Fri, Jun 25, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Pentagon wanted harsh interrogation techniques: reports

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , WASHINGTON

Beginning in late 2002, a top general and a high-level Pentagon working group sought permission to use much harsher interrogation techniques against al-Qaeda and Taliban prisoners than Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ultimately approved, according to newly released documents.

Among the techniques proposed by a two-star Army general for use at the US-run detention site at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were "the use of scenarios designed to convince the detainee that death or severely painful consequences are imminent" and actions designed "to induce the misperception of suffocation," the documents released by the White House on Tuesday showed.

Those two proposals, endorsed by Major General Michael Dunleavey, the commander at Guantanamo, in October 2002, were rejected by Rumsfeld in December of that year. But among the interrogation procedures that Rumsfeld did approve was the removal of prisoners' clothing, although he rescinded permission for this and some other techniques in January last year as a result of sharp internal debate.

As late as April last year, the idea of removing prisoners' clothing was proposed again in a report to Rumsfeld by a high-level working group, although its members acknowledged that "knowledge of this technique may have a significant adverse impact on public opinion."

Rumsfeld did not approve the request.

The documents did not address the rules put in place later in Iraq to govern interrogation procedures at Abu Ghraib prison. But they showed that the interrogation techniques being debated at the highest levels of the Pentagon for use in the campaign against terrorism included harsh procedures that emerged in abuses in Afghanistan beginning in late 2002 and later in Iraq.

At some US-run prisons in those countries, nudity among prisoners, both in cells and in interrogation rooms, was common, according to soldiers and Red Cross monitors. The deaths of at least 10 prisoners are under investigation as potential homicides.

It had already been known that Rumsfeld, in December 2002 and April last year, approved a narrower range of interrogation procedures than his subordinates had sought. But the documents released by the White House shed new light on those decisions, and showed that the universe of procedures being considered in the months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was even broader than previously known.

The list of interrogation techniques recommended in April last year by Rumsfeld's working group totaled 35 procedures for use against unlawful combatants, or those not covered by the Geneva Conventions. That list was more than twice as long as the 17 approved in a 1987 Army manual that until the Sept. 11 attacks had defined the limit of what could be authorized.

The working group, which included representatives from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the under secretary of defense for policy, the Defense Intelligence Agency and each of the four military services, was headed by the general counsel of the Air Force.

In advocating various procedures, it said that the removal of prisoners' clothing would create "a feeling of helplessness and dependence" and that slapping a prisoner could be useful "as shock measures."

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