It sometimes amazes me what the Department of Defense releases through its American Forces Press Service. Take, for instance, the story it just released on Congressional hearings where the Army claimed that only a small number of the allegations of detainee abuse at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, violated DoD policies.
Even those actions were not severe enough to be called “inhumane,” however, according to what a general investigating the allegations told Congress Wednesday. Note that the allegations of inhumane abuse came from FBI agents on the scene.
A U.S. Southern Command investigation into allegations FBI agents made that detainees at Guantanamo were being treated inhumanely found that one particular high-value detainee was subjected to up to 20 hours of intense interrogations on most days over a period of nearly two months. An unclassified summary of the reports findings stated that long interrogations and other techniques used were not violations of DoD policy in themselves but that the cumulative effect was “degrading and abuse” to this individual.
“I do not, however, consider this treatment to have crossed the threshold of being inhumane,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt, the senior investigating officer, told members of Senate Armed Services Committee. Schmidt commands the Air Force component of U.S. Southern Command. SOUTHCOM chief Army Gen. Bantz Craddock appointed him as senior investigating officer in February.
If interrogating someone for 20 hours a day for two months ain’t inhumane, I’ll eat your yellowcake plutonium.
Schmidt’s investigation substantiated two other claims from FBI officers: that interrogators
handcuffed detainees to the floor, a practice called “short shackling,” and the use of duct tape on the mouth and head of a detainee who was continuously chanting “as a resistance measure.”
With regards to short-shackling, Schmidt told Congress, “It was not considered to be overly abusive. There was no injury. There was no pain involved in this.” As for the duct tape, the
intelligence chief who authorized the use of tape was reprimanded by the judge advocate. Schmidt’s investigation concluded that reprimand was not severe enough and he recommended the individual be “formally admonished or reprimanded.”
Oooh, the dreaded double reprimanded.
A third instance found that in March 2003 a female interrogator smeared red ink from her hand on a detainee and told him it was menstrual blood, which “unsettled” the detainee. Schmidt called this a “not-approved event.”
“It was a spontaneous act of revenge by the interrogator,” he said. “She had been spit on by the detainee.”
He said the interrogator was verbally reprimanded and removed from interrogation duties for about 30 days before being reinstated.
The investigation found that the command’s actions toward the interrogator were not severe enough for this instance, but that the individual had already left the military. Investigators recommended no further action in this incident because of the time that had lapsed.
Where this thing gets ticklish is where FBI agent allegations were found to be accurate, but the interrogation tactics fell within DoD guidelines, including playing loud music, manipulating air conditioning to make a detainee uncomfortable and acts of sexual humiliation, such as making a detainee wear a bra or accusing him of being homosexual.
Schmidt explained these acts are examples of an interrogation technique quaintly named “futility.”
In the futility technique “the intent is that the interrogator convinces the source that resistance to questioning is futile,” Schmidt said. Examples include “convincing the source that resistance is futile; telling the detainee about how al Qaeda’s falling apart; talk about how everyone has been killed or captured; and telling him what we know about him, so that he feels he’s already been exploited at some point and it’s futile to withhold information.”
Schmidt said DoD’s interrogation goals can sometimes conflict with those of the FBI; that’s why FBI agents might construe something as inappropriate that, in reality, is allowed within DoD guidelines.
FBI agents are seeking evidence that will stand up in a court of law, Schmidt said. “The (FBI) agents on the ground obviously wanted to develop rapport and develop evidence through noncoercive means” because evidence obtained through coersion is generally is not admissible in court, he said.
The Defense Department, however, is seeking actionable intelligence to thwart future terrorist attacks and to use in fighting terrorists. “The coercion piece was not an element that would deter that,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt’s report was the 12th major review of detainee operations at Gitmo.
Virginia Repug Sen. John Warner urged fellow committee members to keep these acts of non-inhumanity in context. After all, Schmidt found only three unacceptable actions among the nearly 24,000 interrogations conducted at Guantanamo since detention operations began there in early 2003.
“In my judgment, the department has performed credibly in investigating allegations of abuse and failure to follow professional standards and the law and regulation in these instances,” Warner said.
Gen. Craddock claimed that Gitmo operations are still providing intelligence that supports the efforts of warfighters in the global war on terror. He said the detainees include “terrorist trainers; bomb makers; terrorist recruiters, facilitators and financiers; Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards; and would-be suicide bombers.”
“Through them we have learned the organizational structure of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups; the extent of the terrorist presence in Europe, the United States and the Middle East; the methods of and location of terrorist recruitment centers; how operatives are trained; and al Qaeda’s efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction.”
It’s a wonder what a little duct tape and futility can do, eh?