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White House, DoD Discuss Interrogation Process

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 23, 2004 – Even facing a different kind of enemy, the United States will continue to adhere to its values, international law and treaty obligations, White House and DoD officials said June 22.

President Bush made the U.S. position on torture very clear during a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy June 22. "We do not condone torture," Bush said. "I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture. The values of this country are such that torture is not a part of our soul and our being."

DoD officials emphasized that the department embraces processes that are "careful and respectful of human beings." They pointed out that this contrasts greatly with the actions of terrorists who have kidnapped and beheaded their victims.

As the United States captures al Qaeda members and their terrorist allies, White House officials noted, they will be treated humanely, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions even though they are not prisoners of war in the legal sense.

The White House and Pentagon released a series of documents June 22 detailing the U.S. government's examination of the status of the terrorist enemy and how U.S. intelligence experts should deal with them.

"The Department is providing this level of detail," said a DoD release, "realizing that we are still a nation at war and we must be careful in what we disclose to our enemies."

"We face an enemy that lies in the shadows, an enemy that doesn't sign treaties, they don't wear uniforms, an enemy that owes no allegiance to any country, they do not cherish life," said Judge Alberto Gonzalez, the White House Counsel. "(The terrorists are) an enemy that doesn't fight, attack or plan according to accepted laws of war, in particular Geneva Conventions."

American policymakers debated some tough questions even as American service members began catching these terrorists. Gonzalez said they worked to determine the legal status of individuals caught in this battle. They helped determine how the enemy combatants were treated. They also asked to what extent can those detained be questioned to attain information concerning possible future terrorist attacks? What are the rules governing that interrogation and what will U.S. policies be?

The memoranda and letters released detail how the U.S. government arrived at the policy regarding treatment of terrorists. First thing to remember, officials said, is that the terrorists do wish America harm. They killed 3,000 Americans in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. They have launched attacks in Bali, Indonesia, Madrid, Istanbul, Pakistan and throughout Iraq.

"As we debated these questions, the president made clear that he was prepared to protect and defend the United States and its citizens, and he would do so vigorously, but as the documents we are releasing today show, that he would do so in a manner consistent with our nation's values and applicable law, including our treaty obligations," Gonzalez said.

Critics who contend that the United States allowed torture against detainees in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are wrong, Gonzales said. "All interrogation techniques actually authorized have been carefully vetted, are lawful and do not constitute torture," he said.

Most interrogation procedures military intelligence officials use come straight from the Army's Field Manual 34-52, in use for years. The manual detailing procedures for use against a conventional military foe.

But al Qaeda is not a typical foe, officials said. A manual captured in Afghanistan showed the terrorists were aware of the interrogation procedures and trained to resist those procedures.

During the summer and fall of 2002, intelligence indicated al Qaeda planners had targeted the United States and allied nations, according to DoD officials. Among the detainees at Guantanamo were individuals with close connections to al Qaeda leadership and planning figures. Some detainees possessed information on al Qaeda plans.

In October 2002, officials in Guantanamo requested permission to use additional interrogation techniques for al Qaeda detainees. The request included 20 techniques, officials said.

On Nov. 27, 2002, the DoD general counsel, after a series of discussions recommended that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approve 17 of the techniques. On Dec. 2, 2002, Rumsfeld approved the 17 requests.

According to a DoD news release, "the techniques approved were arranged on a three-tiered system that required approval from different levels of the chain of command before they could be used. A number of the techniques that were approved were never used. These guidelines were in effect from Dec. 2, 2002 until Jan. 15, 2003."

Rumsfeld rescinded the guidance when he learned that some officials had concern about the implementation of the techniques.

"Key to this," said a DoD official, "is that while harsher techniques were approved, they were not used."

Today, a total of 24 techniques are approved for use at Guantanamo. Seventeen of the techniques are straight from the Army field manual. Four techniques require prior approval by Rumsfeld before they can be used.

"No procedures approved for use ordered, authorized, permitted or tolerated torture," said the DoD release. "Individuals who have abused the trust and confidence placed in them will be held accountable.

"There are a number of inquiries that are ongoing to look at specific allegations of abuse, and those investigations will run their course."

The released documents, the DoD news release noted, "are made available to demonstrate" that the department's actions "are bound by law and guided by American values."

Related Release:
DoD Provides Details on Interrogation Process

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