[Ppnews] How Rumsfeld Micromanaged Torture

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue May 1 14:16:49 EDT 2007


May Day Edition
May 1, 2007

"Make Sure This Happens!!"

How Rumsfeld Micromanaged Torture


When Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld 
boasted, as he did frequently, of his unrelenting 
focus on the war on terror, his audience would 
have been startled, maybe even shocked, to 
discover the activities that Rumsfeld found it 
necessary to supervise in minute detail. Close 
command and control of far away events from the 
Pentagon were not limited to the targeting of 
bombs and missiles. Thanks to breakthroughs in 
communications, the interrogation and torture of 
prisoners could be monitored on a real time basis also.

The first prisoner to experience such attention 
from Rumsfeld's office, or the first that we know 
about, was an American citizen, John Walker 
Lindh, a young man from California whose 
fascination with Islam had led him to enlist in 
the Taliban. Shortly thereafter, he and several 
hundred others surrendered to the Northern 
Alliance warlord Abdu Rashid Dostum in return for 
a promise of safe passage. Dostum broke the deal, 
herding the prisoners into a ruined fortress near 
Mazar-e-Sharif. Lindh managed to survive, though 
wounded, and eventually fell into the hands of 
the CIA and Special Forces, who proceeded to interrogate him.

According to documents later unearthed by Richard 
Serrano of the Los Angeles Times, a Special 
Forces intelligence officer was informed by a 
Navy Admiral monitoring events in Mazar-e-Sharif 
that "the Secretary of Defense's Counsel (lawyer 
William Haynes) has authorized him to 'take the 
gloves off' and ask whatever he wanted." In the 
course of the questioning Lindh, who had a bullet 
in his leg, was stripped naked, blindfolded, 
handcuffed, and bound to a stretcher with duct 
tape. In a practice that would become more 
familiar at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq 18 months 
later, smiling soldiers posed for pictures next 
to the naked prisoner. A navy medic later 
testified that he had been told by the lead 
military interrogator that "sleep deprivation, 
cold and hunger might be employed" during Lindh's 
interrogations. Meanwhile, his responses to the 
questioning, which ultimately went on for days, 
were relayed back to Washington, according to the 
documents disclosed to Serrano, every hour, hour 
after hour. Someone very important clearly wanted to know all the details.

Lindh was ultimately tried and sentenced in a 
U.S. court, but Rumsfeld was in no mood to extend 
any kind of legal protection to other captives. 
As the first load of prisoners arrived at the new 
military prison camp at Guantanamo, Cuba, on 
January 11, 2002, he declared them "unlawful 
combatants" who "do not have any rights under the 
Geneva Convention." In fact, the Geneva 
Conventions provide explicit protection to anyone 
taken prisoner in an international armed 
conflict, even when they are not entitled to 
actual prisoner of war status, but no one at that 
time was in a mood to contradict the all-powerful secretary of defense.

A year after Haynes, his chief counsel, had 
passed the message that interrogators should 
"take the gloves off" when questioning the 
hapless John Walker Lindh and report the results 
on an hourly basis, Rumsfeld was personally 
deciding on whether interrogators could use 
"stress positions" (an old CIA technique) like 
making prisoners stand for up to four hours, or 
exploit "individual phobias, such as fear of 
dogs, to induce stress," or strip them naked, or 
question them for 28 hours at a stretch, without 
sleep, or use "a wet towel and dripping water to 
induce the misperception of suffocation". These 
and other methods, euphemistically dubbed 
"counter-resistance techniques" in Pentagon 
documents that always avoided the word "torture," 
were outlined in an "action memo" submitted on 
November 27, 2002, for Rumsfeld's approval by 
Haynes. The lawyer noted that Paul Wolfowitz, 
Douglas Feith and Richard General Richard Myers 
(respectively deputy defense secretary, 
under-secretary for policy and chairman of the 
joint chiefs) had already agreed that Rumsfeld 
should approve all but the most severe options, 
such as the wet towel, without restriction. A 
week later, Rumsfeld scrawled his signature in 
the "approved" box but added, "However, I stand 
for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?"

The answer, of course, was that he could always 
sit down if he felt like it, and in any case, 
according to a sworn statement by Air Force Lt. 
General Randall Schmidt, appointed in 2005 to 
investigate charges by FBI officials that there 
had been widespread abuse at Guantanamo, 
Rumsfeld's signature was merely for the record; 
he had given verbal approval for the techniques 
two weeks before. In any event, sitting down at 
will was not an option available to Mohammed 
al-Qahtani, a Saudi inmate in Guantanamo who soon 
began to feel the effects of Rumsfeld's 
authorization in the most direct way. Qahtani, 
alleged to have been recruited for the 9/11 
hijackings only to fail to gain entry into the 
U.S., had been under intense questioning for months.

There is no more chilling evidence of just how 
closely connected Secretary Rumsfeld was to the 
culture of torture so defiantly adopted by the 
Bush administration than Schmidt's 55-page 
statement, which at times takes on an informal, 
almost emotional tone. Schmidt is adamant that 
Rumsfeld intended the techniques "for Mister 
Kahtani (sic) number one." And so Qahtani's 
jailers now began forcing him to stand for long 
periods, isolating him, stripping him, telling 
him to bark like a dog, and more. "There were no 
limits put on this and no boundaries", Schmidt 
reported. After a few days, the sessions had to 
be temporarily suspended when Qahtani's heartbeat 
slowed to 35 beats a minute. "Somewhere", General 
Schmidt observes, "there had to be a throttle on 
this", and the "throttle" controlling the 
interrogation was ultimately Rumsfeld, who was 
"personally involved", the general stresses, "in 
the interrogation of one person." Bypassing the 
normal chain of command, the secretary called the 
prison chief directly on a weekly basis for reports on progress with Qahtani.

Years before, a G.D. Searle executive had 
remarked on Rumsfeld's practice of "diving down 
in the weeds" to check on details, but this was a 
whole new departure. At one point in Schmidt's 
description of his interview with the secretary 
during his investigation, it appears that 
Rumsfeld was bemused by the practical 
consequences of his edicts: "Did [I] say 'put a 
bra and panties on this guy's head and make him 
dance with another man?'" Schmidt quotes him as 
remarking defensively. To which Schmidt, in his 
statement, answers that Rumsfeld had indeed 
authorized such specific actions by his broad overall approval.

Sometime in mid-August 2003, Rumsfeld took action 
to deal with the question of "insurgency" in Iraq 
once and for all. During an intelligence briefing 
in his office he reportedly expressed outrage at 
the quality of intelligence he was receiving from 
Iraq, which he loudly and angrily referred to as 
"shit", banging the table with his fist "so hard 
we thought he might break it",according to one 
report. His principal complaint was that the 
reports were failing to confirm what he knew to 
be true ­ that hostile acts against U.S. forces 
in Iraq were entirely the work of FSLs ["Former 
Saddam Loyalists"] and dead-enders. Scathingly, 
he compared the quality of the Iraqi material 
with the excellent intelligence that was now, in 
his view, being extracted from the prisoners at 
Guantanamo, or "Gitmo," as the military termed 
it, under the able supervision of prison 
commander Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller. Rumsfeld 
concluded his diatribe with a forthright 
instruction to Stephen Cambone [under-secretary 
of defense for intel]ligence] that Miller be 
ordered immediately to the Abu Ghraib prison 
outside Baghdad, where the unfortunate PUCs 
[Persons Under Confinement] were ending up, and 
"Gitmoise it." Cambone in turn dispatched the 
deputy undersecretary of defense for 
intelligence, Lt. Gen. William Boykin, a fervent 
Christian fundamentalist given to deriding the 
Muslims' Allah as "an idol," to Cuba to brief Miller on his mission.

Boykin must have given Miller careful 
instruction, for he arrived in Iraq fully 
prepared, bringing with him experts such as the 
female interrogator who favored the technique of 
sexually taunting prisoners, as well as useful 
tips on the use of dogs as a means of 
intimidating interviewees. First on his list of 
appointments was Lt. Ricardo Sanchez, who had 
succeeded McKiernan as the commander of all U.S. 
forces in Iraq. It must have been an instructive 
conversation, since within 36 hours Sanchez 
issued instructions on detainee interrogation 
that mirrored those authorized by Rumsfeld for 
use at Guantanamo in December the previous year 
that gave cover to techniques including hooding, 
nudity, stress positions, "fear of dogs," and 
"mild" physical contact with prisoners. There 
were some innovations in Sanchez' instructions 
however, such as sleep and dietary manipulation. 
Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the overall commander 
of the U.S. military prison system in Iraq at 
that time, later insisted that she did not know 
what was being done to the prisoners at Abu 
Gharib, though she did recall Miller remarking 
that "at Guantanamo Bay we learned that the 
prisoners have to earn every single thing that 
they have" and "if you allow them to believe at 
any point that they are more than a dog, then you've lost control of them".

The techniques were apparently fully absorbed by 
the Abu Ghraib interrogators and attendant 
military police, as became apparent when 
photographs snapped by the MPs finally began to 
surface, initially on CBS News' 60 Minutes in 
late April 2004. When Rumsfeld first learned that 
there were pictures extant of naked, humiliated 
and terrified prisoners being abused by cheerful, 
he said, according to an aide who was present, "I 
didn't know you were allowed to bring cameras into a prison."

It is not clear when Rumsfeld first saw the 
actual photographs. He himself testified under 
oath to Congress that he saw them first in 
expurgated form when they were published in the 
press, and only got to look at the originals nine 
days later after his office had been "trying to 
get one of the disks for days and days".

The army's criminal investigation division began 
a probe on January16, 2004, after Joseph Darby, a 
soldier not involved in the abuse, slipped the 
investigators a CD carrying some of the photos. 
As the CID investigation set to work, Karpinski, 
according to her later testimony, asked a 
sergeant at the prison, "What's this about 
photographs?" The sergeant replied, "Ma'am, we've 
heard something about photographs, but I have no 
idea. Nobody has any details, and Ma'am, if 
anybody knows, nobody is talking." When she asked 
to see the logbooks kept by the military 
intelligence personnel, she was told that the CID 
had cleared up everything. However, when she went 
to look for herself, she found they had missed 
something, a piece of paper stuck on a pole 
outside a little office used by the 
interrogators. "It was a memorandum signed by 
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, authorizing a 
short list, maybe 6 or 8 techniques: use of dogs; 
stress positions; loud music; deprivation of 
food; keeping the lights on, those kinds of 
things," Karpinski said. Over to the side of the 
paper was a line of handwriting, which to her 
appeared to be in the same hand and with the same 
ink as the signature. The line read: "Make sure this happens!!"

Further indications of Rumsfeld's close interest 
in ongoing events at Abu Ghraib emerged in 
subsequent court proceedings. In May 2006, 
Sergeant Santos Cardona, an army dog handler was 
court-martialed at Fort Meade, Maryland. In 
stipulated (i.e., accepted by defense and 
prosecution) testimony, Maj. Michael Thompson, 
who had been assigned to the 325th Military 
Intelligence Battalion in the relevant period and 
reported to Col. Tom Pappas, the battalion 
commander, stated that he was frequently told by 
Pappas' executive assistant that "Mr. Donald 
Rumsfeld and Mr. Paul Wolfowitz" had called and 
were "waiting for reports". The defense also read 
aloud stipulated testimony from Steve Pescatore, 
a civilian interrogator employed by CACI, a 
corporation heavily contracted to assist in 
interrogations, who recalled being told by 
military intelligence personnel that Secretary 
Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz received "nightly briefings".

Needless to say, the numerous investigations of 
itself by the military high command concluded 
that no officer or official above the rank of 
colonel bore any responsibility for Abu Ghraib. 
Col. Pappas was granted immunity in return for 
his testimony against a dog handler. One of the 
investigations, conducted by former Defense 
Secretary Schlesinger (who had become a friend of 
Rumsfeld since the distant days of the Ford 
administration) concluded that the whole affair 
had been simply "animal house on the night 
shift", the acts of the untrained national guard 
military police unit from Cumberland Mary, and assigned to Abu Ghraib.

This strategy of deflecting responsibility 
downwards appears to have been crafted in the 
three desperate weeks that followed the first 
call for comment on the photographs from 60 
Minutes' producer Mary Mapes. While Gen. Myers 
bought time with appeals to the broadcasters' 
patriotism, Rumsfeld's public affairs specialists 
went into crisis mode under the urgent direction 
of Larry DiRita, who had taken on Torie Clarke's 
responsibilities as Pentagon public affairs chief 
following her departure in April 2003 . To help 
in developing tactics to deal with the storm they 
knew would break once 60 Minutes went ahead, 
DiRita's staff summoned an "echo chamber" of 
public relations professionals, "all Republicans 
of course", as one official assured me, from big 
firms such as Hill and Knowlton to advise them. 
Naturally, the well-oiled system for delivering 
the official line through the medium of TV 
military analysts was brought into play. Retired 
Army Gen. David Grange, one of the stars of this 
system, got the tone exactly right on CNN. 
Responding to a question from Lou Dobbs that 
though there were six soldiers facing charges, 
"their superiors had to know what was going on 
here." Grange responded quickly: "Or they didn't 
know at all because they lacked the supervision 
of those soldiers or (were not) inspecting part 
of their command." In other words, the higher 
command's fault lay not in encouraging the 
torture at Abu Ghraib, but simply in failing to 
notice what the guards were up to. "These 
soldiers," continued Grange indignantly, "these 
few soldiers let down the rest of the force in 
Iraq and the United States, to include veterans 
like myself. It is unexcusable."

Meanwhile, Rumsfeld accepted full responsibility 
without taking any blame, a standard response for 
high officials implicated in scandal. He said had 
had no idea what was going on in his Iraqi 
prisons until Specialist Darby, whom he 
commended, alerted investigators, though he also 
claimed that a vague press release on the 
investigation issued in Baghdad at that time had 
in fact "broken the story" and alerted "the whole 
world." He said he had written not one but two 
letters of resignation to President Bush, which 
were rejected. Gen. Myers testified under oath 
that he never informed Rumsfeld that he was 
trying to persuade CBS to suppress their report. 
When a leaked internal report by Gen. Antonio 
Taguba detailing how "numerous incidents of 
sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses 
were inflicted on several detainees" at Abu 
Ghraib had been published in the press and even 
on Fox TV a few days after the original CBS 
broadcast, Feith sent an urgent memo round the 
Pentagon warning officials not to read it , or 
even discuss it with family members.

What Rumsfeld did not mention in all his public 
protestations of regret over Abu Ghraib was that 
in the same month of May 2004 he had on his desk 
a report prepared by the Navy inspector general's 
office detailing the interrogation methods, 
refined in their cruelty, being practiced on Jose 
Padilla and other inmates in the South Carolina 
naval brig. Padilla, a Puerto Rican former gang 
member, found himself incarcerated on the direct 
authority of the secretary of defense, one of 
three prisoners accused of terrorism held in the 
jail and subjected to a carefully designed regime 
of isolation and sensory deprivation. Padilla, 
according to his attorneys, would ultimately 
spend 1,307 days in a nine-by-seven-foot cell, 
often chained to the ground by his wrists and 
torso and kept awake at night by guards using 
bright lights and loud noises. In repeated legal 
arguments, administration lawyers maintained that 
Rumsfeld was entitled to hold anyone deemed 'an 
enemy combatant' in his rapidly excpanding prison system.

Excerpted from 
by Andrew Cockburn. Copyright 2007 by Andrew 
Cockburn. Reprinted by permission by Scribner, an 
imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Andrew Cockburn is the author of 
His Rise, Fall and Catastrophic Legacy.

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