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Pentagon denies New Yorker's report on prisoner abuse
Updated: 2004-05-16 14:52

The US Defense Department on Saturday strongly denied a New Yorker magazine's report which linked abuse of Iraqi prisoners to a secret operation approved by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last year.

The New Yorker story, citing unnamed current and former intelligence officials, said that Rumsfeld approved a secret operation last year that expanded interrogation methods used in Afghanistan to the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad in order to obtain intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq.

Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita called the claims " outlandish, conspiratorial, and filled with error and anonymous conjecture."

"No responsible official of the Department of Defense approved any program that could conceivably have been intended to result in such abuses as witnessed in the recent photos and videos," Di Rita said in a statement, adding that "This story seems to reflect the fevered insights of those with little, if any, connection to the activities in the Department of Defense."

The clandestine program of Pentagon, known as a special access program, gave advance approval to kill, capture or interrogate so- called "high-value" targets in the battle against terror, said the New Yorker's report released on the magazine's Web site.

The rules of the secret operation were to "grab whom you must and do what you want," the report said, quoting one former intelligence official.

Interrogation techniques used by US military personnel in Iraq have come under scrutiny following the revelation of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers at the Abu Ghraib prison that has sparked calls for Rumsfeld's resignation and caused anger around the world.

Photos taken inside the prison showed US soldiers abusing Iraqi inmates and forcing them into sexually humiliating positions. Seven soldiers are facing military charges related to the abuse.

The US military decided on Thursday to abandon several interrogation techniques in Iraq, including sleep deprivation and placing prisoners in body stressful positions, defense officials said Friday.

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