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Defense Department standards on interrogation techniques

WASHINGTON—Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld in December 2002 approved a list of acceptable interrogation techniques for trying to get information from the hundreds of suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo Naval Bay Station in Cuba. The techniques included removing clothing from prisoners, using dogs to intimidate them, manipulating their environment and diet and holding them in isolation for 30 days.

These techniques went beyond the guidelines in the Army Field Manual, which had been the standard for interrogations since 1987 and is based on the principles of the Geneva Convention.

That prompted the Defense Department to convene a special task force to develop new guidelines.

The group, headed by Defense Department legal counsel William J. Haynes III, relied on an analysis from the Justice Department about acceptable practices in time of war. That memo, dated August 2002, argued that the president wasn't bound by U.S. and international prohibitions against torture.

Just as the Iraq war was about to start, the Pentagon's task force produced its guidelines, which Rumsfeld signed on April 16, 2003. The order, which is directed only for detainees at Guantanamo, calls for the humane treatment of prisoners to "the extent appropriate and consistent with military necessity" and issues some safeguards to protect prisoners.

Because some countries consider isolation, environmental manipulation and sleep adjustment techniques to be inhumane, the order called for higher approval when employing those methods.

The order also outlines "general safeguards," but it's unclear how well these were followed. One safeguard would have detainees regularly evaluated by medical personnel. Another calls for interrogators to draw up a plan that included limits on duration and termination criteria.

The safeguards, however, could be ignored to give "reasonable latitude" to interrogators, depending on a detainee's "culture, strengths, weaknesses, environment, extent of training in resistance techniques as well as the urgency of obtaining information."

The officer in charge of interrogations at Guantanamo, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, was praised for his work and sent to Iraq to evaluate that the detention and interrogation procedures there. The Defense Department hasn't released his recommendations for Iraq, but they are under scrutiny by Pentagon and congressional investigators.

Some of the techniques that were approved by Rumsfeld include:

_ Rapid-fire questioning without allowing the detainee to answer.

_ Giving a detainee the silent treatment to make him uncomfortable.

_ Changing the scenery for better or worse.

_ Dietary manipulation but without deprivation of food or water and causing "no adverse medical or cultural effect."

_ Environmental manipulation to create "moderate discomfort," such as temperature changes or adding unpleasant smells.

_ Sleep adjustment, such as reversing sleep cycles. "This technique is NOT sleep deprivation," the order noted.

_ Convincing the detainee that he would be handed over to another country that has a reputation for brutality and torture during interrogations.

_ Isolating a prisoner for up to 30 days.


(c) 2004, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.