Report: Harsh Techniques Occurred Before DOJ Memos

Posted April 21, 2009 at 9:03pm

The Bush Department of Defense began planning how to train terrorist interrogators in harsh techniques in April 2002 — more than four months before the Justice Department began providing legal cover for the CIA to use such methods, a Senate Armed Services Committee report reveals.

The report, which represents a more detailed, declassified version of the panel’s report last year into the DOD’s treatment of detainees after 9/11, shows for the first time how pervasive the interrogation tactics were and how deeply involved then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was in devising interrogation methods. Many of the tactics are regarded as torture in international legal circles.

Rumsfeld at one point personally authorized sensory deprivation to be used against a particular detainee in the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the report says.

Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said in a statement that the report “represents a condemnation of both the Bush administration’s interrogation policies and of senior administration officials who attempted to shift the blame for abuse … to low ranking soldiers.— The report details the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, as well as in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison and Afghanistan.

Levin said senior officials, including Rumsfeld and other top DOD appointees, “bear significant responsibility for creating the legal and operational framework for the abuses.—

Most troubling to Levin is the revelation that the DOD “distorted— a program intended to help U.S. soldiers withstand torturous conditions into a training method for interrogations of terrorism suspects. The report states that instructors at the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape program were used as interrogators despite early warnings from one of the program’s senior psychologists that the techniques would be of little value in intelligence gathering.

“Bottom line: the likelihood that the use of physical pressures will increase the delivery of accurate information from a detainee is very low,— the psychologist is quoted as writing as early as October 2002. “The likelihood that the use of physical pressures will increase the level of resistance in a detainee is very high.—

The techniques approved by the DOD and outlined in the report include the use of stress positions, forced nudity, dogs, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation, among other things.

The Armed Services report was released Tuesday night in the midst of a debate over whether any Bush administration officials should be prosecuted for authoring a series of memos that sanctioned harsh interrogation techniques against terrorism detainees held by the CIA.

President Barack Obama decided last week to release those memos from the Bush-era’s Justice Department but has said he does not support any prosecutions for CIA officials who used those memos as guidance on what was permissible.