WASHINGTON — Military investigators examining alleged abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, say they found treatment such as leashing a terror suspect and forcing him to behave like a dog. But they say they found no evidence that there was torture or that senior leaders imposed faulty interrogation policies.
A few individual interrogators and military personnel are facing punishment, but a recommendation by investigators to admonish the former prison commander because of the treatment of one prisoner was overruled by a senior general.
In all, the findings track what the Bush administration has said, and what subsequent military self-investigations have found: The excesses with prisoners were the work of a few mid- or low-level personnel acting beyond their authority.
Investigators assigned to look into FBI agents’ allegations of abuse at Guantanamo presented their findings to the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday.
They were unsatisfactory to some Democrats and human rights groups.
“I am deeply concerned about the failure — indeed, outright refusal — of our military and civilian leaders to hold higher-ups accountable for the repeated reports of abuse and torture of the prisoners at Guantanamo,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
But other senators saw little use in the investigation. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said the few infractions uncovered made him “wonder if we’re really getting the most out of these detainees.”
He also said, “What damage are we doing to our war effort by parading these relatively minor infractions before the press and the world again and again and again while our soldiers risk their lives daily and are given no mercy by the enemy?”
The FBI’s allegations came to light last year when the American Civil Liberties Union released e-mails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act in which the bureau accused interrogators of abusive treatment.
The chief investigator, Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt, wanted Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller to be reprimanded for failing to oversee the interrogation of prisoner Mohamed al-Qahtani, a Saudi who was captured in December 2001 along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
Al-Qahtani, according to Schmidt, “admitted to being the 20th hijacker, and he expected to fly on United Airlines flight 93,” the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. “He proved to have intimate knowledge of future plans.”
The suspect had been blocked from entering the United States in August 2001 by an immigration agent at the Orlando, Fla., airport, military officials said.
He didn’t crack under normal techniques, so interrogators employed harsher methods, officials said. He gave up useful information during his questioning, they said.
According to investigators, the interrogators told him his mother and sisters were whores, forced him to wear a bra, forced him to wear a thong on his head, told him he was homosexual and said that other prisoners knew it.
They also forced him to dance with a male interrogator and subjected him to strip searches with no security value, threatened him with dogs, forced him to stand naked in front of women and forced him onto a leash, to act like a dog. He was kept in solitary confinement for 160 days, and interrogations for 18 to 20 hours a day, for 48 out of 54 days.
Schmidt’s investigation concluded that was not torture, which involves inflicting physical pain or withholding food, water or medical care, none of which took place, he said. All of the techniques that were used were authorized by the Pentagon.
But taken together they constituted abuse, and Miller should be punished for not monitoring the interrogation more closely, Schmidt found.
Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, commander of U.S. Southern Command, said he overruled the recommendation and would instead refer the matter to the Army’s inspector general. Craddock concluded that Miller’s job did not include monitoring the interrogation so closely and he did not violate any U.S. laws or policies.
Miller, a subject of criticism by human rights groups, took command of the prison camp at Guantanamo in late 2002 with a mandate to get more and better information from prisoners. He later went to Iraq to oversee detainee operations there. He is now stationed at the Pentagon in a position unrelated to prisoners.
Military officials said al-Qahtani was a special case and this was not the standard of interrogation at Guantanamo.
Investigators found interrogators exceeded their authority, confirming a few other allegations raised by the FBI, but in many cases found the harsh techniques questioned by FBI agents were in fact authorized.
In one case, a navy lieutenant commander threatened to have a detainee’s family killed. That violates military policy, investigators found. That case is still open.
In two other cases, prisoners were shackled to the floor of an interrogation booth in a way that forced them into a fetal position. This was done briefly, investigators found, and was not authorized.
In another case, an interrogator had a military policeman place duct tape over a noisy prisoner’s mouth to quiet him. That is not authorized treatment, investigators concluded.
© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.