New Documents Provide Further Evidence That Senior Officials Approved Abuse of Prisoners at Guantánamo

February 23, 2006 12:00 am

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FBI Memorandum Details Guantánamo Commander’s Repeated Refusal to Abandon Illegal and Ineffective Interrogation Techniques

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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union today released newly obtained documents showing that senior Defense Department officials approved aggressive interrogation techniques that Federal Bureau of Investigation agents deemed abusive, ineffective and unlawful.

“We now possess overwhelming evidence that political and military leaders endorsed interrogation methods that violate both domestic and international law,” said Jameel Jaffer, an attorney with the ACLU. “It is entirely unacceptable that no senior official has been held accountable.”

Included in today’s release is a memorandum prepared by FBI personnel on May 30, 2003, which supplies a detailed discussion of tensions between FBI and Defense Department personnel stationed at Guantánamo in late 2002. According to the memo, Defense Department interrogators were encouraged by their superiors to “use aggressive interrogation tactics” that FBI agents believed were “of questionable effectiveness and subject to uncertain interpretation based on law and regulation.” The May 2003 memo specifically names Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, who was then Commander of Joint Task Force-Guantánamo, as having favored interrogation methods that FBI agents believed “could easily result in the elicitation of unreliable and legally inadmissible information.” The memo states that FBI personnel brought their concerns to the attention of senior Defense Department personnel but that their concerns were brushed aside.

Other documents released by the ACLU today provide more evidence that abusive interrogation methods used at Guantánamo were endorsed by senior officials. One FBI e-mail, dated May 5, 2004, states that “hooding prisoners, threats of violence, and techniques meant to humiliate detainees” were “approved at high levels w/in DoD.” Another FBI e-mail states that certain techniques alleged to be abusive by some FBI agents were “approved by the Deputy Secretary of Defense.”

Today’s release comes only days after the release by the New Yorker magazine of a memorandum from Alberto Mora, General Counsel of the United States Navy, describing Mora’s unsuccessful efforts in late 2002 and early 2003 to convince the Pentagon to renounce the abuse of prisoners at Guantánamo. Collectively, the Mora memorandum and the documents released by the ACLU today show conclusively that Pentagon officials at the highest levels authorized the abuse of prisoners and persisted in their endorsement of unlawful interrogation methods even after FBI and Navy personnel objected to those methods orally and in writing.

Still other documents released today by the ACLU provide FBI agents’ descriptions of interrogations they witnessed at Guantánamo. One such document states: “Last evening I went to observe an interview of REDACTED with REDACTED. The adjoining room, observable from the monitoring booth, was occupied by 2 DHS investigators showing a detainee homosexual porn movies and using a strobe light in the room. We moved our interview to a different room. We’ve heard that DHS interrogators routinely identify themselves as FBI agents and then interrogate a detainee for 16-18 hours using tactics as described above and others (wrapping in Israeli flag, constant loud music, cranking the A/C down, etc.) The next time a real Agent tries to talk to that guy, you can imagine the result.”

While some of the documents indicate that FBI personnel objected to Defense Department interrogation policies at Guantánamo, others raise serious questions about the FBI’s own policies – and particularly about the agency’s response to the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. In one e-mail, dated Jan. 24, 2004, the FBI’s on scene commander in Baghdad discusses whether the FBI should investigate the abuse or whether it should leave the task to military investigators. The e-mail, which was sent to senior FBI officials at FBI headquarters, advises that the FBI should decline to investigate. “We need to maintain good will and relations with those operating the prison,” the e-mail states. “Our involvement in the investigation of the alleged abuse might harm our liaison.”

The FBI documents released today were previously released to the ACLU on December 15, 2004, with most of their contents redacted. The less-redacted versions released by the ACLU today were made available by the FBI after the ACLU challenged the FBI’s redactions in court. The ACLU’s challenge to other redactions in FBI documents is pending before the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. A hearing has been scheduled for April 5.

“More than two years after we filed our Freedom of Information Act request, the FBI continues to withhold documents that the public clearly has a right to see,” said Jaffer. “As we’ve been saying from the outset, the public has a right to know what the government’s policies were and who put them in place.”

In a related case, the ACLU yesterday filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the appeal of Qassim v. Bush which argues that two detainees who have been cleared of charges by the Guantánamo tribunal, whose continued military detention has been declared unlawful by a federal court and who cannot be repatriated, are legally entitled to be released under appropriate conditions of supervision.

Today’s documents come in response to a Freedom of Information Act request 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.

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; Arthur Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the NYCLU; and Barbara Olshansky of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

To date, more than 90,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The ACLU has been posting these documents online at

The friend-of-the-court brief in Qassim v. Bush is available online at

The documents released today are available online at

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