A key U.S. lawmaker says senior Bush administration officials sought
extreme interrogation techniques to use against detainees in military
prisons. His Senate panel found that military officials who helped
train U.S. troops to resist interrogations in captivity assisted
Defense Department lawyers in drafting a list of extreme tactics that
could be used against detainees. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from
The Senate Armed Services Committee is
investigating the origins of the harsh interrogation techniques used on
detainees at the military prisons at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Abu
Ghraib in Iraq.
Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, is committee chairman:
truth is, that senior officials in the U.S. government sought
information on aggressive techniques, twisted the law to create the
appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against
detainees," said Senator Levin. "In the process, they damaged our
ability to collect intelligence that could save lies."
committee found that Pentagon lawyers sought information about a
program used to train U.S. troops to resist enemy interrogation, and
that some of the techniques used in the program - including stress
positions and sleep deprivation - were approved for use on detainees by
then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in December 2002.
Senator Levin's questioning, Richard Shiffrin, former deputy general
counsel for intelligence at the Defense Department, said Pentagon
lawyers pursued the aggressive interrogation techniques because they
were concerned the military was not effectively obtaining information
LEVIN: "Was this effort because of some frustration with the lack of intelligence that was coming up?"
SHIFFRIN: "That is the sense I got."
the harsh interrogation techniques were approved despite opposition
from some lawyers in the uniformed services, who sent memos to the
Joint Chiefs of Staff saying the techniques warranted further
examination and could be illegal. Alberto Mora is a former general
counsel for the Navy.
"Our nation's policy decisions to use
so-called harsh interrogation techniques in the war on terror was a
mistake of massive proportions," said Alberto Mora. "It damaged and
continues to damage the nation.
But William Haynes, the Pentagon's top lawyer who resigned in February, told the committee he was unaware of the memos.
Senator Levin found the comments incredulous.
HAYNES: "I did not know they existed."
LEVIN: "You didn't know those memos existed?"
HAYNES: "Senator, I don't recall seeing them, and I don't recall knowing about the memoranda."
Haynes testified that Rumsfeld rescinded some of the harshest techniques in January 2003, six weeks after he had approved them.
Pentagon investigators found that some of those techniques were later
used without authorization in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Senator Lindsey Graham is a South Carolina Republican and an expert in military law:
is clear to me that these techniques do encompass techniques that we
were defending against and became an offensive weapon," said Senator
Graham. "It is clear to me they migrated all over the military and it
is clear to me it created confusion for those serving this country."
At the White House, spokesman Tony Fratto offered the Bush administration's response to the Senate hearing.
has always been the policy of this government to treat these detainees
humanely and in line with our laws and our legal obligations," said
The Senate committee began its investigation in early 2007, and is expected to release a final report later this year.