval. They insisted that the only "exceptions" made for
the use of harsh techniques were for 25 cases of "segregation."
According to these Pentagon officials, "Not a single exception was granted
for anything other than segregation."
When asked if any other "exceptions" had ever been requested, the officials
that such requests had "never reached the commanding general," meaning Sanchez.
Recently disclosed information shows their assurances were false.
On May 18, it was reported that the Army’s still-secret 6,000 page Taguba report
concludes that Lt. Gen. Sanchez approved
in writing the use of these same banned interrogation techniques that the Pentagon
denied were ever approved.
The Pentagon’s prevarications are also corroborated by a secret
sent by Col.
Thomas Pappas, the commander of Abu Ghraib prison, to Lt. Gen. Sanchez requesting
permission to use the same banned techniques—including stripping a detainee
Pappas has admitted
that under certain circumstances, intelligence officers under his command had
naked prisoners shackled to the floor during interrogations. However, at the
time in question, Pappas was under withering fire from his superiors
in Iraq to extract more intelligence from detainees.
Pappas was directly supervised by his commander, Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, with
whom he met up to 5 times per week. It was Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast who prioritized
interrogations, leaving it up to Pappas to carry them out.
Disciplinary action against Col. Pappas was recommended in the leaked summary
of the secret Taguba report, but no recommendations have been made against his
direct superiors, Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast and Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez.
A pattern of prevarication and buck-passing is starting to emerge.
Denials in stark contradiction to each other proliferate; secret reports, such
as the one painstakingly compiled by Major
General Antonio M. Taguba, are called into question.
Senior military officials speak without attribution, and officially contradict
reports that were touted by the Pentagon as the last word in candor hardly a
Americans have become inured to seeing closely worded denials from officials.
Even exquisitely constructed weasel words may be understandable in some sensitive
situations, but has outright lying now become an acceptable practice on the
part of public officials?