A newly released memo shows the top US commander in Iraq authorized prisoner interrogation techniques that violated Geneva Conventions, the American Civil Liberties Union said.
The September 2003 memo signed by Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez has been discussed previously in testimony and official reports on the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal but had not been made public previously.
"General Sanchez authorized interrogation techniques that were in clear violation of the Geneva Conventions and the army's own standards," ACLU attorney Amrit Singh charged in a statement.
"He and other high-ranking officials who bear responsibility for the widespread abuse of detainees must be held accountable," he said.
The ACLU, which sued to obtain the release of government documents on detainees held oversees, said the Pentagon initially withheld the memo on national security grounds but released it March 25 after a legal challenge by the civil rights group.
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is the target of a separate ACLU lawsuit accusing him of responsibility for torture and abuse of detainees in US military custody, told reporters he could not say how national security had been harmed by releasing the documents.
"The lawyers go through all of that, and they make the decisions," he said at a Pentagon press conference.
But he denied that the Pentagon's resistance was motivated by fear of embarrassment.
The Sanchez memo, which was sent to the commander of the US Central Command, lays out an "interrogation and counter-resistance policy" modeled after one conducted at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba but modified for use in a theater of war where the Geneva Conventions apply.
It was superseded by another memo October 12, 2003, which dropped a dozen of the techniques that Sanchez had initially permitted.
Among the 29 interrogation techniques the September memo allowed were seven that required Sanchez' personal approval before being used. In the case of some techniques, the memo noted that other nations might regard them as inconsistent with provisions of the Geneva Conventions.
Some techniques, including the use of dogs to instill fear, putting detainees in painful stress positions, and the use of strobe lights and loud music in interrogations, surfaced in later abuse cases.
The seven techniques requiring Sanchez' personal approval were:
- providing a reward or removing a privilege, above and beyond those that are required by the Geneva Conventions.
- "Pride and Ego Down; attacking or insulting the ego of a detainee, not beyond the limits that would apply to an EPW (enemy prisoner of war)."
- "Mutt and Jeff: A team consisting of a friendly and harsh interrogator. The harsh interrogator might employ the Pride and Ego Down technique." It noted that other nations may view the technique as inconsistent with Geneva Convention protections against intimidation.
- Isolation "while still complying with basic standards of treatment." Use of isolation for more than 30 days must be "briefed" to the military intelligence brigade commander, it said.
- "Presence of Military Working Dogs: Exploit Arab fear of dogs while maintaining security during interrogations. Dogs will be muzzled and under control of MWD handler at all times to prevent contact with detainee," the memo said.
- "Yelling, Loud Music and Light Control: Used to create fear, disorient detainee and prolong capture shock. Volume controlled to prevent injury," it said.
- "Stress Positions. Use of physical postures (sitting, standing, kneeling, prone, etc.) for no more than one hour per use. Use of techniques will not exceed four hours and adequate rest between use of each position will be provided."
In his memo the following month, Sanchez dropped isolation, the presence of military dogs, the use of loud music and lights and stress positions as approved techniques.
Other approaches approved in the September memo were dropped as well, such as manipulating prisoners' sleeping patterns, environment and diet. Interrogation approaches that called for deceiving prisoners with false documents or making them think they were being interrogated by people from another country also were disallowed.
Sanchez, who commanded US forces in Iraq from June 2003 until July 2004, is currently the head of the US Army V Corps in Germany.
© 2005 Agence France-Presse