A still-classified list of 24 interrogation methods approved for use on Guantanamo Bay detainees includes placing prisoners in uncomfortable interrogation cells and deceiving them into thinking they are in the hands of Middle East interrogators who knew all about their culture, a U.S. government official said.
The list, approved April 16, 2003, after debate between Pentagon lawyers and political appointees, also allows interrogators to give uncooperative prisoners food that is cold or less palatable and to isolate them from their peers, the official said.
The existence of the Guantanamo list was previously known, and a few of its methods have been cited in The Washington Post, including allowing interrogators to subject detainees to irritatingly hot or cold temperatures and to reverse their normal sleep patterns. But the Pentagon has refused to release the list, citing its classified status, and most of the methods have been unknown until now.
The Guantanamo techniques -- including seven that go beyond standard U.S. military doctrine -- appeared on an unofficial list drawn up by an Army captain and posted on a wall of the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad for use by interrogators there.
But the Guantanamo list does not include some of the more severe methods available to interrogators in Iraq if they got proper approval, including forcing detainees to sit or stand in stressful positions, using sleep or sensory deprivation, and using military dogs to intimidate. Nor do the Guantanamo methods approach the definitions of torture contained in recently revealed Justice Department and Pentagon legal reviews that argued such measures might be justified in certain circumstances.
Unlike in Iraq, where prisoners were accorded unambiguous prisoner-of-war status, prisoners in Guantanamo were given a newly designated "unlawful enemy combatants." They were suspected al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, captured on the Afghanistan battlefield. President Bush said they did not deserve prisoner of war status, but he ordered the military to treat them in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to comment on specific interrogation techniques. Given that the detainees were believed to have intelligence about ongoing threats to the United States, Whitman said, "It was appropriate to ask the question: Should there be something else we should be doing to learn about potential attacks in the making?"
In fact, on Dec. 2, 2002, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved a set of more aggressive interrogation methods to be used on Mohamed al Qahtani, a Saudi detainee who some officials believed may have been the planned 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. A naval psychologist at the base protested the use of some techniques meant to humiliate prisoners and sought help from the Navy's top civilian lawyer, Alberto J. Mora, to stop them, according to three defense officials knowledgeable about the debate.
Mora is the Navy's general counsel. Although previous reports have highlighted the concerns of senior military lawyers about employing more severe interrogation measures, the disclosure of Mora's role reveals that the worries extended to some high-ranking civilians in the Defense Department as well. Mora declined a request to be interviewed.
"The Navy's general counsel was the real hero," said one senior military lawyer who participated in the discussions.
The techniques approved by Rumsfeld were suspended Jan. 15, 2003, "out of concern for their effectiveness or appropriateness," Whitman said.
Rumsfeld then asked a working group of lawyers, intelligence officials and representatives of the Office of Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict to come up with permanent interrogation guidelines for Guantanamo. They looked at 35 techniques, including covering a suspect with wet towels to simulate drowning, and stripping detainees. Only 24 techniques survived, the result of a rancorous debate.
Seven of those approved techniques are not included in U.S. military doctrine, and are listed as: "change of scenery up; change of scenery down; dietary manipulation; environmental manipulation; sleep adjustment (reversal) ; isolation for 30 days"; and a technique known as "false flag," or deceiving a detainee into believing he is being interrogated by someone from another country.
The other 17 techniques are approved in standard military doctrine and carry these names: direct questioning; incentive/removal of incentive; emotional love/hate; fear up/harsh; fear up/mild; reduced fear; pride and ego up and down; futility; "we know all"; establish your identity; repetition; file and dossier; good cop/bad cop; rapid fire; and silence.
Four of the tactics required interrogators to notify commanders in advance of their use. They are: isolating a detainee from peers; pride and ego up or down, which means attacking someone's personal worth and sense of pride; and "fear up/harsh," in which interrogators could yell at prisoners, throw things around the interrogation room and convince a detainee that he has something to fear.
Rumsfeld's working group also considered a legal analysis by Pentagon and other government lawyers that said torture of detainees may be legally justifiable in some circumstances. But the 24 techniques approved by Rumsfeld were far less aggressive and severe than the types of methods contemplated in the legal review.