Administration Considers Promotions for Generals in Torture Scandal; ACLU Urges Senators to Seek Appointment of an Outside Special Counsel

June 21, 2005 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – While the administration continues to attack a single provocative remark by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is reportedly considering promotions for senior generals tied to the torture scandal. In response, the American Civil Liberties Union today sent a letter to Senators reiterating its call for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate torture policies. High-ranking government officials should not be rewarded for putting themselves above the rule of law and the Constitution, the letter says.

“Promoting officers who have been implicated in the torture scandal is not only wrong, but the lack of accountability puts our soldiers at risk,” said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. “Instead of taking issue with a remark on the floor of the Senate, the administration should be asking why almost no one above the rank of sergeant has been prosecuted for the federal government’s torture of detainees. High-ranking officials shouldn’t be getting better jobs, while privates and sergeants take all the blame.”

Last week, Durbin read aloud a portion of an FBI agent’s report describing a detainee at Guantanamo Bay “chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food, or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more?” Durbin then said, “If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime – Pol Pot or others – that had no concern for human beings.”

The New York Times reported on Monday that Rumsfeld is considering promotions and lateral moves for top generals in Iraq linked to the torture scandal. Among them, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the theater commander at the outset of the Iraq War, could be promoted to oversee American military operations in Latin America. Pentagon and military officials said the move would reward Sanchez for his loyal service.

A September 14, 2003 memorandum signed by Sanchez laid out specific interrogation techniques for use by coalition forces in Iraq. These include sleep “management,” the inducement of fear at two levels of severity, loud music and sensory agitation, and the use of canine units to “exploit [the] Arab fear of dogs.” During sworn testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, though, Sanchez flatly denied ever approving such techniques. The ACLU obtained the memorandum through an ongoing Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

In April, the ACLU and Human Rights First filed a lawsuit charging Rumsfeld with direct responsibility for the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody. The action was the first federal court lawsuit to name a top U.S. official in the ongoing torture scandal in Iraq and Afghanistan; many of the charges are based on documents obtained through the FOIA lawsuit. The ACLU has also filed separate lawsuits naming Brig. Gen. Karpinski, Col. Thomas Pappas and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez.

Sanchez could also be nominated to move laterally. Either nomination would require Senate confirmation, and the ACLU called on Senators to push for an independent investigation immediately.

“The administration needs to stop playing political games meant to deflect attention from its torture policies and obscure its failure to hold high-level officials accountable,” said Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel. “We need an independent counsel to hold high-ranking officials accountable for these policies. It’s time to make sure that the government follows the rule of law.”

The letter to Senators is available at:

Sanchez memorandum:

More than 30,000 pages of other released documents are posted online at:

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