Pentagon shifts on telling interrogation modes

/ Source: The Associated Press

Under pressure from Congress, the Pentagon has dropped plans to keep some interrogation techniques secret by putting them in a classified section of a military manual, defense officials said Tuesday.

The two senior officials, who requested anonymity because the interrogation manual has not yet been completed, said there will not be a classified section in the long-awaited Army Field Manual. One of the officials said descriptions of interrogation techniques initially planned for the classified section are either being made public or are being eliminated as tactics that can be used against prisoners.

The decision comes despite arguments from military leaders that making all of the interrogation techniques public would make it easier for enemy prisoners to resist questioning.

Defense Department officials have been at odds over whether details of some interrogation procedures should remain secret and published in a classified section.

But last month, several members of Congress privately cautioned the Pentagon against doing that. The standoff has contributed to the long delay in releasing the manual, which has been in the works for more than a year.

Congress members argued that including a secret section — that would detail what interrogators can and can’t do to prisoners — could fuel concerns both at home and abroad that the U.S. military was hiding torture techniques that violate the law or rules governing detainee treatment.

As originally planned, the classified section would have included details such as how long prisoners can be forced to sit or stand in certain positions or how hot or cold their holding areas can be kept.

Opponents said greater transparency would dispel suspicions that the military was trying to exploit legal loopholes.

The classified section is not the only issue tying up the manual’s release.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said for the first time last month that officials were at odds over whether the manual should endorse different interrogation techniques for enemy insurgents than are allowed for regular prisoners of war.

The debate hinges on whether suspected terrorists or other insurgents can be treated more severely than captured members of an enemy army. There are concerns such a distinction could fly in the face of a law enacted last year that explicitly banned cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners by U.S. troops.

The actions follow the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, in which some U.S. troops abused and degraded Iraqi prisoners.