[DEBATE] : US officials 'sought waterboarding'
Riaz K Tayob
riazt at iafrica.com
Wed Jun 18 10:04:03 BST 2008
US officials 'sought waterboarding'
Levin said the harsh techniques meant it was more likely US troops would
be abused if captured [AP]
US military officials actively sought ways to implement harsh
interrogation techniques such as waterboarding used at Guantanamo Bay
despite legal objections, a senior Democratic senator has said.
Carl Levin, the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, told a hearing
the US government had "twisted the law to create the appearance of
"If we use those same techniques offensively against detainees, it says
to the world that they have America's stamp of approval," he said in
Washington DC on Tuesday.
The committee was also shown US military memos saying that the
techniques should be curbed while international monitors were present.
The hearing is the committee's first attempt to discover the origins of
the harsh interrogation methods used in Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba
and Abu Ghraib in Iraq and how policy decisions on interrogations were
agreed across the US department of defence.
US accused of encouraging the illegal use of torture
The CIA has admitted it used waterboarding, which simulates drowning, on
several suspected al-Qaeda leaders, while US soldiers were photographed
using dogs against prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
The interrogations have been widely condemned by international human
Lindsey Graham, a Republican senator, said the Bush administration's
legal analysis on detainees and interrogations following the September
11, 2001, attacks would "go down in history as some of the most
irresponsible and shortsighted legal analysis ever provided to our
nation's military and intelligence communities".
The Pentagon's most senior civilian lawyer at the time, William Haynes,
was expected to testify at the hearing.
Also present were Richard Shiffrin, Haynes' former deputy on
intelligence issues, as well as the legal advisers at the time to the
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Guantanamo Bay prison.
According to the senate committee's findings, Haynes became interested
in the use of harsher interrogation methods as early as July 2002 when
his office inquired into a military programme that trained soldiers on
how to resist enemy interrogations.
Protesters have campaigned against the
use of waterboarding [Reuters]
Haynes and other officials wanted to know if the programme - known as
Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) training - could be used
used to develop more effective interrogation methods, the committee said.
Shiffrin said his interest in the programme was mainly to use military
expertise in interrogations.
However, the head of the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, which ran the
SERE programme, told the committee that the programme included
resistance to sensory deprivation, sleep disruption, stress positions,
waterboarding and slapping.
The committee further released previously secret memos dating from 2002,
when the programme of harsh interrogations began at Guantanamo Bay.
In one of them, the most senior military lawyer at Guantanamo,
Lieutenant-Colonel Diane Beaver, says the US defence department had
hidden prisoners who were being treated harshly, or abusively, from the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which monitors the
treatment of military prisoners.
Beaver also said the military was secretly using previously forbidden
techniques, such as sleep deprivation, but hiding them so as not to draw
"negative attention", according to minutes of the committee meeting.
"Officially it is not happening," Beaver said, according to minutes from
The treatment of detainees in Guantanamo has
caused global controversy [GALLO/GETTY]
"The ICRC is a serious concern. They will be in and out, scrutinising
our operations, unless they are displeased and decide to protest and leave.
"This would draw a lot of negative attention."
Beaver said interrogators should "curb the harsher operations while ICRC
Beaver was speaking at an October 2, 2002, meeting between CIA and
military lawyers and military intelligence officials on how to break
down the resistance of Guantanamo detainees to interrogations.
A senior CIA lawyer at the meeting, John Fredman, said that whether
harsh interrogation amount to torture "is a matter of perception".
"If the detainee dies you're doing it wrong," Fredman said, according to
Beaver also wrote in a memo dated October 11, 2002, that abusive methods
could be used against detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison because they
were not considered prisoners of war.
Her proposed methods included extended isolation, 20-hour
interrogations, death threats and waterboarding.
On Tuesday, Beaver told the committee that she was surprised her memo
justifying harsh interrogation techniques was the sole opinion relied on
by the Pentagon.
"I did not expect that my opinion ... would become the final word," she
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