Mr Rumsfeld's legal counsel instructed the officers to
push the limits when questioning Lindh, captured in
Afghanistan with Taliban and al-Qa'ida forces in late
2001. The treatment of Lindh appears to foreshadow the
abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
The details of Lindh's interrogation confirm claims
made by his lawyer, Tony West, that when he was
captured by Northern Alliance forces and handed to CIA
operatives near the northern Afghan city of
Mazar-i-Sharif, he asked for a lawyer. Not only was he
refused a lawyer and not advised of his rights, but
his interrogators were told to get tough to obtain
"actionable" intelligence in the pursuit of Osama bin
Documents seen by the Los Angeles Times, show that
when an US Army intelligence officer started to
question Lindh he was given instructions that the
"Secretary of Defence's counsel has authorised him to
'take the gloves off' and asked whatever he wanted".
The documents show that in the early stages, Lindh's
responses were cabled to Washington every hour.
Though Lindh initially pleaded not guilty, he later
admitted reduced charges and was sentenced to 20
years. He and his lawyers also agreed to drop claims
that he had been tortured by US personnel.
A Defence Department spokesperson said the Pentagon
"refused to speculate on the exact intent of the
statement" from Mr Rumsfeld's office. "Department
officials stress that all interrogation policies and
procedures demand humane treatment of personnel in
their custody," said the spokesperson.
The documents are the latest evidence to emerge
revealing the efforts of the Bush administration to
sidestep international laws and treaties when dealing
with prisoners after the 11 September attacks. Critics
say they show the abuses at Abu Ghraib were part of a
deliberately pursued and systematic approach for
dealing with prisoners without affording them their
rights contained within the Geneva Conventions.
A memo this week revealed that in March 2003,
administration lawyers concluded that President George
Bush had the authority under executive privilege to
order any sort of torture or interrogation of
Yesterday, Congresswoman Jane Harman of California,
the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence
Committee, said the views the memo contained were
"antithetical to American laws and values". She added:
"This memo argues that the President is not bound by
criminal laws in the context of his role as
Commander-in-Chief during war; that the President may
be above the law. This is a concept of executive
authority that was discarded at Runnymede in the 13th
century and has absolutely no place in our
The Attorney General, John Ashcroft, has refused to
provide copies of the internal memos on the
questioning of prisoners. "This administration rejects
torture," Mr Ashcroft said. "I don't think it's
productive, let alone justified."
And despite the international outcry over the prisoner
abuse cases, US forces will continue to be responsible
for running two Iraqi prisons where "security
detainees" are held, after the handover to a
"sovereign" Iraqi government.
A senior British official said in London that the US
military would continue to be responsible for up to
2,000 "fairly hard-core" prisoners at Abu Ghraib and
at another jail in southern Iraq. The exact number of
such prisoners, deemed a threat to Iraqi safety and
security, is not known because although the Americans
let many inmates out of Abu Ghraib, many others have
Britain is pressing for Iraqis to help run the
top-security prisons, but details are still to be
worked out. The US military is also holding Saddam
Hussein, and other former regime members inside Iraq.
They are to be tried by a special Iraqi tribunal
starting in the autumn.
A Jordanian lawyer who claims that he is acting for
Saddam says that the former Iraqi leader was also
tortured during interrogation.