Puerto Rico, Dec 6: FBI agents witnessed ``highly aggressive'' interrogations
and mistreatment of terror suspects at the U.S. prison camp in
Cuba starting in 2002 -- more
than a year before the prison abuse scandal broke in Iraq -- according
to a letter a senior Justice Department official sent to the Army's
top criminal investigator.
In the letter obtained by The Associated
Press, the FBI official suggested the Pentagon didn't act on FBI
complaints about the incidents, including a female interrogator
grabbing a detainee's genitals and bending back his thumbs, another
where a prisoner was gagged with duct tape and a third where a dog was
used to intimidate a detainee who later was thrown into isolation and
showed signs of ``extreme psychological trauma.''
One Marine told an FBI observer that some interrogations led to
prisoners ``curling into a fetal position on the floor and crying in
pain,'' according to the letter dated July 14, 2004.
Thomas Harrington, an FBI counterterrorism expert who led a team of
investigators at Guantanamo Bay, wrote the letter to Maj. Gen. Donald
J. Ryder, the Army's chief law enforcement officer who's investigating
abuses at U.S.-run prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and at Guantanamo.
Harrington said FBI officials complained about the pattern of
abusive techniques to top Defense Department attorneys in January
2003, and it appeared that nothing was done.
Although a senior FBI attorney ``was assured that the general
concerns expressed, and the debate between the FBI and DoD regarding
the treatment of detainees was known to officials in the Pentagon, I
have no record that our specific concerns regarding these three
situations were communicated to the Department of Defense for
appropriate action,'' Harrington wrote.
Harrington told Ryder he was writing to follow up a meeting he had
with the general the week before about detainee treatment, saying the
three cases demonstrate the ``highly aggressive interrogation
techniques being used against detainees in Guantanamo.''
``I refer them to you for appropriate action,'' Harrington wrote.
Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, the current commander of the mission in
Guantanamo, said allegations of mistreatment and abuse are taken
seriously and investigated.
``The appropriate actions were taken. Some allegations are still
under investigation,'' Hood told the AP. ``Once investigations are
completed, we report them immediately.''
None of the people named in the letter are still at the base, a
Guantanamo spokesman said, but it wasn't clear if any disciplinary
action had been taken. The letter identified the military
interrogators only by last name and rank, and mentioned a civilian
Lt. Col. Gerard Healy, an Army spokesman, confirmed the
authenticity of the FBI letter, as did the FBI. Healy said the female
interrogator -- identified only as Sgt. Lacey in the letter -- is
being investigated, but the Army would not comment further or fully
The U.S. military says prisoners are treated in accordance with the
Conventions, which prohibit violence, torture and humiliating
treatment of combatants. Still, at least 10 incidents of abuse have
been substantiated at Guantanamo, all from 2003 or this year. They
range from a guard hitting a detainee to a female interrogator
climbing on a prisoner's lap.
Those incidents pale in comparison to alleged abuse at the Abu
Ghraib prison in Iraq, a scandal that erupted when photographs
surfaced of U.S. troops forcing Iraqi prisoners to strip and pose in
sexually humiliating positions. Some prisoners were bound and hooded.
At Guantanamo, some detainees have been held without charge and
without access to attorneys since the camp opened in January 2002 at
the remote U.S. Naval base on Cuba's eastern tip. The
United States has
imprisoned some 550 men accused of links to Afghanistan's ousted
Taliban regime or the al-Qaida terror network; only four have been
No detailed incidents of abuse from 2002 have publicly surfaced
until this FBI letter.
None of the three 2002 cases cited were detailed in any of 5,000
documents received by the
York-based American Civil Liberties Union under two Freedom of
Information Act requests, said Anthony Romero, the union's executive
``Despite the government's statements, there seems to be
increasingly little doubt that torture is occurring at Guantanamo,''
He said the information in the FBI letter ``raises questions about
the government's willingness to be forthcoming in these legal
proceedings and shows that even the FBI has been uncomfortable with
some of the tactics used at Guantanamo."
One of the documents the ACLU received was a letter from an FBI agent
to Harrington and dated May 10. It underscored the friction between
the FBI and the military, mentioning conversations that were
``somewhat heated'' over interrogation methods.
``In my weekly meetings with the Department of Justice we often
discussed techniques and how they were not effective or producing
intelligence that was reliable,'' according to the exchange, which was
heavily redacted to remove references to dates and names.
``I finally voiced my opinion ...,'' the FBI agent says. ``It still
did not prevent them from continuing the ... methods.''
Three of the four incidents mentioned in the letter obtained by the
AP occurred under the watch of Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, who ran the
Guantanamo camp from October 2002 to March 2004, and left to run Abu
Ghraib prison. Last month, Miller was reassigned to the Pentagon, with
responsibility for housing and other support operations.
According to the letter, in late 2002 an FBI agent observed an
interrogation where Sgt. Lacey whispered in the ear of a handcuffed
and shackled detainee, caressed him and applied lotion to his arms.
This occurred during Ramadan, Islam's holy month when contact with
females is considered particularly offensive to a Muslim man.
Later, the detainee appeared to grimace in pain, and the FBI agent
asked a Marine who was present why. ``The Marine said (the
interrogator) had grabbed the detainee's thumbs and bent them backward
and indicated that she also grabbed his genitals. The Marine also
implied that her treatment of that detainee was less harsh than her
treatment of others by indicating that he had seen her treatment of
other detainees result in detainees curling into a fetal position on
the floor and crying in pain,'' Harrington wrote.
In September or October of 2002, FBI agents saw a dog used ``in an
aggressive manner to intimidate a detainee,'' the letter said.
About a month later, agents saw the same detainee ``after he had
been subjected to intense isolation for over three months ... totally
isolated in a cell that was always flooded with light. By late
November, the detainee was evidencing behavior consistent with extreme
psychological trauma ... talking to nonexistent people, reported
hearing voices (and) crouching in a corner of the cell covered with a
sheet,'' the letter said.
In October 2002, another FBI agent saw a detainee ``gagged with
duct tape that covered much of his head'' because he would not stop
chanting from the Quran.