On the eve of the Iraq war, Pentagon lawyers gave
license to torturing suspected terrorists in custody. Use of drugs on prisoners
wasn't banned in all cases. Even killing in some cases was justified.
That's the gist of a March 6, 2003, draft Pentagon report titled, "Working
Group Report on Detainee Interrogations in the Global War on Terrorism."
Or at least the first half of it. Pages 1-56 have been declassified, but the
rest of the 100-plus-page report – starting with a key section called "Considerations
Affecting Policy" – is still classified. And the administration refuses to let
even Congress see it.
The unclassified first half of the report focuses on interrogation of al-Qaeda
detainees at Gitmo. It says torturing them, even to death, may be justified
if it extracts information that can prevent future 9-11s. And it duly notes
the terrorists, who were captured in Afghanistan, are "unlawful combatants"
not covered by Geneva Convention protections against such abuse.
Though legally licensing torture is a ghoulish first for America, so was 9-11. So I'm
not losing any sleep over any al-Qaeda torture victims at Gitmo who have information about another attack.
Question is, does the second half of the report also authorize torturing Iraqi
detainees, who had nothing to do with 9-11 and are protected by Geneva rules?
The administration, bent on linking Iraq and Afghanistan as co-equal fronts
in the war on terror, still maintains that al-Qaeda and other terrorists are
in Iraq. Last year, U.S. proconsul Paul Bremer claimed "we have almost two dozen
al-Qaeda in detention now," only to find out later that none of them in fact
And listen to this little-noticed exchange on May 11 between a member of the
Senate Armed Services Committee and Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who led the investigation
into Abu Ghraib prison abuses.
Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo.: Did we have terrorists in the population at
Taguba: Sir, none that we were made aware of.
In fact, Taguba said in his investigative report that three in five Iraqi detainees
were innocent of any crime, and should have been immediately released.
Yet Iraqi detainees were subjected to the same harsh interrogation techniques
as al-Qaeda detainees at Gitmo.
Here is a list of so-called Category II and Category III interrogation techniques
authorized for use at Gitmo early last year, according to a Jan. 8, 2003, memo
written by a JAG officer and circulated among Army intelligence officials at
Gitmo, the Bagram base in Afghanistan, and U.S. Central Command in Tampa. I
obtained a copy of the two-page memo, which permits (and I quote):
- Use of stress positions (like standing) for a maximum of four hours;
- Use of falsified documents or reports;
- Use of isolation facility for up to 30 days unless CG [commanding general]
- Use of environment other than standard interrogation booth;
- Deprivation of light and sound;
- Use of hood as long as it does not restrict breathing and under direct observation;
- Use of 20-hour interrogations;
- Removal of comfort items, including religious items;
- Switching from hot rations to MREs [meals ready to eat];
- Removal of clothing;
- Forced grooming (i.e., shaving of facial hair);
- Using individual phobias (e.g., fear of dogs) to induce stress;
- Use of mild, non-injurious physical contact such as grabbing, poking in
the chest with the finger and light pushing.
The methods mirror ones posted on a wall at Abu Ghraib by military intelligence
on Oct. 18, 2003, about the time much of the more serious abuses at the prison
began. The document, titled "Interrogation Rules
of Engagement," was posted by Capt. Carolyn A. Wood, the officer in charge
of the interrogation center at Abu Ghraib.
It turns out she was also the officer in charge of interrogations at the no-holds-barred
Bagram detention facility, where at least two inmates were murdered.
Her wall posting was adapted from recommendations made by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey
Miller, who headed interrogations at Gitmo until Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Richard
Myers and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sent him to Abu Ghraib in August
2003 to overhaul interrogation procedures in Iraq.
The harsher techniques he imported from Gitmo were codified in a Sept. 14 memo
signed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top commander in Iraq at the time.
From all accounts, that Sept. 14 memo basically authorized doing whatever interrogators
wanted to do to Iraqi detainees to not only find Saddam Hussein, but also the
alleged weapons of mass destruction the White House claimed he had before it
ordered its invasion.
That Sept. 14 memo is still classified, however, and the administration won't
let Congress see it, just like it won't let it see the rest of the draft of
the Pentagon torture paper, which reportedly includes an attachment listing
specific interrogation techniques authorized by Rumsfeld himself on April 16,
2003, as U.S. troops started locking up Iraqis en masse.
It looks more and more as if the administration doesn't want Congress and the
public to see the documents for sinister reasons. They may be the smoking guns
that prove Pentagon brass illegally Gitmo-ized interrogations in Iraq, thereby
setting the conditions for the systemic abuse of prisoners covered by the Geneva
Conventions there. That would make civilian leaders liable for war crimes, and
not just "a few bad apples" among low-ranking reservists who carried out their