Politics & Government

Senate probe links Pentagon official to abusive tactics

WASHINGTON — A senior Pentagon official in July 2002 sought the advice of military psychologists to help design aggressive detainee interrogation techniques that would later be linked with prisoner abuse at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and Abu Ghraib in Iraq, a Senate investigation has found.

The revelation, part of a probe by the Senate Armed Services Committee that is to be unveiled during hearings Tuesday, provides dramatic new evidence that the use of the aggressive techniques was planned at the top levels of the Bush administration and were not the work of out-of-control, lower-ranking troops.

A person familiar with the contents of the probe said that William Haynes, then the Defense Department's general counsel, asked a special agency within the Pentagon for help devising the techniques. The agency, the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, normally designs programs to help captured U.S. military personnel resist interrogation and plot to escape.

The person familiar with the investigation asked not to identified because the investigation is not complete.

"These guys were reaching out early on" to find aggressive techniques, the person said.

Haynes is expected to testify at Tuesday's hearing.

So is former Navy general counsel Alberto Mora, who objected to the administration's policies for the treatment of detainees.

Committee investigators have discovered that the uniformed military's top lawyers objected to the harsh measures in 2002, before they were approved by then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

While the objections of military lawyers to Bush administration detainee policies has been known, Senate investigators now believe those objections came far earlier than previously known — well before Rumsfeld approved the harsh techniques in a Dec, 2, 2002, memo.

That memo provided interrogators with authority to use techniques including forcing the detainee into "stress positions," isolating the detainee, keeping the detainee in a dark room, preventing the deainee from hearing, and playing on detainees' phobias, such as the fear of dogs.

The Armed Services committee has been investigating the origins of detainee policies, including some that have since been reversed or modified, and is expected to issue its full report by year's end.

Other senior officials who were involved in setting detainee policy were then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales; David Addington, counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney; and Douglas Feith, the No. 3 official at the Pentagon.

The committee also found that the Joint Chiefs of Staff was requested by senior military officers to conduct its own review of the proposed interrogation techniques. But the joint chiefs, then led by Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, never conducted the review.