Video: Gitmo interrogation
updated 6/15/2005 4:50:09 PM ET 2005-06-15T20:50:09

The heat is on at the Pentagon with allegations about interrogation techniques and abuse at the Guantanamo Bay detention center spotlighted in this week's Time Magazine and the subject of Senate Committe hearings on Wednesday.

Top U.S. Military officials have defended practices at the camp and have claimed that extraordinary steps were being taken to protect certain rights of prisoners and to process their cases.

According to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Guantanamo is run humanely.  He says it's probably been more open to examination than any facility of its kind in wartime.

The allegations in this week's edition of Time disputed Rumsfeld's claims.  Adam Zagorin says methods used against high profile prisoners, including Mohammad al-Qahtani, an al-Qaida operative who has been alleged to be the 20th hijacker on 9/11, included humilation techniques and sleep deprivation.

Zagarin, who joined MSNBC's Keith Olbermann on Countdown Tuesday evening to discuss the accusations within the article.  Below is an excerpt of their conversation.

OLBERMANN:  I‘ll get to the Christina Aguilera thing separately.  But in defending Gitmo, the vice president, the secretary of defense, some legislators, answered, in essence, your article by saying, We‘ve let 200 people go, 10 or 12 of them wound up fighting against the U.S. in Afghanistan.  Thus, we have to be very careful about releasing anybody.

Did that process — who get's released, who doesn‘t, what the criteria are — did any of that come up in your reporting?

ZAGORIN: It doesn't get into that in the log because the log simply describes the interrogation.  I would note, though, that if the interrogation methods were very effective, then presumably, those who should not be released would not be released.  So it suggests that the interrogation methods perhaps are not so effective.

There's also the argument that no one should be released who recommits a crime or goes to war again against the United States, and that's certainly true.  The same argument would apply that no one should be released from U.S. prisons, and the recidivism rate in U.S. prisons is also quite high, probably a good deal higher than the rate from or Guantanamo.

OLBERMANN:  Reading specifically the story about the interrogation of number 63, or 063, was there anything in that interrogation log that you reported on that clearly violated the Geneva Conventions or even the stated U.S. policy?

ZAGORIN: There's no question that the log, should the Pentagon release it in its entirety, will fuel the debate over that very question.  I would think that it‘s not clear in the log whether physical torture is taking place.  There are suggestions of extreme discomfort, medical distress certainly, during various points in the interrogation.  Whether that's torture or not, it's impossible for me to tell from the log.

There is one thing, though.  The Geneva Convention does forbid outrage against personal dignity of the detainee. 

That is actually language from the Convention.  We did consult a constitutional and legal expert, who expressed the opinion that some of the activities in the log crossed that particular line.

OLBERMANN:  Ultimately, who is 63?  We heard him described as the possible 20th hijacker.  We know the name al Qahtani.  Did they claim to get any special intelligence from him, any product of this interrogation?

ZAGORIN: Did he describe to them, for example, meetings with bin Laden, meetings with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 plot, meetings with another gentleman in the United Arab Emirates who was the chief financier of the 9/11 plot, allegedly.  Also, various operational details about al-Qaida, and also some training that the detainee received at a very specialized high-level al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan before the United States overran it.  Osama bin Laden had lived at various times at that camp.

Countdown with Keith Olbermann airs weeknights, 8 p.m. ET on MSNBC TV. E-mail Keith at

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