Alleged Guantanamo Abuse Did Not Rise to Level of 'Inhumane'
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 13, 2005 A close look at allegations of detainee abuse in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has found a small number of instances in which DoD policies were violated during interrogations.
However, the actions were not severe enough to be called "inhumane," a general investigating the allegations told Congress today.
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.
In a separate instance regarding another high-value detainee, a Navy officer was accused of threatening the safety of the detainee's mother. This instance came to light in the course of the investigation into the FBI allegations and has been referred to the Naval Investigative Service for further review.
Two other claims from FBI officers were substantiated in Schmidt's investigation.
Schmidt found that between February 2002 and February 2003 detainees were handcuffed to the floor, called "short shackling," in at least two instances. This practice has since been forbidden at Guantanamo Bay, Schmidt said.
"It was not considered to be overly abusive. There was no injury. There was no pain involved in this," he said.
In the other claim, investigators found that in October 2002 interrogators used duct tape on the mouth and head of a detainee who was continuously chanting as a resistance measure. The judge advocate general at Guantanamo Bay verbally reprimanded the intelligence chief who authorized the use of tape. Schmidt's investigation concluded that this reprimand was not severe enough and that the individual should be "formally admonished or 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.
Other allegations by FBI agents working at Guantanamo were found to be accurate but involved actions within DoD guidelines, Schmidt said. Such acts include playing loud music, manipulating the air conditioning to make a detainee uncomfortable during interrogation, and carefully controlled acts of sexual humiliations, such as making a detainee wear a bra or accusing him of being homosexual.
The general explained that these acts fall under the specific interrogation technique of "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 constitutes the 12th major review of detainee operations. In today's hearing, Virginia Sen. John Warner noted that the few cases of misconduct cited in the report should be viewed in the context of roughly 24,000 interrogations conducted at Guantanamo Bay 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.
Craddock, also speaking before the committee today, said he has complete confidence in "the fine work that servicemembers and the leaders of Joint Task Force Guantanamo are doing each and every day for our nation."
"Their work contributes to our nation's safety," he said. "And their adherence to the highest standards of humane treatment of the detainees under their charge is lauded by all who visit the facility."
Craddock said operations at Guantanamo Bay are still providing intelligence that supports the efforts of warfighters in the global war on terror.
Detainees at Guantanamo include "terrorist trainers; bomb makers; terrorist recruiters, facilitators and financiers; Osama bin Laden's bodyguards; and would-be suicide bombers," he said.
"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."