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FBI agents questioned value of harsh interrogation techniques

WASHINGTON—Harsh techniques used by military interrogators on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, produced no better information than traditional law enforcement methods, FBI agents told their superiors in newly declassified portions of e-mails released Monday.

FBI agents assigned to the detention center raised their concerns over the military's interrogation methods with senior commanders and civilian Pentagon officials, but were rebuffed, said one of the excerpts.

In one of the e-mails, an unidentified FBI agent said "conversations got somewhat heated" when he told senior military commanders and Pentagon officials that the information produced by the military's interrogations "was nothing more than what the FBI got using simple investigative techniques."

"DOD (Department of Defense) finally admitted the information was the same info the Bureau obtained," the agent wrote. "It still did not prevent them from continuing the `DOD methods.'"

Portions of the e-mails had been released previously. But the documents released Monday contain passages that had been blacked out earlier and they provide new details into the nature of the disagreement between FBI agents and the military.

The release of the material comes amid a Justice Department investigation into whether FBI agents participated in any improper interrogation procedures at Guantanamo Bay.

Sen. Carl Levin, the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, released the new material, which was turned over to him by the Department of Justice after it agreed to reconsider an earlier decision to withhold them.

"The facts related to interrogation practices used against some detainees are slowly being forced to the surface and we will keep pushing for more," said Levin. "As I suspected, the previously withheld information had nothing to do with protecting intelligence sources and methods and everything to do with protecting DOD from embarrassment."

Previously released Department of Justice documents included e-mails and reports in which FBI agents stationed at Guantanamo alleged abuses by military interrogators.

The alleged mistreatment included cases in which prisoners were beaten, had their genitals grabbed, were chained for up to 24 hours and were left on the floor to urinate and defecate on themselves.

The e-mails released Monday were all dated May 10, 2004, but referred to events that took place in 2002, Levin's office said. The e-mails were between T.J. Harrington, a senior FBI counterterrorism official, and an unidentified FBI agent involved in managing the bureau's interrogations of Guantanamo Bay detainees.

In one, the FBI agent insisted that formal guidance given to all FBI agents assigned to Guantanamo "has always been that all personnel conduct themselves in interviews in the manner that they would in the field."

It added that FBI officials believed that the results obtained by military interrogations "were suspect at best."

Another excerpt said that FBI agents frequently discussed their concerns about the military's methods with Department of Justice officials, who raised them with the office of the Pentagon's top lawyer.

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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