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Lawmaker Says Pentagon Sought Cruel Interrogation Methods

By Deborah Tate
Washington
17 June 2008

A key U.S. lawmaker says senior Bush administration officials sought extreme interrogation techniques to use against detainees in military prisons. His Senate panel has 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 Capitol Hill.

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. "The 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. In the process, they damaged our ability to collect intelligence that could save lies," he said.

The 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.

Under 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 that the military was not effectively obtaining information from detainees.

LEVIN: "Was this effort because of some frustration with the lack of intelligence that was coming up?"
SHIFFRIN: "That is the sense I got."

But the harsh interrogation techniques were approved despite opposition from some lawyers in the uniformed services. Among them was Alberto Mora, 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. It damaged and continues to damage the nation. This policy, which may aptly be labeled a policy of cruelty, violated our founding values, our constitutional system and the fabric of our laws, our overarching foreign policy interests and our national security," he said.

At the White House, spokesman Tony Fratto responded to the testimony. "It has always been the policy of this government to treat these detainees humanely and in line with our laws and our legal obligations," he said.

The Senate committee began its investigation in early 2007, and is expected to release a final report later this year.



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