A HIGH-LEVEL US Senate report published yesterday directly implicates senior members of the Bush administration in the extensive use of harsh interrogation methods against al-Qaeda suspects and other prisoners around the world.
The 232-page report, the most detailed investigation yet into torture by US military and intelligence personnel, undercuts the claim of Paul Wolfowitz, a former deputy defence secretary, that the abuse of prisoners in Iraq was the work of “a few bad apples”.
The report adds to the debate in the US since President Barack Obama, who regards the techniques as torture, opened the way for possible prosecution of members of Bush's government.
Carl Levin, the Democratic chairman of the Senate armed services committee, which ordered the inquiry, said: “The paper trail on abuse leads to top civilian leaders, and our report connects the dots.”
The report says the paper trail goes from Donald Rumsfeld, who was defence secretary at the time, to Guantanamo and to Afghanistan and Iraq. “The abuse of detainees in US custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of 'a few bad apples' acting on their own,” the report says. “The fact is that senior officials in the US government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorised their use against detainees.”
Pressure to adopt more aggressive interrogation came from the uppermost reaches of the Bush administration, the report says. Mr Rumsfeld authorised the use of 15 interrogation techniques. A handwritten note from him, attached to a memo of December 2002, says: “I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?”
The report condemns the techniques adopted: “Those efforts damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.” It says the methods were lifted from a military program called Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (Sere).
The report says Sere instructors trained CIA and other military personnel early in 2002 in the use of harsher interrogation techniques but warned that information obtained that way might be unreliable.
The internal debate suggests the definition of what was “acceptable” was flexible.
The Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said yesterday that the former vice-president Dick Cheney, who claimed valuable information was obtained through harsher interrogation techniques, should not be viewed as a “reliable source” on torture.
Guardian News & Media