Intensive interrogation techniques approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld were used to elicit information from two prisoners at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a senior Army general said yesterday.
Pentagon officials previously said Rumsfeld helped approve a list of intense interrogation techniques for Guantanamo, but Army Gen. James T. Hill said for the first time yesterday that Rumsfeld had granted permission to use those techniques in two cases. Hill, who is in charge of the U.S. Southern Command based in Miami, told reporters at the Pentagon that both prisoners were considered "high-value" detainees who have since provided important intelligence information about al Qaeda.
Yesterday's briefing was one of a series of sessions designed to reconstruct the foundations of U.S. policy on the interrogation of detainees in the war on terrorism after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq. The documented abuses at Abu Ghraib occurred shortly after officials from Guantanamo Bay visited the prison outside of Baghdad, and several investigations are underway to determine the extent and origin of U.S. interrogation policies used there and their possible connection to abuses.
Hill said yesterday that the policies at Guantanamo arose out of discussions with the Pentagon, and four intensive interrogation techniques were vetted by a group of lawyers and could be used only with Rumsfeld's approval on a case-by-case basis.
Hill declined to discuss details about the four interrogation techniques -- which remain classified -- but he said the use of military working dogs is not on the list and is not used for interrogations at Guantanamo. Sources familiar with the list have said that it includes such techniques as disrupting detainees' sleep patterns and exposing them to heat, cold, loud music, bright lights and other "sensory assault." Hill said the procedures met Geneva Convention rules requiring humane treatment.
"Guantanamo is a professional, humane, detention and interrogation operation," Hill said. "It is bounded by law and guided by the American spirit. It has contributed and continues to contribute to winning the war on terror."
In one of the cases in which intense techniques were used, interrogators believed they were questioning someone who had direct knowledge and links to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. They said they had gotten nowhere with standard interrogation tactics because the detainee had been trained to resist. Another detainee -- who Hill would only say was an al Qaeda operative with "high intel value" -- was also approved for intense questioning.
Hill said some of the enhanced techniques that interrogators at Guantanamo had used on the first detainee, over four to six weeks in late 2002 and early 2003, were later barred by Rumsfeld and discontinued. Hill would not describe what those techniques were.
"Before then and during then, there is discussion . . . of, were, in fact, we doing the right thing," Hill said. "And the secretary called me, and we talked. And he directed me to stop using those techniques, and I agreed."
According to Hill, Rumsfeld has a seven-day window in which he can veto the use of the classified techniques. Hill would not say whether Rumsfeld has done so in any case.