By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 7, 2006
Pentagon officials yesterday repudiated the harsh interrogation tactics adopted since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, specifically forbidding U.S. troops from using forced nudity, hooding, military dogs and waterboarding to elicit information from detainees captured in ongoing wars.
The Defense Department simultaneously embraced international humane treatment standards for all detainees in U.S. military custody, the first time there has been a uniform standard for both enemy prisoners of war and the so-called unlawful combatants linked to al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.
In a new department-wide directive on detention policy and a retooled Army field manual on interrogations, Pentagon officials demonstrated a dramatic shift in the way they view the treatment of detainees, and tacitly acknowledged the failures that led to allegations of abuse in U.S. facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The documents reverse the Bush administration's hard-line stance on the rights afforded to suspected terrorists, and label some previously accepted interrogation tactics as abusive and illegal.
Both documents abandon aggressive approaches -- designed to break the will of "high value" terrorism suspects -- and clearly say to U.S. troops that detainee abuse is illegal and that they are required to report any suspected mistreatment. U.S. forces must adhere to the standards of the Geneva Conventions' Common Article 3, which is now part of U.S. law and prohibits "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment."
Charles "Cully" Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, said yesterday that the new policy "unambiguously articulates the values and traditions of our nation, values that John Adams called 'the policy of humanity,' which has been the cornerstone of the American ethos of warfare. More importantly, it provides our forces in the field the policy guidance needed to ensure the safe, secure and humane detention during armed conflicts, however those are characterized."
The new policies also eliminate the military's controversial practice of hiding detainees -- sometimes called "ghosting" -- and requires anyone operating in a Defense Department facility to follow the military's new regulations. But while the policies apply to all Defense Department employees and contractors, there are no safeguards in the event a CIA employee takes custody of a detainee and moves him into a separate, nonmilitary, facility.
President Bush said in a speech yesterday that the CIA's use of a global secret prison network should continue but also said that 14 top-level terrorism suspects were transferred to Guantanamo Bay this week, emptying the CIA's prisons. Those detainees will now have to be afforded Geneva Conventions protections.
The revisions announced yesterday stem from international concerns that emerged in early 2004 after a group of U.S. soldiers were pictured in photographs abusing detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Those detainees were shown hooded, naked, in painful positions and menaced by dogs. Several military investigations that followed revealed similar tactics in Cuba and allegations of physical abuse in U.S. facilities throughout Iraq and Afghanistan, calling into question the overall U.S. policy.
The new directive and manual are victories for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and other members of the Senate Armed Services Committee who pushed the administration to make a clear statement against abusive practices.
Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), ranking Democrat on the committee, said it is a shame that top Pentagon civilians ignored pleas from military service lawyers to avoid the use of aggressive tactics.
"If the Administration had listened to its military lawyers several years ago, much of the damage done to our credibility caused by detainee mistreatment in Afghanistan, Guantanamo and at Abu Ghraib might have been avoided," Levin said in an e-mailed statement.
The new field manual is designed to be "as clear and crisp and unambiguous as possible," Lt. Gen. John F. Kimmons, Army deputy chief of staff for intelligence, said at a Pentagon news conference. He acknowledged past "transgressions and mistakes," and he said that "no good intelligence is going to come from abusive practices. I think history tells us that. I think the empirical evidence of the last five years, hard years, tells us that."
Human rights groups generally welcomed the changes. "This is the Pentagon coming full circle," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "This is very strong guidance."
The Army has adopted 16 standard interrogation tactics that are carryovers from previous field manuals, including such approaches as direct questioning, offering positive incentives and playing on a detainee's emotions. Three expanded techniques -- good cop, bad cop; pretending to be an official from another country; and detention in a separate cell from others -- are allowed but require approval from senior officers. Officials originally considered keeping those three techniques classified but decided to make them public for the sake of full transparency.
Gone are techniques that at one point Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved for use at Guantanamo Bay and later appeared in Iraq, such as putting detainees in stress positions; manipulating their sleep patterns, diet and environment; and using dogs and sexually provocative behavior. Also prohibited is waterboarding, which involves putting detainees on boards and simulating drowning.
The military urges interrogators to ask themselves two questions if they think they may be crossing the line: if they think the technique could violate the law; and "if the proposed approach technique were used by the enemy against one of your fellow soldiers, would you believe the soldier had been abused?"