Pentagon Cites Tapes Showing Interrogations


Richard Moore

"The officials said it appeared that only a small 
fraction of the tens of thousands of 
interrogations worldwide since 2001 had been 
I suppose that makes the USA the greatest 
violator of human rights in the world today.

March 13, 2008

Pentagon Cites Tapes Showing Interrogations

WASHINGTON - The Defense Department is conducting 
an extensive review of the videotaping of 
interrogations at military facilities from Iraq 
to Guantánamo Bay, and so far it has identified 
nearly 50 tapes, including one that showed what a 
military spokesman described as the forcible 
gagging of a terrorism suspect.

The Pentagon review was begun in late January 
after the Central Intelligence Agency 
acknowledged that it had destroyed its own 
videotapes of harsh interrogations conducted by 
C.I.A. officers, an action that is now the 
subject of criminal and Congressional 

The review was intended in part to establish 
clearer rules for any videotaping of 
interrogations, Defense officials said. But they 
acknowledged that it had been complicated by 
inconsistent taping practices in the past, as 
well as uncertain policies for when tapes could 
be destroyed or must be preserved.

The officials said it appeared that only a small 
fraction of the tens of thousands of 
interrogations worldwide since 2001 had been 

The officials said the nearly 50 tapes they 
identified documented interrogations of two 
terrorism suspects, Jose Padilla and Ali 
al-Marri, and were made at a Navy detention site 
in Charleston, S.C., where the two men have been 

The initial findings of the Pentagon review 
represent the first official acknowledgment that 
military interrogators had videotaped some 
sessions with detainees and could widen the 
controversy over the treatment of prisoners in 
American custody. A Pentagon spokesman, Geoff 
Morrell, cautioned that the review was 
incomplete, and a spokesman for the Defense 
Intelligence Agency, Don Black, said that 
interrogation videotapes had been routinely 
destroyed if they were judged to have no 
continuing value.

The only tape described by officials is of Mr. 
Marri, a citizen of Qatar who was arrested in 
December 2001 while in college in Illinois and 
moved five years ago to the jail after being 
designated an "enemy combatant." Government 
officials say they believe he was an operative 
for Al Qaeda who was plotting attacks.

Two government officials said that the tape 
showed Mr. Marri being manhandled by his 
interrogators, but did not show waterboarding or 
any other treatment approaching what they 
believed could be classified as torture. 
According to one Defense Department official, the 
interrogators dispensing the rough treatment on 
the tape were F.B.I. agents.

An F.B.I. spokesman declined to comment, citing a 
continuing review of detention practices that is 
being carried out by the Department of Justice's 
inspector general.

Mr. Black, the spokesman for the Defense 
Intelligence Agency, said its director, Lt. Gen. 
Michael D. Maples, had reviewed the tape and was 
satisfied that Mr. Marri's treatment was 

He said that Mr. Marri was chanting loudly, 
disrupting his interrogation, and that 
interrogators used force to put duct tape on his 
mouth, while Mr. Marri resisted. Mr. Black said 
most of the videos showing Mr. Marri's 
interrogations had been destroyed. The government 
has never charged Mr. Marri, but because of his 
designation as an enemy combatant, the Pentagon 
is allowed to hold him indefinitely.

The scale of detention and interrogation by the 
military, with tens of thousands of prisoners in 
Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, 
dwarfs that of the C.I.A., which has held fewer 
than 100 high-level Qaeda suspects. The C.I.A. 
has acknowledged videotaping only two terrorism 
suspects, in 2002, and military officials said 
that the review, ordered in late January by James 
R. Clapper, the Pentagon's senior intelligence 
official, had similarly found that only a small 
number of detainee interrogations had been 

"This is not a widespread practice," said Mr. 
Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary. He said 
that it was up to individual military commanders 
whether to tape interrogations and that the 
videotapes were often used as the basis of 
written intelligence reports. In addition to the 
existing interrogation videotapes, there are 
existing recordings that show interactions 
between military guards and terrorism suspects, 
including detainees' forcible removal from cells 
at Guantánamo, military officials said.

Images of rough treatment of detainees is a 
delicate subject for the Pentagon. Soldiers' 
snapshots of the abusive treatment of detainees 
at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq set off a 
firestorm and led to prison terms for a number of 
military personnel.

Congress imposed a ban in 2005 on all harsh 
interrogation methods by the military but left a 
loophole for the C.I.A. Last month, Congress 
voted to extend the ban to the C.I.A., but 
President Bush vetoed the bill.

The C.I.A. acknowledged in December that in 2005 
it had destroyed the only interrogation 
videotapes that its officers had made; the tapes 
showed two detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al- 
Rahim al-Nashiri.

Lawyers for Mr. Marri, who have challenged his 
imprisonment in court, sought access to any tapes 
or other records of his interrogations, but in 
2006 a federal judge in South Carolina said the 
government did not have to produce any tapes. 
That decision is being appealed.

Jonathan Hafetz, one of the lawyers, said Mr. 
Marri had heard guards describe "a cabinet full 
of tapes" showing his interrogations, but had 
never had independent confirmation that such 
tapes existed. Mr. Marri has alleged that earlier 
in his imprisonment he was deprived of sleep, 
isolated and exposed to prolonged cold.

Mr. Hafetz said he planned to file papers in 
court on Thursday describing the psychological 
harm done to Mr. Marri. "Locking someone up for 
five years without charges is a disgrace and a 
betrayal of American and constitutional values," 
he said.

The difficulties in the Pentagon's review can be 
glimpsed in a seven-page court filing last month 
by Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby, the military 
commander at Guantánamo Bay.

Admiral Buzby's report describes an array of 
digital video recorders used to capture 
"activities" - it does not specify whether 
interrogations are included - in at least four 
subcamps at Guantánamo. But the systems 
automatically recorded over older material when 
they reached capacity, he wrote.

In some cases, Admiral Buzby wrote, "We suspect 
that the recording devices contain recorded data 
but we are unable technologically to confirm 
whether data remains."

Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company

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