Government Releases New Documents Detailing Abuse at Guantánamo Bay

July 27, 2005 12:00 am

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Government Releases New Documents Detailing Abuse at Guantánamo Bay


Pentagon Still Keeping Information from Public, ACLU Charges

NEW YORK — The American Civil Liberties Union today released files obtained from the Defense Department revealing new details on investigations into abuse at the Guantánamo Bay Detention Center. The files also appear to indicate a rift between personnel at the base over interrogation techniques.

“These new documents provide vivid descriptions of how interrogation techniques approved by Rumsfeld constituted serious abuse in some instances,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “There’s no denying that these approved techniques went too far and that the military knew full well how they were being used on detainees.”

The release of these documents follows a federal court order that directed the Defense Department and other government agencies to comply with an October 2003 request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filed by the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace. The New York Civil Liberties Union is co-counsel in the case.

Among the documents released today is an investigation into an interrogator’s allegation that, on April 22, 2003, military police at Guantánamo physically abused a detainee at the direction of another interrogator during what appears to be an aggressive use of the “Fear Up Harsh” technique also employed at Abu Ghraib. The interrogator reported that two Military Police “pushed in the back of the detainee’s knees with their knees, taking the detainee to his knees. Then holding the detainee by his upper arms they slammed his upper body to the floor.” The interrogator reported that this procedure was repeated 25-30 times and caused the floor and the next booth to shake. At one point, he saw the man hit the floor with the side of his face. Another witness corroborated the charges, and reported that she witnessed other personnel laughing at the treatment of the detainee.

“These documents only underscore the pressing need for an independent investigation into the interrogation methods used at Guantánamo and other detention centers,” said Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU Staff Attorney. “Americans have a right to know what the government’s policies are, and who put them in place.”

According to the commander’s inquiry into the abuse, there was confusion among personnel on how the “Fear Up Harsh” technique should be used, but interrogators and intelligence analysts “knew about this technique and they thought it was approved.” Apparently as a result of the investigation, General Geoffrey Miller issued a memo on May 2, 2003 stating that interrogators should “immediately cease the use of the Fear Up Harsh” interrogation technique, that Military Police should no longer participate in interrogations and that only Defense Department personnel would be permitted to review and approve interrogation plans. Although the commander’s investigation had suggested the existence of a more systemic problem, the memo from Miller to Commander, SOUTHCOM states, “I found that the action involved in this commander’s inquiry was a single incident. A thorough review of our current procedures has not uncovered a systematic problem.”

Another memorandum for record included in the investigative file details additional reports of abuse and indicates a rift between contract interrogators and military personnel at Guantánamo. One contactor who reported witnessing a session “that was totally inappropriate and bordered on criminal,” was told by his superior that he should first ask the military personnel to explain their actions before going up the chain of command. Another incident detailed in the memo involved what is described as a “strip club lap dance,” during which an interrogator removed her blouse and proceeded stroking a detainee’s “hair and neck while using sexual overtones and making comments about his religious affiliation.” The incident progressed to “where she was seated on his lap making sexually affiliated movements with her chest and pelvis,” and the interrogator later straddled the detainee while he was on the floor. The contract employee – apparently an “ACS defense analyst” – reports being later informed that the interrogation activity was deemed appropriate and acceptable.

A separate investigative file released today included additional reports of detainee abuse made by a regional team chief in March 2004. The reports detail incidents of military personnel preventing a detainee from using the toilet, detaining a prisoner in temperature under 52 degrees and denying food to detainees. The investigating officer, who concludes that there was no mistreatment, strongly criticizes the team chief for directly reporting the abuse to Brigadier General Jay Hood instead of following the appropriate chain of command. The file contains recommendations that the team chief be immediately relieved of his duties and receive a reprimand.

While some of the incidents described in these documents were mentioned in military reports made public earlier this year, the details of the incidents have not previously been released.

The release of the documents comes after the government refused last week to turn over photographs and videos depicting abuse and torture of detainees held at Abu Ghraib. A federal court had ordered the government to process and redact the materials for eventual release, but on its deadline date, the Defense Department claimed that the images “could result in harm to individuals” for reasons that will be set forth in documents to be filed with the court under seal.

The FOIA lawsuit is being handled by Lawrence Lustberg and Megan Lewis of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, P.C. Other attorneys in the case are Jaffer, Amrit Singh and Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU; Art Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the NYCLU; and Barbara Olshansky of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

To view the documents released today, go to:

More information on the ACLU lawsuit and previously released documents can be found at:

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