Gen. Bantz Craddock, commander
of the U.S. Southern Command, testifies about the investigation of alleged
detainee abuse at Guantanamo Bay.
Interrogators at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, forced
a stubborn detainee to wear women's underwear on his head, confronted him with
snarling military working dogs and attached a leash to his chains, according
to a newly released military investigation that shows the tactics were employed
there months before military police used them on detainees at the Abu Ghraib
prison in Iraq.
The techniques, approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for use in
interrogating Mohamed Qahtani -- the alleged "20th hijacker" in the
Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- were used at Guantanamo Bay in late 2002
as part of a special interrogation plan aimed at breaking down the silent detainee.
Military investigators who briefed the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday
on the three-month probe, called the tactics "creative" and "aggressive"
but said they did not cross the line into torture.
The report's findings are the strongest indication yet that the abusive practices
seen in photographs at Abu Ghraib were not the invention of a small group of
thrill-seeking military police officers. The report shows that they were used
on Qahtani several months before the United States invaded Iraq.
The investigation also supports the idea that soldiers believed that placing
hoods on detainees, forcing them to appear nude in front of women and sexually
humiliating them were approved interrogation techniques for use on detainees.
A central figure in the investigation, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who commanded
the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and later helped set up U.S. operations
at Abu Ghraib, was accused of failing to properly supervise Qahtani's interrogation
plan and was recommended for reprimand by investigators. Miller would have been
the highest-ranking officer to face discipline for detainee abuses so far, but
Gen. Bantz Craddock, head of the U.S. Southern Command, declined to follow the
Miller traveled to Iraq in September 2003 to assist in Abu Ghraib's startup,
and he later sent in "Tiger Teams" of Guantanamo Bay interrogators
and analysts as advisers and trainers. Within weeks of his departure from Abu
Ghraib, military working dogs were being used in interrogations, and naked detainees
were humiliated and abused by military police soldiers working the night shift.
Miller declined to respond to questions posed through a Defense Department
liaison. Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said it is not appropriate to
link the interrogation of Qahtani -- an important al Qaeda operative captured
shortly after the terrorist attacks -- and events at Abu Ghraib. Whitman said
interrogation tactics in the Army's field manual are the same worldwide but
MPs at Abu Ghraib were not authorized to apply them, regardless of how they
learned about them.
Some of the Abu Ghraib soldiers have said they were following the directionsof
military intelligence officials to soften up detainees for interrogation, in
part by depriving them of sleep. Pvt. Charles A. Graner Jr., characterized as
the ringleader of the MP group, was found guilty of abusing detainees and is
serving 10 years in prison. Others have pleaded guilty and received lesser sentences.
The photos that caused alarm around the world included some showing the MPs
sexually humiliating the detainees.
While Rumsfeld approved a list of 16 harsh techniques for use at Guantanamo
on Dec. 2, 2002, most of the techniques were general and allowed for interpretation
by interrogators. Many of the techniques involving humiliation were part of
a standard "futility" or "ego down" approach.
"Reasonable people always suspected these techniques weren't invented
in the backwoods of West Virginia," said Tom Malinowski, the Washington
director of Human Rights Watch. "It's never been more clear than in this
Also yesterday, a federal district judge in Washington issued a ruling in which
he declined to stop the interrogation of a young Canadian detainee at Guantanamo
Bay who has alleged that he was tortured. The detainee said in court filings
that he was "short-shackled" to the floor, threatened with sexual
abuse and physically mistreated.
The 18-year-old detainee, identified as "O.K.," was arrested after
a gunfight in Afghanistan in July 2002, when he was 15. He had asked the court
for a preliminary injunction to stop what he called abusive interrogation tactics.
The investigation at Guantanamo Bay looked into 26 allegations by FBI personnel
that military interrogators had mistreated detainees. It found that almost all
the tactics were "authorized" interrogation methods and by definition
were not abusive.
Investigators found only three instances of substantiated abuse, including
short-shackling detainees to the floor in awkward positions, the use of duct
tape to keep a detainee quiet, and a threat by military interrogators to kill
a detainee and his family.
In the case of Qahtani, who endured weeks of sleep deprivation and many of
the harshest techniques, Lt. Gen. Mark Schmidt and Brig. Gen. John Furlow found
that the cumulative effect of those tactics "resulted in degrading and
abusive treatment" but stopped short of torture. Military commanders have
said the techniques prompted Qahtani to talk.
The military achieved "solid intelligence gains," by interrogating
Qahtani, Craddock said yesterday, and other military officials have said he
revealed details on how the terrorist network operates.
The Schmidt-Furlow investigation is the last of about a dozen major Pentagon
probes into abuse over the past 15 months.
The abuses at Abu Ghraib included military police taking photos of themselves
mimicking the tactics used at Guantanamo Bay. Several photographs taken in late
2003 at the prison outside Baghdad show detainees wearing women's underwear
on their heads, detainees shackled to their cell doors or beds in awkward positions,
and naked detainees standing before female soldiers. Perhaps the most famous
image is of Pfc. Lynndie England holding a leash attached to a detainee's neck.
Qahtani, according to the investigative report, was once attached to a leash
and made to walk around the room and "perform a series of dog tricks."
The report also notes the use of "gender coercion," in which women
straddle a detainee or get too close to them, violating prohibitions for devout
Muslim men on contact with women. Interrogators also threatened to tell other
detainees that an individual is gay, according to the report. Detainees at Abu
Ghraib were posed in mock homosexual positions and photographed.
"There are some striking similarities between the actions at Guantanamo
and what occurred at Abu Ghraib," said Capt. Jonathan Crisp, England's
military defense attorney. "I feel that warrants further investigation."
Committee Democrats appeared upset that Miller was not held accountable for
abuses at Guantanamo Bay, and criticized the investigation for failing to examine
the legality of administration and military policy on interrogations. Sen. Jack
Reed (D-R.I.) said no senior leader has taken responsibility for detention problems.
Some Republicans, however, said the alleged abuses occurred in just a small
fraction of cases. They noted that there have been 24,000 interrogations at
Guantanamo Bay and highlighted recent improvements at the facility. Sen. Pat
Roberts (R-Kan.) called the Guantanamo abuse relatively "minor incidents"
that should not be a matter of national interest.