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Homeland Security

American Forces Press Service

GITMO Yielding Valuable Intelligence in a Safe, Disciplined Environment

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 3, 2004 - Interrogations procedures being used at the detention facility at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are safe, humane and disciplined - and approved personally by the secretary of defense with input from the DoD general counsel and U.S. Justice Department, the head of U.S. Southern Command told Pentagon reporters today.

Army Gen. James T. Hill said the system governing Joint Task Force Guantanamo is "not based on trust, but rather on layers of checks and balances" that include close legal and command oversight and strict legal and policy reviews. "Our leaders are continually checking and refining our procedures and balancing humane treatment of detainees with the security requirements of our troops and our nation," he said.

Hill said the operation, with about 595 detainees - at least one-third of which he calls "very high-value targets" - continues to provide "actionable intelligence" that supports the war on terror.

Interrogation techniques used on high-value targets at the facility, particularly those who use recognized resistance techniques to avoid divulging information, are based on a list personally approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Hill explained.

That list, developed by a DoD general counsel working group and vetted through the U.S. Justice Department and through the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is consistent with U.S. law and the principles of the 3rd Geneva Convention of 1949, Hill said.

Rumsfeld pared down the list from what was initially recommended, Hill noted, and must personally authorize use of four techniques from it before they are used - even though they are consistent with the Geneva Conventions, even if used collectively.

Hill said those techniques -- used on just two detainees, including one with direct knowledge of the events of Sept. 11, 2001 - have proven successful in interrogations.

The general said he wouldn't describe any interrogation technique used at Guantanamo Bay as "harsh" - because he said harshness simply doesn't work in successful interrogations. "What works with interrogation is rapport between the interrogation team and the guy they are interrogating," he said. "Harshness - any kind of beating or clearly what you saw in those incredibly obscene pictures from Abu Ghraib (prison in Iraq) - doesn't work in interrogation and we don't do that."

Rather, by focusing on providing a stable, secure, safe and humane environment, Hill said the guards set the conditions for interrogators to gain valuable information from detainees "because they have built a relationship of trust, not fear."

Hill praised the "dedication and commitment" of the service members assigned to what he called "this very challenging mission" at Guantanamo Bay. Their efforts, he said, are having a big payoff in terms of U.S. national security. "The detention and interrogation operations at Guantanamo Bay are removing enemy combatants from the battlefield and gaining valuable intelligence that has aided our government in the war on terrorism to help protect this nation and the world," Hill said.

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