portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reposts global

human & civil rights | imperialism & war | prisons & prisoners

Same Shit, Different Day: Abu Ghraib Used Aggressive Tactics

The atmosphere at Abu Ghraib was hardly one of strict adherence to
the rules, other officials said. A photograph of the pyramid of naked
Iraqi detainees -- one of the most notorious portraits of abuse -- was
used as a screen saver on a computer in the isolation area where
intelligence officers worked, according to Spencer's statement.
Abu Ghraib Used Aggressive Tactics

Washington Post Saturday, June 12, 2004; Page A01
By R. Jeffrey Smith and Josh White

Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the senior U.S. military officer in Iraq,
borrowed heavily from a list of high-pressure interrogation tactics
used at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and
approved letting senior officials at a Baghdad jail use military dogs,
temperature extremes, reversed sleep patterns, sensory deprivation,
and diets of bread and water on detainees whenever they wished,
according to newly obtained documents.

The U.S. policy, details of which have not been previously disclosed,
was approved in early September, shortly after an Army general sent
from Washington completed his inspection of the Abu Ghraib jail and
then returned to brief Pentagon officials on his ideas for using
military police there to help implement the new high-pressure methods.

The documents obtained by The Washington Post spell out in greater
detail than previously known the interrogation tactics Sanchez
authorized, and make clear for the first time that, before last
October, they could be imposed without first seeking the approval of
anyone outside the prison. That gave officers at Abu Ghraib wide
latitude in handling detainees.

Unnamed officials at the Florida headquarters of the U.S. Central
Command, which has overall military responsibility for Iraq, objected
to some of the 32 interrogation tactics approved by Sanchez in
September, including the more severe methods that he had said could be
used at any time in Abu Ghraib with the consent of the interrogation
officer in charge.

As a result, Sanchez decided on Oct. 12 to remove several items on the
list and to require that prison officials obtain his direct approval
for the remaining high-pressure methods. Among the tactics apparently
dropped were those that would take away prisoners' religious items;
control their exposure to light; inflict "pride and ego down," which
means attacking detainees' sense of pride or worth; and allow
interrogators to pretend falsely to be from a country that deals
severely with detainees, according to the documents.

The high-pressure options that remained included taking someone to a
less hospitable location for interrogation; manipulating his or her
diet; imposing isolation for more than 30 days; using military dogs to
provoke fear; and requiring someone to maintain a "stress position"
for as long as 45 minutes. These were not dropped by Sanchez until a
scandal erupted in May over photographs depicting abuse at the prison.

The Army has never said whether any of the particularly tough tactics
that were authorized were used on detainees at Abu Ghraib or the other
U.S.-run detention camps in Iraq before October, in the five-month
period after the end of major combat operations in May 2003.

Officials have said that Sanchez approved the use of only one of the
more severe techniques -- long-term isolation -- on 25 occasions after
Oct. 12 and before the third set of rules was issued this May. The
officials have described the abusive acts committed by Army personnel
at Abu Ghraib before and during this time as aberrant activities
conducted outside the rules.

One of the documents, an Oct. 9 memorandum on "Interrogation Rules of
Engagement," which each military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib
was asked to sign, sets out in detail the wide range of pressure
tactics approved in September and available before the rules were
changed on Oct. 12. They included methods that were close to some of
the behavior criticized this March by the Army's own investigator, who
said he found evidence of "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal
abuse" at the prison.

The document states that the list of tactics in the memorandum is
derived from a Sept. 10, 2003, "Interrogation and Counter-Resistance
Policy" approved by Combined Joint Task Force-7, which Sanchez
directs. While the document states that "at no time will detainees be
treated inhumanely nor maliciously humiliated," it permits the use of
yelling, loud music, a reduction of heat in winter and air
conditioning in summer, and "stress positions" for as long as 45
minutes every four hours -- all without first gaining the permission
of anyone more senior than the "interrogation officer in charge" at
Abu Ghraib.

Although the October document calls attention to the strictures of the
Uniform Code of Military Justice, it neither quotes from that statute
nor makes any reference to the Geneva Conventions' rules against
cruelty and torture involving detainees.

Wendy Patten, a lawyer and U.S. advocacy director for Human Rights
Watch, said two provisions in the Oct. 9 document are particularly
troubling. First, she noted its reference to "dietary manipulation --
minimum bread and water, monitored by medics" as a technique permitted
with the approval of the interrogation officer in charge. "This seems
a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions, which require daily food
rations to have enough quantity, quality and variety to maintain good
health, prevent weight loss and prevent nutritional deficiencies,"
Patten said.

She also expressed concern about the policy's blanket approval of
"incentive item removal -- regarding religious items" as a tactic that
may be used on civilian detainees, which she said appears to conflict
with a Geneva Conventions requirement that detainees enjoy "complete
latitude in the exercise of their religious duties."

Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman did not defend these
tactics. He said "there are a number of investigations that are
looking not only into interrogation procedures and processes, but how
they were implemented. The baseline standard for all interrogation as
well as the security procedures for holding detainees has always been
humane treatment."

The list of interrogation options in the document closely matches a
menu of options developed for use on detainees held by the U.S.
military at Guantanamo Bay and approved in a series of memos signed by
top Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H.
Rumsfeld. In January 2002, for example, Rumsfeld approved the use of
dogs to intimidate prisoners there; although officials have said dogs
were never used at Guantanamo, they were used at Abu Ghraib.

Then, in April 2003, Rumsfeld approved the use in Guantanamo of at
least five other high-pressure techniques also listed on the Oct. 9
Abu Ghraib memo, none of which was among the Army's standard
interrogation methods. This overlap existed even though detainees in
Iraq were covered, according to the administration's policy, by Geneva
Convention protections that did not apply to the detainees in Cuba.

The documents obtained by The Post, which include memos from Abu
Ghraib and statements made by prison officials for the Army's
investigation, make clear that this overlap was no accident. No
formalized rules for interrogation existed in Iraq before the policy
imposed on Sept. 10, one day after Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller -- who
was then in charge of the Guantanamo site -- departed from Iraq. He
was accompanied on the Iraq visit by at least 11 senior aides from
Guantanamo, including officials from the CIA and Defense Intelligence

While that list of options was subsequently truncated on Oct. 12, some
military personnel at the jail told Army investigators that they
lacked awareness or understanding of the changes.

For example, Spec. Luciana Spencer, a member of the 66th Military
Intelligence Group who was removed from interrogations because she had
ordered a detainee to walk naked to his cell after an interview, told
investigators that the military police did not know their boundaries.
"When I began working the night shift I discussed with the MPs what
their SOP [standard operating procedure] was for detainee treatment,"
Spencer said in a statement. "They informed me they had no SOP. I
informed them of my IROE [interrogation rules of engagement] and made
clear to them what I was and wasn't allowed to do or see."

A civilian contractor, Adel Nakhla, an interpreter for military
intelligence, told investigators he was briefed on interrogation rules
only after being implicated in an abusive event.

Yelling at detainees, a technique approved in September that appears
to have been dropped in October, was nonetheless used throughout the
last quarter of 2003, Army investigators were told. "It's not common
but it happens sometimes," Roman Krol, a military intelligence
interrogator, told investigators on Jan. 31. "We asked them [military
police] if they could come in and randomly yell at the detainee."

Moreover, when intelligence officers arranged for military police to
help impose some of the more severe tactics, they often failed to
specify how to do so, leaving wide latitude for potentially abusive
behavior. Steven Anthony Stefanowicz, a civilian interrogator at Abu
Ghraib, said, for example, that "the MPs are allowed to do what is
necessary to keep the detainee awake in the allotted period of time. .
.. . I've referred to the MPs to give the detainee his special
treatment . . . hence the MPs are not directed when and how this is to
be administered."

Capt. Donald J. Reese, a member of the 372nd Military Police Company
who assigned MPs to work in the isolation tiers, told investigators
"it appeared that the MI [military intelligence] tactics were very
aggressive and then appeared to taper in intensity as time went

But the atmosphere at Abu Ghraib was hardly one of strict adherence to
the rules, other officials said. A photograph of the pyramid of naked
Iraqi detainees -- one of the most notorious portraits of abuse -- was
used as a screen saver on a computer in the isolation area where
intelligence officers worked, according to Spencer's statement.

Some of the rules for U.S. military personnel at the prison made it
easy for people to duck responsibility for their actions, a factor
that may also have opened the door to abuse.

The acronym MI "will not be used in the area," according to an undated
prison memo titled "Operational Guidelines," which covered the
high-security cellblock. "Additionally, it is recommended that all
military personnel in the segregation area reduce knowledge of their
true identities to these specialized detainees. The use of sterilized
uniforms is highly suggested and personnel should NOT address each
other by true name and rank in the segregation area."

homepage: homepage: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35612-2004Jun11.html