Memo shows U.S. inmate interrogation plans in Iraq
The top U.S. commander in Iraq authorized prisoner interrogation tactics more harsh than accepted Army practice, including using guard dogs to exploit "Arab fear of dogs," a memo made public on Tuesday showed.
The Sept. 14, 2003, memo by Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, then the senior commander in Iraq, was released by the American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained it from the government under court order through the Freedom of Information Act.
"The memo clearly establishes that Gen. Sanchez authorized unlawful interrogation techniques for use in Iraq, and in particular these techniques violate the Geneva Conventions and the Army's own field manual governing interrogations," ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh said in an interview.
The Abu Ghraib scandal, in which U.S. forces physically abused and sexually humiliated Iraqi prisoners at a jail on the outskirts of Baghdad, occurred on Sanchez's watch. Gen. George Casey replaced him as top commander in Iraq nine months ago.
In the memo, Sanchez laid out which interrogation techniques were permitted in Iraq, and said some required his prior approval. Some of the harshest techniques were disallowed the next month because of opposition from some military lawyers.
Singh said at least 12 of the techniques were beyond the scope of the Army field manual, whose interrogation rules are designed to adhere to the Geneva Conventions.
The memo also noted that the Geneva Conventions "are applicable" and that detainees must be treated humanely.
The fact that the Sanchez memo existed was previously known, but not its contents.
The memo allowed for military working dogs, or MWD, to be present during interrogations, saying the practice "exploits Arab fear of dogs while maintaining security during interrogations. Dogs will be muzzled and under control of MWD handler at all times to prevent contract with detainee."
The memo permitted "stress positions," in which a prisoner is placed in potentially painful bodily positions to try to get them to talk. It allowed for "environmental manipulation" such as making a room hot or cold or using an "unpleasant smell," isolating a prisoner, and disrupting normal sleep patterns.
It allowed the "false flag" technique of "convincing the detainee that individuals from a country other than the United States are interrogating him."
A defense official, who asked not to be named, said, "It's important to note that Lt. Gen. Sanchez and his staff thoroughly reviewed the policy for compliance with Geneva Conventions prior to its approval."
The official said a Pentagon investigation into detainee policies headed by Navy Vice Adm. Albert Church, released March 10, found that "none of the techniques contained in (Sanchez's) interrogation policy would have permitted abuses such as those at Abu Ghraib."
The official said the Pentagon "did not promulgate interrogation policies or guidance that directed, sanctioned or encouraged the torture or abuse of prisoners."
The ACLU said the Pentagon initially refused to release the Sanchez memo on national-security grounds.
"It is apparent that the government has been holding this document not out of any genuine concern that it will compromise national security but to protect itself from embarrassment," Singh said.
Defense Secretary Rumsfeld denied that as a motivation, telling a Pentagon briefing, "If anyone can validate that allegation, I'd be happy to look into it, but I doubt that they can. It sounds like a political charge."