Declassified Report: Bush Admin Solicited Torture 'Wish List,' Ordered 'Communist' Tactics
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A report by the Senate Armed Services Committee released Tuesday night says that torture techniques used at Abu Ghraib prison and approved by officials in the George W. Bush administration were applied only after soliciting a "wish list" from interrogators.
President George W. Bush made a written determination that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, did not apply to al Qaeda or Taliban detainees. This act, the committee found, cleared the way for a new interrogation program to be developed in-part based on "Chinese communist" tactics used against Americans during the Korean War, mainly to elicit false confessions for propaganda purposes.
The committee's report was made available in Dec. 2008, but was delayed by the Pentagon's declassification program. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) concluded that the findings were enough to warrant serious consideration by the Department of Justice.
"There is still the question, however, of whether high level officials who approved and authorized those policies should be held accountable," he wrote. "I have recommended to Attorney General Holder that he select a distinguished individual or individuals - either inside or outside the Justice Department, such as retired federal judges - to look at the volumes of evidence relating to treatment of detainees, including evidence in the Senate Armed Services Committee's report, and to recommend what steps, if any, should be taken to establish accountability of high-level officials - including lawyers."
The tactics, such as waterboarding, body slapping, the use of dogs and insects, prolonged standing, sleep deprivation and forced sexual humiliation are all part of the Navy's Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) program.
"In SERE training, U.S. troops are briefly exposed, in a highly controlled setting, to abusive interrogation techniques used by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions," the report reads. "The techniques are based on tactics used by Chinese Communists against American soldiers during the Korean War for the purpose of eliciting false confessions for propaganda purposes. Techniques used in SERE training include stripping trainees of their clothing, placing them in stress positions, putting hoods over their heads, subjecting them to face and body slaps, depriving them of sleep, throwing them up against a wall, confining them in a small box, treating them like animals, subjecting them to loud music and flashing lights, and exposing them to extreme temperatures. Until recently, the Navy SERE school also used waterboarding.
'The purpose of the SERE program is to provide U.S. troops who might be captured a taste of the treatment they might face so that they might have a better chance of surviving captivity and resisting abusive and coercive interrogations."
SERE is operated by the "Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA)," the report says. " ... An agency whose expertise was in training American personnel to withstand interrogation techniques considered illegal under the Geneva Conventions."
"The Committee's investigation revealed that, following Secretary Rumsfeld's authorization, senior staff at GTMO drafted a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the use of SERE techniques, including stress positions, forcibly stripping detainees, slapping, and 'walling' them," the committee found. "That SOP stated that 'The premise behind this is that the interrogation tactics used at U.S. military SERE schools are appropriate for use in real-world interrogations.' Weeks later, in January 2003, trainers from the Navy SERE school traveled to GTMO and provided training to interrogators on the use of SERE techniques on detainees."
"According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE […] had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans," reported the New York Times.
"Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding."
"In mid-August 2003, an email from staff at Combined Joint Task Force 7 (CJTF-7) headquarters in Iraq requested that subordinate units provide input for a 'wish list' of interrogation techniques [to be used at Abu Ghraib], stated that 'the gloves are coming off,' and said 'we want these detainees broken,'" the report found.
The full report may be read here.