[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
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 administrations 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Rumsfeld had formally withdrawn approval for use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 committees 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 Bushs 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 Pentagons
general counsel, saying the agencys officials
stand ready to assist Pentagon efforts at prisoner exploitation.
The committees 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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