A Cautious Man
June 09, 2004
You Better Look Hard and Look Twice
With all the torture authorization revelations now tumbling out, I think it's time to revisit other episodes in our "War on Terror". Specifically, a matter I've commented on here before, the case of Captain James Yee, the Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo who was detained on, and then "cleared" of, espionage charges. Back in March, I had reviewed the details of the case and his release. At the end of that post, I noted the official statement on behalf of the then-commander at Guantanamo:
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, Commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, dismissed all charges related to the alleged mishandling of classified information pending against Army Chaplain James J. Yee, ending an investigation that began with his apprehension at the airport in Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Fla., in September 2003. Citing national security concerns that would arise from the release of the evidence, Miller decided to drop these charges. Miller made his decision after consultation with government lawyers and intelligence officials. Although Miller considered Yee's offer to undergo a debriefing in exchange for the government dropping the charges, granting him immunity and supporting his resignation, relevant law enforcement agencies could not support Yee's request for immunity.(Emphasis added). Back in March, I had asked, "What 'relevant law enforcement agencies' wanted the Army just to drop this, and are they the same ones who told [the customs officer] to detain Captain Yee in the first place? And finally, will anybody in the news media bother to pursue any of these questions?" Now, however, a more pointed question must be asked: What did Chaplain Yee know about the treatment of the Guantanamo detainees, and were they trying to keep him quiet?
I am not normally prone to speculation like this. However, there are enough circumstances present to warrant including Chaplain Yee in the investigation. As noted in May:
The decision to jail Yee was made by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, then commander of Guantanamo's detention camp. He oversaw the espionage investigations of all four men. He has since been transferred to Iraq, where he is now engulfed in the controversy involving prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.If you remember, as previously reported, this is not the first time General Miller was sent to Iraq:
When the Army dropped six criminal counts against Yee in March, military officials said they did so to avoid making sensitive information public — not because he was innocent.
"The idea was to get a handle on what worked in Cuba and to apply it to Iraq," says one of the officials. "The trend [in Iraq] was negative, and they wanted that reversed, and they wanted Saddam's head on a platter."And as also reported, General Miller's visit to Iraq in August of 2003 resulted in some changes there:
Cambone tasked his deputy, Lt. Gen. William Boykin, with traveling to Guantanamo Bay and assessing whether tactics employed there that had successfully produced “actionable intelligence” might be transferred to Iraq.
Within a few weeks, Boykin had dispatched Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the officer who had implemented Gonzales’ "new paradigm" interrogation rules at Guantanamo Bay, off to Baghdad to figure out how to crack captive insurgents.
“There was a realization that the U.S. needed to be much more methodical about getting at the insurgent networks in Iraq,” says William Arkin, an NBC News military analyst and intelligence specialist. “There was a well-known understanding that these thousands of Iraqis who were being detained needed to be exploited, and Boykin definitely dispatched [Maj. Gen. Geoffrey] Miller to figure that out.
So Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the Coalition commander in Iraq, and his top intel officer, Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, asked for a fixer. They got one in Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the commandant at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the U.S. military had held more than 600 detainees for more than two years without charges. A Texan with a jutting jaw and thinning hair, Miller was nothing if not self-assured, much like his ultimate superior, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. According to a subsequent inquiry by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, Miller's task was "to review current Iraqi Theater ability to rapidly exploit internees for actionable intelligence." Translated into English, that meant to beef up interrogation techniques so as to break prisoners more quickly. Or as Karpinski puts it, Miller's plan was to "Gitmo-ize" the place, to teach the soldiers manning Abu Ghraib his best psychological and physical techniques for squeezing information out of detainees. That included using Karpinski's MPs to "enhance the intelligence effort." At a meeting of top military-intelligence and MP commanders last September, Miller bluntly told Karpinski: "You're going to see. We have control, and [the prisoners] know it."(Emphasis added) We now know more about the techniques which were authorized at Guantanamo, under the "Torture, what torture?" approach:
United States Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld personally approved four special interrogation techniques used on two al-Qaeda operatives held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, who then talked about the terrorist network and its plans, the commander of US forces in Latin America said today.We are also learning now that other new "techniques" were approved, for use at Guantanamo - which General Miller could also have brought over to Iraq on his 2003 visit:
Army General James Hill, who heads the US Southern Command, declined to describe the techniques. He said other detainees might "figure out a way to resist those techniques" if they were disclosed.
But Hill specifically denied that police dogs have been used to intimidate detainees during interrogations at Guantanamo, contrary to a sworn statement by an Army intelligence officer under investigation in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq.
In the statement, as reported May 26 by The Washington Post, Col. Thomas Pappas, commander at Abu Ghraib when abuses of detainees occurred, said the use of dogs was urged by Major General Geoffrey Miller in a 2003 visit to Iraq.
According to people who have seen the interrogation matrix, according to the official statements of the Pentagon spokesman, the 24 or so techniques that Secretary Rumsfeld approved fall far short of anything that they would consider to be torture. Now of course we have to take their word for it because they haven't revealed what those techniques are. But according to the Pentagon spokesman, 17 of those techniques are ones that already are used in the army. They're part of the army's field manual on interrogation that's been in place for years. Seven of them are not... four of them require Rumsfeld's personal authorization before they can be used.There are more details of the Rumsfeld approval issue, in a PBS NewsHour interview at this link (along with some enlightening transcripts of Attorney General Ashcroft's grilling in the Senate yesterday).
So, where are we? It seems that General Miller was authorized, directly by the Secretary of Defense, to use additional "techniques" on the Guantanamo prisoners. He is then dispatched to Iraq in August of 2003; we have seen what they did at Abu Ghraib, after General Miller's "visitation". That would warrant a further investigation at Guantanamo. As for Chaplain Yee, when he was arrested in September of 2003 it was reported that "the 'highest levels' of government made the decision to arrest Capt. Yee, who had counseled suspected al-Qaeda terrorists at Guantanamo for a lengthy period." He was detained for carrying out "classified material", but his case was dismissed when the government could not state what that classified material was.
Maybe Chaplain Yee was carrying sensitive information out of Guantanamo - in his head, based on what he saw, and was told by the detainees. Maybe Chaplain Yee has been silenced (for now) as a result of the Army's prosecution (including allegations of adultery and having pornography). Maybe other people know what was going on, and have seen what they did to Chaplain Yee. Maybe someone with some authority should look into this.
[Update on 6/16] I just noticed a news report from June 11:
Four Democratic members of Congress are calling on the Pentagon to investigate the Army’s treatment of a Muslim chaplain who was suspected of espionage and imprisoned for 76 days before all charges were dropped.I wish them good luck.
The Army’s decision to drop all charges against Capt. James Yee “raises important questions about the strength and legitimacy of initial assertions by Army officials that Capt. Yee had engaged in espionage and treasonous conduct at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba,” Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., and three other House members said in a letter to the Pentagon’s inspector general.