A key former defense official has testified under subpoena about the
Bush administration's authorization of harsh interrogation techniques.
VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill, Douglas Feith denied he
favored harsh interrogation of prisoners in the war against terror.
Feith was Undersecretary of Defense for Policy from 2001 to 2005, serving under former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
is one of a group of former Bush administration officials involved in
high-level discussions about U.S. interrogation policies after the
September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, as well as
policy leading up to the war in Iraq.
Opening the hearing -
the fourth so far dealing with interrogation at the Guantanamo Bay
detention facility - panel chairman Jerrold Nadler said
administration interrogation tactics have brought shame to the United
"It seems clear from the evidence that we have been able
to assemble so far, that the administration decided early on to engage
in torture, to use any rationale to do what generations of soldiers
understood we could not do, and to conceal that face from the American
people and the world," he said. "As a result our nation and especially
our men and women in uniform are less safe today."
reflected the Bush administration's position that so-called enhanced
interrogation techniques, including simulated drowning or
water-boarding, provided important intelligence and were used only on
three key al-Qaida suspects.
Some, including Representative
Trent Franks, also asserted that majority Democrats' focus on
interrogation policies has been detrimental to U.S. security.
is about the 10th hearing that we have in this subcommittee that was
dedicated primarily to making sure that we were protecting the rights
of terrorists, and I understand that," he said. "But we have none that
I know of that are dedicated to protecting the lives of American
citizens and I think 10 to zero is a little out of balance."
Perlstein is, a legal scholar with Princeton University's Woodrow
Wilson School for Public and International Affairs, describes
lawmaker's investigations as extremely important.
record of detainee treatment has fallen far short of what our laws
require, and what our security interests demand," she said.
questioning, Feith described himself as a strong champion of respect
for the Geneva Conventions, denying that he ever recommended setting
aside Common Article 3 relating to detainee treatment.
He says he and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers argued to the contrary to former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld.
Geneva is crucial for our own armed forces," said Faith. "I described
Geneva as a good treaty that requires its partners to treat prisoners
of war the way we want our captured military personnel treated. I noted
that U.S. troops are trained to uphold Geneva and this training is an
essential element of U.S. military culture."
"I wrote that
Geneva is morally important, crucial to U.S. morale and it's also
practically important because it makes U.S. forces the gold standard in
the world facilitating our winning cooperation from other countries,"
Feith had scathing criticism for British lawyer,
Philippe Sands, who alleged in a book called Torture Team that Feith
was a primary voice arguing against adherence to Common Article 3.
Sands' book "a weave of inaccuracies and distortions," Feith describes
it as part of an inaccurate narrative by Bush administration critics.
flawed book is a pillar of the argument that Bush administration
officials despised the Geneva Conventions and encouraged abuse and
torture of detainees," he said. "Congress and the American people
should know that this so-called torture narrative is built on sloppy
research, misquotations and unsubstantiated allegations."
Sitting at the witness table with Feith, Sands denied having misrepresented or misquoted Feith, whom he had interviewed.
the heart of these hearings lie issues of fact," said Sands. "If
Congress cannot sort this out, and if the desire for foreign
investigations is to be avoided, the need to investigate the facts
fully in this house and the other house is an important one, and
foreign investigations may become impossible to resist if that does not
Sands quoted from a recorded interview with Feith, in
which the former official said al-Qaida members were not entitled to
have the Geneva Conventions applied at all. This appears unambiguous,
says Sands, to include Common Article 3 of the conventions.
June, lawmakers questioned David Addington, chief of staff to Vice
President Dick Cheney, and former Justice Department official John Yoo
about their roles in memoranda establishing legal justifications for
harsh interrogation techniques.
Despite Republican criticisms,
Democrats have scheduled a fifth hearing of the House subcommittee
focusing on interrogation policies for this Thursday.