Despite FBI Dissent, Torture Continued
In a report released this month by the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Office of Inspector General (OIG) outlined concerns within the FBI regarding interrogation techniques used by the military in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The 438-page report details frequent shifts in Department of Defense (DOD) policies, confusion of military personnel as to proper interrogation protocol and accounts of brutal interrogation that departed from prior military procedures described in the Army Field Manual.
The FBI's Legal Handbook for Special Agents states, "It is the policy of the FBI that no attempt be made to obtain a statement by force, threats, or promises." Furthermore, the FBI's Manual for Administrative and Operational Procedures specifies that "no brutality, physical violence, duress or intimidation of individuals by our employees will be countenanced...."
The OIG report explained that after the 9/11 attacks, the FBI was forced to reevaluate the implications of cooperating with other agencies (particularly the military in Guantanamo (GTMO), Iraq and Afghanistan), given the differences in their respective approaches to interrogation. According to the OIG report, "FBI agents told us that they have always been trained to adhere to FBI protocols, not to other agencies' rules with respect to interview policies or evidence collection."
The differences in protocol, the report states, led to tension and conflicts between FBI and DOD employees.
Until late 2002, the military relied on sections of the Army Field Manual for guidelines on permissible interrogation techniques; however, in December 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld approved an additional set of techniques for use at GTMO, which included "stress positions for a maximum of 4 hours, isolation, deprivation of light and auditory stimuli, hooding, 20-hour interrogations, removal of clothing, exploiting a detainee's individual phobias (such as fear of dogs)."
The DOD "also approved the use of dietary manipulation, environmental manipulation, sleep adjustment, and isolation," the OIG report outlines. These interrogation tactics remained in effect for GTMO until September 2006 when the US Army introduced Field Manual 2-22.3.
Secretary Rumsfeld resigned from his office in November 2006.
Army Field Manual 2-22.3 was adopted in response to The Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which required a uniform standard for treatment of detainees under DOD custody. The Detainee Treatment Act, which passed through Congress with an overwhelming majority, was undercut by several factors which greatly reduced its substance. A Graham-Levin amendment to the legislation stated: "(e) Except as provided in section 1005 of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider--(1) an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the Department of Defense at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."
Further diminishing the Detainee Treatment Act's efficacy, the legislation did not specify which version of the Army Field Manual should be followed (allowing for potential changes to protocol later on). The Act also did not apply to the CIA.
As a final loophole, President George W. Bush issued a signing statement insisting that his authority as commander in chief and head of the "unitary executive branch" allowed him to construe the legislation in a manner that would "protect the American people from further terrorist attacks."
Human rights groups have asserted that not only did the actions by Congress and the president undermine the intent of The Detainee Treatment Act, but also contradicted the Supreme Court case, Rasul v. Bush, which ruled 6-3 to reverse a district court decision that claimed the Judicial Branch had no jurisdiction to hear habeas corpus-related cases involving foreigners held at Guantanamo Bay.
The OIG report describes accounts of naked, sleep-deprived detainees - individuals frequently shackled, put into strenuous positions, exposed to loud music and extreme temperatures. The report also records a variety of other physical and psychological abuses.
Human rights and other advocacy groups have fiercely criticized the DOJ, Congress, and the Bush administration for doing little to prevent interrogation abuses, especially given the extensive evidence of improper treatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.
"Today's OIG report reveals that top government officials in the Defense Department, CIA and even as high as the White House turned a blind eye to torture and abuse and failed to act aggressively to end it," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU, in a recent press release.
Romero also stressed, "Moreover, the country's top law enforcement agency - the FBI - did not take measures to enforce the law but only belatedly reported on the law's violations. It's troubling that the government seems to have been more concerned with obscuring the facts than with enforcing the law and stopping the torture and abuse of detainees.
The lengthy OIG report, scattered with redacted sections, relies, in part, on a "war crimes" file that was initiated by FBI agents in 2002, but was later shut down by FBI officials who felt, according to the report, "investigating detainee allegations of abuse was not the FBI's mission."