Detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were shackled to the floor in fetal positions for more than 24 hours at a time, left without food and water, and allowed to defecate on themselves, an FBI agent who said he witnessed such abuse reported in a memo to supervisors, according to documents released yesterday.
In memos over a two-year period that ended in August, FBI agents and officials also said that they witnessed the use of growling dogs at Guantanamo Bay to intimidate detainees -- contrary to previous statements by senior Defense Department officials -- and that one detainee was wrapped in an Israeli flag and bombarded with loud music in an apparent attempt to soften his resistance to interrogation.
In addition, several agents contended that military interrogators impersonated FBI agents, suggesting that the ruse was aimed in part at avoiding blame for any subsequent public allegations of abuse, according to memos between FBI officials.
The accounts, gleaned from heavily redacted e-mails and memorandums, were obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union as part of an ongoing lawsuit. They suggest that extremely aggressive interrogation techniques were more widespread at Guantanamo Bay than was acknowledged by military officials.
The documents also make it clear that some personnel at Guantanamo Bay believed they were relying on authority from senior officials in Washington to conduct aggressive interrogations. One FBI agent wrote a memo referring to a presidential order that approved interrogation methods "beyond the bounds of standard FBI practice," although White House and FBI officials said yesterday that such an order does not exist.
Instead, FBI and Pentagon officials said, the order in question was signed by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in December 2002 and then revised four months later after complaints from military lawyers that he had authorized methods that violated international and domestic law.
In a Jan. 21, 2004, e-mail, an FBI agent wrote that "this technique [of impersonating an FBI agent], and all of those used in these scenarios, was approved by the DepSecDef," referring to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz.
Deputy Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said in a statement last night that Wolfowitz "did not approve interrogation techniques." Whitman also said "it is difficult to determine" whether the impersonation technique "was permissible or not," but that such a tactic was not endorsed by Rumsfeld.
ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said in an interview that the incidents described in the documents "can only be described as torture."
The government is holding about 550 people detained in the war on terrorism at a prison on the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay. Some have been held for nearly three years without charges or access to attorneys. Several dozen have taken advantage of a June ruling by the Supreme Court and petitioned federal courts to challenge their imprisonment.
Some of the FBI memos were written this year after a request from agency headquarters for firsthand accounts of abuse of detainees, officials said.
An overall theme of the documents is a chasm between the interrogation techniques followed by the FBI and the more aggressive tactics used by some military interrogators. "We know what's permissible for FBI agents but are less sure what is permissible for military interrogators," one FBI official said in a lengthy e-mail on May 22, 2004.
In another e-mail, dated Dec. 5, 2003, an agent complained about military tactics, including the alleged use of FBI impersonators. "These tactics have produced no intelligence of a threat neutralization nature to date and . . . have destroyed any chance of prosecuting this detainee," the agent wrote. "If this detainee is ever released or his story made public in any way, DOD interrogators will be not be held accountable because these torture techniques were done [by] the 'FBI' interrogators."
In another e-mail, an unidentified FBI agent describes at least three incidents involving Guantanamo detainees being chained to the floor for extended periods of time and being subjected to extreme heat, extreme cold or "extremely loud rap music."