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Rumsfeld himself authorized torture in Iraq PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Saturday, 15 May 2004 15:46
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the expansion of a secret program that encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners to obtain intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq, The New Yorker reported Saturday.

Sat May 15,11:04 PM ET

NEW YORK - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized the expansion of a secret program that encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners to obtain intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq (news - web sites), The New Yorker reported Saturday. The Defense Department strongly denied the claims made in the report, which cited unnamed current and former intelligence officials and was published o­n the magazine's Web site. Pentagon (news - web sites) spokesman Lawrence Di Rita issued a statement calling the claims "outlandish, conspiratorial, and filled with error and anonymous conjecture."

The story, written by reporter Seymour Hersh, said Rumsfeld decided to expand the program last year, broadening a Pentagon operation from the hunt for al-Qaida in Afghanistan (news - web sites) to interrogation of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

Seven soldiers are facing military charges related to the abuse and humiliation of prisoners captured by the now-infamous photographs at the prison. Some of the soldiers and their lawyers have said military intelligence officials told military police assigned as guards to abuse the prisoners to make interrogations easier.

According to the story, which hits newsstands Monday, the initial operation Rumsfeld authorized gave blanket approval to kill or capture and interrogate "high value" targets in the war o­n terrorism. The program stemmed from frustrating efforts to capture high-level terrorists in the weeks after the start of U.S. bombings in Afghanistan.

The program got approval from President Bush (news - web sites)'s national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites), and Bush was informed of its existence, the officials told Hersh.

Under the program, Hersh wrote, commandos carried out instant interrogations ? using force if necessary ? at secret CIA (news - web sites) detention centers scattered around the world. The intelligence would be relayed to the commanders at the Pentagon.

Last year, Rumsfeld and Stephen Cambone, his undersecretary for intelligence, expanded the scope of the Pentagon's program and brought its methods to Abu Ghraib, Hersh wrote.

Critics say the interrogation rules, first laid out in September after a visit to Iraq by the then-commander of the prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, amounted to a green light for abuse.

Defense Department officials deny that, saying prisoners always are treated under guidelines of the Geneva Conventions.

"No responsible official of the Department of Defense (news - web sites) approved any program that could conceivably have been intended to result in such abuses as witnessed in the recent photos and videos," Di Rita said in his statement. "This story seems to reflect the fevered insights of those with little, if any, connection to the activities in the Department of Defense."

Di Rita also said Cambone has never had any responsibility for any detainee or interrogation programs.

The intelligence sources told the magazine photos of the sexual abuse were used to intimidate prisoners and detainees into providing information o­n the insurgency. It was thought that some prisoners would do anything ? including spying o­n their associates ? to avoid dissemination of the shameful photos to family and friends.

One intelligence official said the CIA ended its involvement with the program at Abu Ghraib prison by last fall.

"They said, 'No way. We signed up for the core program in Afghanistan ? pre-approved for operations against the high-value terrorist targets ? and now you want to use it for cabdrivers, brothers-in-law, and people pulled off the streets,'" the source said.

Last Updated on Saturday, 15 May 2004 15:46
 

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