The Pentagon is investigating new allegations by a civil liberties group that military interrogators at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay posed as FBI agents while using abusive techniques to question detainees.
The American Civil Liberties Union released e-mails that showed FBI officials disapproved of the practice and suggested the military interrogators posed as FBI agents in part to take advantage of the rapport the FBI had established with some detainees at the prison.
The e-mails, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, also describe some harsh interrogation techniques and a suggestion they were approved by President Bush — a charge the White House vigorously denied.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said posing as FBI agents is not on a list of interrogation methods approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
E-mail hints at executive order
The White House denied a suggestion in an FBI e-mail dated May 22, 2004, that Bush personally signed off on certain interrogation techniques in an executive order. The FBI declined comment.
The military operation at Guantanamo Bay has come under increased scrutiny as former prisoners have alleged they were tortured. The Pentagon maintains it runs a humane operation there, and says all allegations of abuse are investigated.
The ACLU’s latest disclosures primarily constitute e-mails between FBI officials whose names the government removed before releasing them. In several, the writers describe and criticize various interrogation techniques they say they witnessed at Guantanamo.
In one of the e-mails message, dated from August, the writer reports more than once witnessing prisoners chained to the floor in a fetal position, with no food or water. They had often soiled themselves.
On one occasion, the temperature in a room was lowered so much the barefooted detainee shivered. In another, the room was so hot the detainee had pulled out some of his hair before passing out.
Account bolsters prisoner's allegation
In one e-mail, the writer described seeing a “detainee sitting on the floor of the interview room with an Israeli flag draped around him, loud music being played and a strobe light flashing.” Another Guantanamo prisoner has, in a court petition, described detainees wrapped in Israeli flags, among other allegations. At the time, a Guantanamo Bay spokesman denied his statements.
While military interrogators are performing much of the questioning at Guantanamo, the FBI and CIA also have operations there.
Anthony Romero, executive director of the ACLU, say the FBI documents continue to show the U.S. government was “torturing individuals in some instances” and demonstrates a major rift between FBI agents and the military over proper interrogation techniques.
“There was real concern within our law enforcement community about whether we are torturing individuals,” Romero said.
Prisoner wrongly classified
In other developments, a military review found a second Guantanamo prisoner wrongly classified as an enemy combatant, and he will be released soon to his home country, Navy Secretary Gordon England said Monday.
Separately Monday, a federal judge in New York said he would deny a government request to delay a review of whether certain CIA internal files related to Iraq should be made public.
Judge Alvin Hellerstein’s comments marked a victory for the ACLU and other groups seeking information about the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo and in Iraq.