DOJ official: Rumsfeld personally approved of brutal interrogations
By Jason Leopold
Online Journal Contributing Writer
Jun 16, 2008, 00:17
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld personally
authorized the use of brutal interrogation techniques against suspected
terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay despite warnings from the FBI that the
methods amounted to inhumane treatment, was possibly illegal, and would not
produce reliable intelligence, a Department of Justice inspector general
testified last Tuesday.
"The FBI believed that these techniques were not
getting actionable information, that they were unsophisticated and
unproductive," said Glenn Fine, the DOJ�s inspector general, in testimony
before the Senate Judiciary Committee. "They raised their concerns with
the Department of Defense, but the Department of Defense, from what we were
told, dismissed those concerns and that no changes were made in the Department
of Defense's strategy."
Rumsfeld, who resigned immediately after the 2006-midterm
elections, has vehemently denied that he approved of torture. The Justice
Department�s Office of Legal Counsel provided the Defense Department with legal
guidelines that authorized techniques such as waterboarding, the use of
military dogs, and �slaps� and concluded that as long as �organ failure� did
not occur the methods could not be construed as torture.
Fine issued a 437-page report last month on the Bush
administration�s interrogation policies, which found that White House officials
ignored FBI concerns about the treatment of detainees.
His testimony comes on the heels of a letter signed by 56
House Democrats that was sent to Attorney General Michael Mukasey the previous
Friday, requesting that he appoint a special prosecutor to investigate whether
White House officials, including President Bush, violated the War Crimes Act
when they allowed interrogators to use brutal interrogation methods against
detainees suspected of ties to terrorist organizations.
�The Bush administration may have systematically implemented,
from the top down, detainee interrogation policies that constitute torture or
otherwise violate the law," the letter to Mukasey says. �We believe that
these serious and significant revelations warrant an immediate investigation to
determine whether actions taken by the President, his Cabinet, and other
Administration officials are in violation of the War Crimes Act, the
Anti-Torture Act, and other U.S. and international laws.�
In October 2002, Fine said, FBI agents raised concerns with
Marion Bowman, the Justice Department�s deputy general counsel in charge of
national security, about the methods used during interrogations at Guantanamo
Bay. An FBI agent stationed at Guantanamo then sent the agency an analysis on
November 27, 2002, calling into question the legality of the interrogation
techniques, stating that the methods used appeared to violate the U.S. Torture
statute. Bowman then alerted Jim Haynes, the DOD�s general counsel.
The same day Bowman raised concerns with Haynes, Haynes
advised Rumsfeld to approve of the �enhanced interrogation� methods, according
to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, (D-Calif.), who chaired last Tuesday�s committee
�According to Mr. Bowman, Haynes claimed he didn't know
anything about the coercive interrogation techniques that were occurring at
Guantanamo, despite the fact that he recommended on November 27, 2002, that
Secretary Rumsfeld formally approve the very techniques that were being used at
Guantanamo,� Feinstein said.
Rumsfeld, Fine told the
committee, ignored FBI agents� warnings and on Dec. 2, 2002, signed an action
memorandum approving the use of �enhanced techniques� against prisoners at
Guantanamo, concluding that the tactics stopped short of torture.
�These weren�t a few bad apples on the night shift, as we�ve
been told,� said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in response to
On Nov. 23, 2002, four days before the FBI agent alerted the
DOJ about interrogation tactics he witnessed, Rumsfeld verbally authorized
interrogators to used harsh methods during their interrogation of Mohammed
al-Qahtani, the so-called 20th hijacker, who was being held at Guantanamo. The
Pentagon initially wanted the death penalty for Al-Qahtani, but dropped
war-crimes charges against him last month.
The harsh treatment of al-Qahtani was catalogued in an
84-page log of his interrogation that was leaked in 2006. The so-called
�torture log� shows that beginning in November 2002 and continuing well into
January 2003, al-Qahtani was subjected to sleep deprivation, interrogated in
20-hour stretches, poked with IV�s, and left to urinate on himself.
If al-Qahtani�s case had gone forward, the U.S. government
would have been forced to reveal its own violations of the Geneva Convention,
anti-torture statutes and the laws of war, according to lawyers representing
�All of the [incriminating] statements Mohammad al-Qahtani
made or is alleged to have made were the result of torture or made under the
threat of torture and that is, in my view, why the government decided to
dismiss his case at this point,� said Vince Warren, executive director of the
Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) in New York.
CCR has been representing Mohammed al-Qahtani since 2005 and
has led the legal battle for the human rights of detainees incarcerated at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for the last six years.
Army IG report fingers Rumsfeld
A Dec. 20, 2005, Army Inspector General Report relating to
the capture and interrogation of al-Qahtani included a sworn statement by Lt.
Gen. Randall M. Schmidt. It said Secretary Rumsfeld was �personally involved�
in the interrogation of al-Qahtani and spoke �weekly� with Maj. Gen. Geoffrey
Miller, the commander at Guantanamo, about the status of the interrogations
between late 2002 and early 2003.
Gitanjali S. Gutierrez, an attorney with CCR, said in a
sworn declaration that his client, imprisoned at Guantanamo, was subjected to
months of torture based on verbal and written authorizations from Rumsfeld.
�At Guant�namo, Mr. al-Qahtani was subjected to a regime of
aggressive interrogation techniques, known as the �First Special Interrogation
Plan,� that were authorized by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld,�
�Those techniques were implemented under the supervision and
guidance of Secretary Rumsfeld and the commander of Guant�namo, Major General
Geoffrey Miller. These methods included, but were not limited to, 48 days of
severe sleep deprivation and 20-hour interrogations, forced nudity, sexual
humiliation, religious humiliation, physical force, prolonged stress positions
and prolonged sensory over-stimulation, and threats with military dogs.�
According to the Schlesinger report,
orders signed by Bush and Rumsfeld in 2002 and 2003 authorizing brutal
interrogations �became policy� at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.
Ironically, Rumsfeld, as well as other senior Bush
administration officials, expressed outrage in the first week of the Iraq war
when Iraqi TV interviewed several captured American soldiers saying such
behavior violated the Geneva Conventions. At a March 25, 2003, press briefing
about progress in the US-led invasion, Secretary Rumsfeld said, �This war is an
act of self-defense, to be sure, but it is also an act of humanity. . . . In
recent days, the world has witnessed further evidence of their [Iraqi]
brutality and their disregard for the laws of war. Their treatment of coalition
POWs is a violation of the Geneva Conventions.�
The record now shows that during the same week in March 2003
-- when Rumsfeld was publicly berating Iraq for violating the Geneva Convention
by broadcasting footage of American POW�s -- he was engaged in drafting a
top-secret plan that would give military interrogators at Guantanamo wide
latitude to use harsher techniques to obtain information from prisoners.
Rumsfeld signed off on the plan on April 2, 2003, according
to documents declassified and turned over to the American Civil Liberties Union
last month in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
Though some of the more extreme techniques were dropped as
the list was winnowed down to 24 from 35, the final set of interrogation
methods Rumsfeld approved still included tactics for isolating and demeaning a detainee,
known as "pride and ego down."
�The most commonly reported technique used by non-FBI
interrogators on detainees at Guantanamo was sleep deprivation or disruption,� Fine testified
last Tuesday. �Sleep adjustment� was explicitly approved for use by the
military at Guantanamo under the policy approved by the Secretary of Defense in
April 2003. Numerous FBI agents told the OIG that they witnessed the military�s
use of a regimen known as the �frequent flyer program� to disrupt detainees�
sleep in an effort to lessen their resistance to questioning and to undermine
cell block relationships among detainees.�
Additionally, Fine said, �Prolonged short-shackling, in
which a detainee�s hands were shackled close to his feet to prevent him from
standing or sitting comfortably, was another of the most frequently reported
techniques observed by FBI agents at Guantanamo. This technique was sometimes
used in conjunction with holding detainees in rooms where the temperature was
very cold or very hot in order to break the detainees� resolve.
Stress positions were prohibited at Guantanamo under DOD
policy beginning in January 2003. However, these FBI agents� observations
confirm that prolonged short-shackling continued at Guantanamo for at least a
year after the revised DOD policy took effect.
Such degrading tactics would appear to contravene the Geneva
Convention, which bars abusive or demeaning treatment of captives.
Yet even after the programs governing interrogations were
exposed, Rumsfeld made sure that a loophole in a new Defense Department policy
issued in November 2005, which barred torture and called for the
"humane" treatment of detainees, gave him and his deputy the
authority to override it.
"Intelligence interrogations will be conducted in
accordance with applicable law, this directive and implementing plans,
policies, orders, directives, and doctrine developed by DoD components and
approved by USD (I), unless otherwise authorized, in writing, by the secretary
of defense or deputy secretary of defense," the policy says. "USD
(I)" refers to the undersecretary of defense for intelligence.
Leopold is the author of "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit
www.newsjunkiebook.com for a
new website is The Public Record.
Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor