Washington -- Female interrogators repeatedly used sexually suggestive tactics to try to humiliate and pry information from devout Muslim men held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to a military investigation not yet public and newly declassified accounts from detainees.
The prisoners have told their attorneys, who compiled the accounts, that female interrogators regularly violated Muslim taboos about sex and contact with women. The women rubbed their bodies against the men, wore skimpy clothes in front of them, made sexually explicit remarks and touched them provocatively, at least eight detainees said in documents or through their attorneys.
The unreleased Pentagon investigation generally confirms the detainees' allegations, a senior Defense Department official familiar with the report said. While isolated accounts of such tactics have emerged in recent weeks, the new allegations and the findings of the Pentagon investigation indicate that sexually oriented tactics might have been part of the fabric of Guantanamo interrogations, especially in 2003.
The inquiry uncovered numerous instances in which female interrogators, using dye, pretended to spread menstrual blood on Muslim men, the official said. Separately, in court papers and public statements, three detainees say that women smeared them with blood.
The military investigation of U.S. detention and interrogation practices worldwide, led by Vice Adm. Albert Church III, confirmed one case in which an Army interrogator took off her uniform top and paraded around in a tight T- shirt to make a Guantanamo detainee uncomfortable, and other cases in which interrogators touched the detainees suggestively, the senior Pentagon official said.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the report has not yet been made public, said the fake blood was used on Muslim men before they intended to pray, because some Muslims believe that "if a woman touches him prior to prayer, then he's dirty and can't pray."
Defense Department officials said they had reprimanded two female interrogators for such tactics.
The attorney interviews of detainees are the result of a Supreme Court decision last summer that gave the captives access to lawyers and the opportunity to challenge their incarceration in U.S. courts. In previous documents, detainees have complained of physical abuse, including routine beatings, painful shackling and exposure to extremes of hot and cold.
Pentagon officials said Wednesday that wearing skimpy clothing or engaging in provocative touching and banter would be inappropriate interrogation techniques.
Col. David McWilliams of the U.S. Southern Command in Miami, which oversees operations at Guantanamo Bay, said it was premature to comment on whether the detainee allegations were credible until a second military investigation that focuses on Guantanamo Bay abuse allegations was complete. Church's report found that interrogators used sexual tactics and harassment to shock or offend Muslim prisoners, the senior Pentagon official said. The official said that the military would not condone "sexual activity" during interrogation, but that good interrogators "take initiative and are a little creative."
Attorneys for detainees scoffed at the Pentagon's insistence that the military can fairly investigate its own personnel. Even detainee lawyers doubted that interrogators would spread menstrual blood on prisoners when a recently released British detainee first made the allegation in early 2004. A month ago, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed it had verbally reprimanded one female interrogator who, in early 2003, had smeared red dye from a marker on a detainee's shirt and told him it was blood.
In a yet-to-be-published book, former Army translator Erik Saar said he had seen a female interrogator smear red dye on a Saudi man's face, telling him it was blood. Saar's account was first reported by the Associated Press last month. One lawyer, Marc Falkoff, said in an interview that when a Yemeni client told him a few weeks ago about an incident involving menstrual blood, "I almost didn't even write it down." He said: "It seemed crazy, like something out of a horror movie or a John Waters film. Now, it doesn't seem ludicrous at all."
© 2005 San Francisco Chronicle