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Detainees Accuse Female Interrogators

Pentagon Inquiry Is Said to Confirm Muslims' Accounts of Sexual Tactics at Guantanamo

By Carol D. Leonnig and Dana Priest
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 10, 2005; Page A01

Female interrogators repeatedly used sexually suggestive tactics to try to humiliate and pry information from devout Muslim men held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a military investigation not yet public and newly declassified accounts from detainees.

The prisoners have told their lawyers, who compiled the accounts, that female interrogators regularly violated Muslim taboos about sex and contact with women. The women rubbed their bodies against the men, wore skimpy clothes in front of them, made sexually explicit remarks and touched them provocatively, at least eight detainees said in documents or through their attorneys.

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Audio: The Post's Carol Leonnig links a Pentagon investigation that describes female interrogators use of sexual tactics at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib.

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A wide-ranging Pentagon investigation, which has not yet been released, generally confirms the detainees' allegations, according to a senior Defense Department official familiar with the report. While isolated accounts of such tactics have emerged in recent weeks, the new allegations and the findings of the Pentagon investigation indicate that sexually oriented tactics may have been part of the fabric of Guantanamo interrogations, especially in 2003.

The inquiry uncovered numerous instances in which female interrogators, using dye, pretended to spread menstrual blood on Muslim men, the official said. Separately, in court papers and public statements, three detainees say that women smeared them with blood.

The military investigation of U.S. detention and interrogation practices worldwide, led by Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III, confirmed one case in which an Army interrogator took off her uniform top and paraded around in a tight T-shirt to make a Guantanamo detainee uncomfortable, and other cases in which interrogators touched the detainees suggestively, the senior Pentagon official said.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the report has not yet been made public, said the fake blood was used on Muslim men before they intended to pray, because some Muslims believe that "if a woman touches him prior to prayer, then he's dirty and can't pray." Muslim men also believe that contact with women other than their wives diminishes religious purity.

Defense Department officials said they have reprimanded two female interrogators for such tactics. It is unclear whether military personnel, employees of other agencies or private contractors were involved.

The attorney interviews of detainees are the result of a Supreme Court decision last summer that gave the captives access to lawyers and the opportunity to challenge their incarceration in U.S. courts.

In previous documents, detainees have complained of physical abuse, including routine beatings, painful shackling, and exposure to extremes of hot and cold. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld insisted then that detainees were treated "humanely," and Pentagon officials said terrorists were trained to fabricate torture allegations.

Some of the accounts resemble the sexual aspects of the humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at the U.S. prison at Abu Ghraib. Photographs that became public last year showed a servicewoman there holding naked prisoners on a leash and posing next to a pile of naked prisoners.

Pentagon officials said yesterday that wearing skimpy clothing or engaging in provocative touching and banter would be inappropriate interrogation techniques.

"I don't see that as being authorized by secretary of defense's approved interrogation techniques for Guantanamo," said Col. David McWilliams, a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, which oversees operations at Guantanamo Bay.

McWilliams said it is premature to comment on whether the detainee allegations are credible until a second military investigation that focuses on Guantanamo Bay abuse allegations is complete. The inquiry, which began in early January after the release of documents in which FBI agents said they witnessed abuse, is scheduled to be completed this month.

"That's exactly why we're doing an investigation," McWilliams said. "We're going to establish the facts and the truth."

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