By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 13, 2006
Members of a Defense Department investigative task force were told not to participate in aggressive interrogation techniques approved for use at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2002 because officers and lawyers believed the tactics violated policy and would not elicit information, according to documents released by the Pentagon.
The aggressive techniques, approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in late 2002, led to at least one high-value detainee being placed in women's underwear, led around by a dog leash and stripped in front of female interrogators. Similar tactics later emerged in Iraq and were highlighted in photographs of abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison.
Members of the Pentagon's Criminal Investigation Task Force worked with FBI agents to investigate possible crimes that the men may have committed before they were captured -- crimes that could be prosecuted in court. Declassified e-mail messages and orders show that their commanders were concerned about the tactics almost immediately after they were implemented and joined FBI officials in reporting allegations of abuse.
The memos indicate that even military units at Guantanamo Bay pushed back against the department's efforts to use new, aggressive tactics against detainees during the facility's first year. The military's top lawyers also warned that the approval of such tactics could lead to abuse and unlawful conduct.
"It just confirms that the policies that were adopted at Guantanamo were adopted as a matter of policy and over significant objections, not just within the FBI but within units of the Army," said American Civil Liberties Union attorney Amrit Singh, whose organization obtained the documents in a lawsuit. "It calls into question the adequacy of the investigations the military undertook. It underscores that high-ranking officers were responsible for the abusive techniques that were put in place."
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller was in charge of the Guantanamo Bay mission and the interrogations at the time top Pentagon officials approved the tactics. Miller, who later traveled to Iraq to help establish the Abu Ghraib prison, this week invoked his right not to incriminate himself in abuse cases against two low-ranking soldiers. Pentagon officials said Miller's application for retirement has been approved.
Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon yesterday that there is no evidence to suggest that high-level policies authorized or condoned the abuse of detainees.
"What took place at Guantanamo is a matter of public record today, and the investigations turned up nothing that suggested that there was any policy in the department other than humane treatment," Rumsfeld said. "And it is also clear, by the very fact that some 250 people have been punished in one way or another, that there was behavior that was inappropriate."
The documents detail several reported incidents of abuse at Guantanamo Bay and at U.S. detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of the alleged abuse included beatings, Koran desecration, death threats and electric shocks.
Also included in the hundreds of pages of material are expressions of concern about Task Force 6-26, a secretive operation that went after important targets in Iraq. Two previous task forces were allegedly involved in abuse. Investigators reported having trouble pursuing allegations against the "special access program" because its members used fake names and were nearly impossible to track down.
According to the documents, the Criminal Investigation Task Force was unwilling to take part in the aggressive tactics at Guantanamo. Retired Col. Brittain P. Mallow, who commanded the task force in late 2002, said yesterday that his team was part of the dialogue as the tactics were introduced.
"We were part of the discussion, but we had a different perspective," Mallow said. "Our mission was different, and our policies were different. Our policies served us well."
Mallow said in an e-mail dated Dec. 2, 2002 -- the same day Rumsfeld approved harsher techniques -- that his subordinates should raise objections if they saw inappropriate behavior.
"Our folks should make it clear that our participation in dialogues related to the aggressive strategies does not amount to an endorsement of the technique or the interrogation plan," Mallow wrote.
On Dec. 17, 2002, the special agent in charge of the task force unit at Guantanamo Bay raised objections to using interrogation tactics that appeared to be derived from military Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) practices, arguing that they were designed for a "battlefield environment." The agent wrote that "rapport-based" methods -- which encourage a detainee's cooperation through positive reinforcement -- are far more effective.
Within a month, the task force came up with specific instructions against any participation in the questionable activities.
"All deployed CITF personnel are instructed to disengage, stand clear, and report any questionable interrogation techniques," a legal adviser to the task force wrote in a Jan. 15, 2003, memo. "CITF maintains that its personnel will not utilize non-law enforcement techniques or participate, support, advise, or observe aggressive interrogation techniques or strategies."
The legal adviser, whose name was blacked out in the documents, said in the memo that he wrote it "to preserve critical correspondence concerning development of interagency policies involving aggressive interrogation techniques."
Researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.