A Cautious Man
December 11, 2008
 
Blame It On The Truth
So imagine our surprise, to read the following in the New York Times -

A report released Thursday by leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee said top Bush administration officials, including Donald H. Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary, bore major responsibility for the abuses committed by American troops in interrogations at Abu Ghraib in Iraq; Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; and other military detention centers.

The report was issued jointly by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the Democratic chairman of the panel, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican. It represents the most thorough review by Congress to date of the origins of the abuse of prisoners in American military custody, and it explicitly rejects the Bush administration’s contention that tough interrogation methods have helped keep the country and its troops safe.

The report also rejected previous claims by Mr. Rumsfeld and others that Defense Department policies played no role in the harsh treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 and in other episodes of abuse.

The abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the report says, “was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own” but grew out of interrogation policies approved by Mr. Rumsfeld and other top officials, who “conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees.”

Please note that Senator John McCain has joined as an issuer of the Senator report - thank goodness he is there, letting his conscience be his guide.

Now, if I may, we're not terribly surpised about the report's conclusions, because this was obvious in the case of the unlawful detention and humiliation in 2003 of Captain James Yee, the Muslim chaplain at Guantanamo. This is what seemed to be up, four years ago, with respect to Captain Yee's case and allegations (at the time) of torture at Guantanamo and in Iraq:

General Miller's visit to Iraq in August of 2003 resulted in some changes there:
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.

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.
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:
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.

And now, it seems, someone with authority will be looking into this. Good.

(Further background on Captain Yee's case can be found here, from the posts on this blog. Scroll past the top one, which is the one you're now reading.)

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