FBI agents documented more than two dozen incidents of possible mistreatment at the Guantanamo Bay military base, including a detainee whose head was wrapped in duct tape for chanting verses from the Koran and another who pulled out his hair after hours in a sweltering room.
Documents released on Tuesday by the FBI offered new details about the harsh interrogation practices used by military officials and contractors when questioning so-called enemy combatants.
The reports describe a female guard who detainees said handled their genitals and wiped menstrual blood on their face. Another interrogator reportedly bragged to an FBI agent about dressing as a Roman Catholic priest and "baptizing" a prisoner.
Some military officials and contractors told FBI agents the interrogation techniques had been approved at the Defense Department by officials including former secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
The documents were released in response to a public records request by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is suing Rumsfeld and others on behalf of former military detainees who say they were abused. Many of the incidents in the FBI documents already have been reported and are summarized in the ACLU's lawsuit.
Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Commander Joe Carpenter said the issues raised in the report are not new. A dozen reviews of detention operations have found no policies that condone abuse, he said.
The treatment of detainees has long been a volatile subject, especially between the administration and the Democratic lawmakers ready to assume majority control of the new Congress that convenes today.
One incoming Democratic chairman served notice on Tuesday that the issue is a top priority. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy notified Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that his panel's first oversight hearing of the new Congress would focus on two documents Leahy is seeking about the interrogation methods of another agency, the CIA.
The Department of Justice has refused to hand over the documents, saying their contents are "extremely sensitive" and could help terrorists plot more attacks.
US President George W. Bush signed legislation in October that authorized aggressive interrogation tactics but did not define them. ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer said the documents showed that stricter congressional oversight was needed.
"If you just authorize in a vague way, there's no end to the abusive methods the interrogators will come up with," Jaffer said.
The records were gathered as part of an internal FBI survey in 2004 and do not indicate a criminal investigation has been done.
The agency asked 493 employees whether they had witnessed aggressive treatment that was not consistent with the FBI's policies. The bureau received 26 positive responses, including some from agents who were troubled by what they saw.
"I did observe treatment that was not only aggressive but personally very upsetting," one agent wrote, describing seeing a man left in a 38?C room with no ventilation overnight.
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