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Military Confirms Two FBI Allegations of Detainee Abuse at Guantanamo

Detainee inside his cell in Camp Delta at Guantanamo
A military investigation into FBI allegations of detainee abuse at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba has found two unauthorized cases where prisoners were subjected to abusive interrogation. However, the head of the U.S. Southern Command overruled the report's recommendations that an Army general be reprimanded for failing to properly oversee the interrogations.

A military investigation into allegations by FBI agents who said they witnessed abusive interrogation techniques at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, has concluded that of the nine FBI allegations, two were unsubstantiated. Another five could be confirmed, but had occurred with senior military officials' authorization.

The senior investigating officer, Air Force Lieutenant General Randall Schmidt, said his investigation confirmed two cases of abusive interrogations that were not authorized.

"In my judgment, and we looked at this very, very carefully, no torture occurred. Detention and interrogation operations across the board [for] the general population, and again looking through all the evidence that we could, were safe, secure and humane," he said.

According to General Schmidt, one case of unauthorized abuse occurred when a naval officer communicated a death threat to a high value detainee. He said that case had been referred to the Navy Criminal Investigative Service for further review.

The second case of unauthorized abuse involved a second high value detainee, a man by the name of Mohamed al-Qahtani, a Saudi citizen captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan.

According to the report, al-Qahtani resisted all standard interrogation techniques, which lead interrogators to request permission to use harder techniques. General Schmidt described some of the techniques, designed to attack the detainee's sense of self worth, in testimony before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday.

"The mother and sister of the detainee were [called] whores. He was forced to wear women's lingerie. Multiple allegations of homosexuality and that his comrades were aware of that," he said. "He was forced to dance with a male interrogator. He was subjected to strip searches for control measures, not for security. And he was forced to perform dog tricks -all this to lower his personal sense of worth."

General Schmidt concluded that the "cumulative effect" of these techniques had an "abusive and degrading impact on the detainee."

General Schmidt's report recommended that Army Major General Geoffrey Miller, who was in charge of detainee operations at Guantanamo Bay when the abuse occurred, be reprimanded for his failure to oversee the interrogation of al-Qahtani.

However, Army General Bantz Craddock, commander of U.S. Southern Command, testified that he had overruled this recommendation and instead had referred the matter to the Army Inspector General. General Craddock said the harsh interrogation tactics used on al-Qahtani did not violate U.S. law or policy so General Miller did not deserve to be punished.

"Again, of particular importance to my decision, is the fact there was no finding that the interrogation of ISN063 (Mohamed al-Qahtani), albeit characterized as creative, aggressive, and persistent, violated U.S. law or policy," General Craddock explained.

General Miller took command of Guantanamo in late 2002 with orders to improve the detainee interrogation process. He later was sent to Iraq to oversee detainee operations there and it was on his watch that the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison occurred.

Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island, questioned whether this was a coincidence and he sharply criticized the military's report for failing to hold top officials sufficiently accountable for the prisoner abuse.

"I think what you've done is taken an investigation which was sincere and detailed and turned it into a justification and exoneration for a senior officer and have found a junior officer to recommend for punishment, which is consistent with all these other investigations," he said.

There have been twelve major senior level reviews of detainee operations and detainee allegations of abuse, but no officer of General Miller's rank or higher has been officially admonished. Instead, the military has pressed charges against a series of low-ranking officers and enlisted men and women.