[Ppnews] Report Blames Rumsfeld for Torture (among others)

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Dec 12 10:45:58 EST 2008


December 12, 2008

Report Blames Rumsfeld for Detainee Abuses

SHANE and 

WASHINGTON ­ A report released Thursday by 
leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee 
said top Bush administration officials, including 
H. Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary, bore 
major responsibility for the abuses committed by 
American troops in interrogations at Abu Ghraib 
in Iraq; Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; and other military detention centers.

report was issued jointly by Senator 
Levin of Michigan, the Democratic chairman of the 
panel, and Senator 
McCain of Arizona, the top Republican. It 
represents the most thorough review by Congress 
to date of the origins of the abuse of prisoners 
in American military custody, and it explicitly 
rejects the Bush administration’s contention that 
tough interrogation methods have helped keep the country and its troops safe.

The report also rejected previous claims by Mr. 
Rumsfeld and others that Defense Department 
policies played no role in the harsh treatment of 
prisoners at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 and in other episodes of abuse.

The abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the report 
says, “was not simply the result of a few 
soldiers acting on their own” but grew out of 
interrogation policies approved by Mr. Rumsfeld 
and other top officials, who “conveyed the 
message that physical pressures and degradation 
were appropriate treatment for detainees.”

By the time of the abuses at Abu Ghraib, Mr. 
Rumsfeld had formally withdrawn approval for use 
of the harshest techniques, which he authorized 
in December 2002 and then ruled out a month 
later. But the report said that those methods, 
including the use of stress positions and forced 
nudity, continued to spread through the military 
detention system, and that their use “damaged our 
ability to collect accurate intelligence that 
could save lives, strengthened the hand of our 
enemies, and compromised our moral authority.”

Most of the report, the product of an 18-month 
inquiry and interviews with more than 70 people 
by committee staff members, remains classified. 
But the 29-page summary offers the clearest 
timeline to date linking the acts of Mr. Rumsfeld 
and other Pentagon officials to abusive treatment in the field.

A spokesman for Mr. Rumsfeld, Keith Urbahn, said 
a dozen earlier investigations had found no such 
connection, and he dismissed the report as 
“unfounded allegations against those who have served our nation.”

“Because of irresponsible charges by a few 
individuals in positions of responsibility in 
Congress, millions of people around the world 
have been led to believe that the United States 
condones torture,” Mr. Urbahn said.

Committee staff members said the report was 
approved by a voice vote without dissent, but 
only 17 of the committee’s 25 members were 
present for the vote. Mr. McCain, who was 
tortured while he was a prisoner of war in North 
Vietnam, has been an outspoken opponent of harsh 
interrogation tactics, but some other Republicans 
have defended such methods as legal and necessary.

Many of the particulars in the summary were made 
public at hearings the committee held in June and 
September, including the fact that members of 
President Bush’s cabinet discussed specific 
interrogation methods in White House meetings.

The report documents how the military training 
program called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and 
Escape, or SERE, became a crucial source for 
interrogations as the Bush administration looked 
for tougher methods after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The SERE training was devised decades ago to give 
American military personnel a taste of the 
treatment they might face if taken prisoner by 
China, the Soviet Union or other cold war 
adversaries. “The techniques were never intended 
to be used against detainees in U.S. custody,” Mr. Levin said in a statement.

In his statement on Thursday, Mr. McCain called 
the adoption of SERE methods “inexcusable.”

The report found that senior Defense Department 
officials inquired about SERE techniques for 
prisoner interrogations as early as December 
2001, when the war in Afghanistan was weeks old 
and American troops were just beginning to 
capture people suspected of being members of the 

In September, the committee released a December 
2001 letter from the head of the Joint Personnel 
Recovery Agency, which runs the SERE program, to 
a deputy of William J. Haynes II, the Pentagon’s 
general counsel, saying the agency’s officials 
“stand ready to assist” Pentagon efforts at prisoner “exploitation.”

The committee’s report says little about the 
Intelligence Agency, except to note that that 
agency also drew on the SERE program for harsh 
methods it used in secret overseas jails for 
Qaeda suspects. The C.I.A. has said it used 
a method of near-drowning previously used in the 
SERE program, on three captured terrorism suspects in 2002 and 2003.

Unlike the military, the C.I.A. is still 
permitted to use some coercive methods, though 
the precise rules are classified. The agency has 
said that it no longer uses waterboarding.

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