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Audit Finds FBI Reports Of Detainee Abuse Ignored

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FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III decreed in 2002 that the bureau would not engage in such practices, favoring techniques that built rapport and gleaned more useful information about potential threats, the inspector general report said. But the Defense Department adopted a different view, which prevailed. Eventually FBI agents started conducting interviews on their own rather than participating in sessions with CIA and military counterparts.

One unnamed FBI agent tried to build rapport with injured al-Qaeda commander Abu Zubaida after his capture, "to the point of cleaning him up after bowel movements," the report said. The agent later referred to the CIA's much harsher treatment of Abu Zubaida, also known as Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein, as "borderline torture."

Unnamed FBI and Justice officials, however, floated a proposal in late 2002 that recommended that another detainee, alleged al-Qaeda member Mohammed al-Qahtani, be interrogated using similar protocols. Mueller and the chief of the Justice Department's criminal division told investigators they did not see the draft or take part in a specific discussion of the plan, which was never implemented.

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said yesterday that "there is nothing new here. . . . The department has been operating for a number of years now with new and improved guidance with respect to detention operations and interrogation procedures."

Sean McCormack, a spokesman for Secretary of State Rice, said the assertions in the report were "pretty vague."

The report's release rekindled interest among Democrats on Capitol Hill for obtaining access to documents and testimony underlying the problematic interrogation practices. House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) called the ineffective action by senior government officials in the face of complaints "very disturbing" and said he would ask Ashcroft and others to testify in upcoming hearings.

The CIA, for its part, objected to the report's characterization of the agency's methods. "Interrogation methods that the CIA has used in its terrorist detention program were examined and found lawful, by the Department of Justice itself," agency spokesman Mark Mansfield said.

The report complains that investigators were improperly blocked by the CIA from questioning Abu Zubaida about his treatment, partly because its officials worried that he might lie. But "the CIA was not convinced when the request was made that [investigators] had an immediate need" to interview the alleged terrorist, Mansfield said.

Staff researcher Julie Tate and staff writers Dan Eggen and Joby Warrick contributed to this report.


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