Pentagon seeks to legitimize torture


Richard Moore

Original source URL:,,1791164,00.html

Pentagon's interrogation manual dodges Geneva ban

Julian Borger in Washington
Tuesday June 6, 2006

The Pentagon is drafting a new rulebook for military interrogators which omits 
the Geneva convention ban on "humiliating and degrading treatment", it was 
reported yesterday.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the army field manual on interrogation has 
not been finalised, and state department lawyers are fighting to have the 
convention protections restored.

Pentagon officials said yesterday that a final version should be published in 
the next few weeks.

A spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Ballesteros, said: "The document you refer 
to remains in coordination and it would be premature to comment on it prior to 
its release. The department of defence remains committed to the humane treatment
of all its detainees."

Pentagon lawyers have spent more than a year trying to draw up the manual in the
wake of the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Hardliners in the 
military and in Dick Cheney's office want to give US intelligence officials the 
freedom to question suspected terrorists, labelled "unlawful combatants", 
effectively. Others in the administration are concerned that if the constraints 
are deliberately loosened the administration would be politically and legally 
liable for any abuse scandals.

Administration critics say a legal memorandum produced by the justice department
in the 2002, suggesting that the president was not constrained by the Geneva 
convention, paved the way for the maltreatment of inmates in Abu Ghraib, 
Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay.

Military lawyers, known as judge advocates general (JAGs), tried to resist the 
removal of the Geneva safeguards, but were reportedly overruled.

"The JAGs came to the conclusion that this was the best they can get," an 
unnamed participant familiar with the debate told the LA Times. "But it was a 
massive mistake to have withdrawn from Geneva. By backing away, you weaken the 
proposition that this is the baseline provision that is binding to all nations."

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

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