President Authorized Abu Ghraib Torture, FBI Email Says


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

President Authorized Abu Ghraib Torture, FBI Email Says

Among a new batch of documents rights groups have forced the gov't to release, a
Bureau communication refers to a presidential Executive Order endorsing some 
forms of torture witnessed at Iraq prison.

President Authorized Abu Ghraib Torture, FBI Email Says
by NewStandard Staff

Dec. 21, 2004 ­ Repeated references in an internal FBI email suggest that the 
president issued a special order to permit some of the more objectionable 
torture techniques used at Abu Ghraib and other US-run prison facilities around 
Iraq. The email was among a new batch of FBI documents revealed by civil rights 
advocates on Monday. Other documents describe the initiation of investigations 
into alleged incidents of torture and rape at detention facilities in Iraq.

The email, which was obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union, represents 
the first hard evidence directly connecting the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal 
and the White House. The author of the email, whose name is blanked out but 
whose title is described as "On Scene Commander -- Baghdad," contains ten 
explicit mentions of an "Executive Order" that the author said mandated US 
military personnel to engage in extraordinary interrogation tactics.

An Executive Order is a presidential edict -- sometimes public, sometimes 
secretive -- instituting special laws or instructions that override or 
complement existing legislation. The White House has officially neither admitted
nor denied that the president has issued an Executive Order pertaining to 
interrogation techniques.

The specific methods mentioned in the email as having been approved by the 
unnamed Executive Order and witnessed by FBI agents include sleep deprivation, 
placing hoods over prisoners¹ heads, the use of loud music for sensory overload,
stripping detainees naked, forcing captives to stand in so-called "stress 
positions," and the employment of work dogs. One of the more horrifying tools of
intimidation, Army canines were used at the prison to terrorize inmates, as 
depicted in photos taken inside Abu Ghraib.

The correspondence is dated May 22, 2004 -- a couple of weeks after images of 
torture and humiliation at the prison broke in the world media -- and was sent 
between FBI officials attempting to clarify the Bureau¹s position on the 
terminology to use when categorizing and reporting such techniques. The author 
repeatedly states those techniques were, at least temporarily, permitted under 
the mysterious presidential directive. The author also wrote that Pentagon 
policy had since restricted most of the techniques to require specific 
authorization from the chain of command.

"As stated, there was a revision last week in the military¹s standard operating 
procedures based on the Executive Order," the letter reads. "I have been told 
that all interrogation techniques previously authorized by the Executive Order 
are still on the table but that certain techniques can only be used if very 
high-level authority is granted." The author goes on to recount having seen a 
military email that said certain techniques -- including "stress positions," the
use of dogs, "sleep management," hoods, "stripping (except for health 
inspection)," and blaring music -- cannot be used without special authorization.

The author wonders if techniques that fall within the scope of the Executive 
Order should be referred to as "abuse," since they are technically legal. Unless
otherwise advised by the Bureau, the email continues, agents "will still not 
report the use of these techniques as Œabuse¹ since we will not be in a position
to know whether or not the authorization for these tactics was received from the
aforementioned officials."

The author does believe that interrogation methods that involve "physical 
beatings, sexual humiliation or touching" clearly constitute "abuse," suggesting
they are not within the scope of the repeatedly referenced Executive Order.

The email says that FBI personnel operating at Abu Ghraib witnessed but did not 
participate in prisoner interrogations that involved actions approved by the 
Executive Order. That statement upholds separate documentation also obtained via
Freedom of Information Act requests backed by a lawsuit on the part of the 
American Civil Liberties Union and other groups.

As reported by The NewStandard, documents revealed in October showed that FBI 
agents had witnessed abuses like those mentioned in the email, in addition to 
many more severe actions.

The email that was revealed on Monday is the first official document to state 
that the Oval Office was the source of directives permitting abuse and torture.

After the ACLU released the documents, White House, Pentagon and FBI officials 
told reporters that the author of the email was mistaken, and that the order was
not an Executive Order, but a Defense Department directive. All sources refused 
to be identified in news reports.

The White House does not appear to have ever officially denied that President 
Bush issued an Executive Order specifying interrogation techniques, though none 
has been made public. The ACLU and other organizations involved in forcing the 
release of documents regarding prisoner treatment at Abu Ghraib as well as 
prison camps in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba have demanded the White 
House "confirm or deny the existence of such an order," according to an ACLU 
press release issued on Monday.

Last June the president insisted that the only authorization he has issued with 
regard to interrogation procedures was that American personnel "would conform to
US law and would be consistent with international treaty obligations."

But as the unidentified FBI official noted in his email, techniques are made 
legal under US law if and when the president issues an Executive Order rendering
them so.

Asked more directly less than two weeks later if President Bush had ever 
approved particular prisoner handling methods, White House spokesperson Scott 
McClellan responded, "In terms of interrogation techniques related to what the 
military may carry out in Guantánamo Bay or Iraq, those are determinations that 
are made by the military, and we expect that those techniques fit within the 
policies that this President has instituted."

The president and his legal advisors have repeatedly said that the US government
neither condones nor commits torture. The Bush administration¹s conservative 
definition of torture, as expressed at a June 22 press briefing by White House 
Counsel Alberto Gonzales, incorporates only acts bearing "a specific intent to 
inflict severe physical or mental harm or suffering."

If White House statements are to be taken at face value, then, they still leave 
considerable room for the possibility that President Bush has authorized 
specific acts that civil libertarians and international law consider torturous, 
including the methods listed in the FBI email.

The United Nations Convention Against Torture, which the United States Congress 
has ratified, defines "torture" far more broadly as including "any act by which 
severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted
on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person 
information or a confession."

Also included among the newly released documents were notices regarding the 
initiation of criminal investigations pertaining to abuse of Iraqi detainees.

One of the documents is a memo stating that the US Army¹s Criminal Investigation
Division had commenced an inquiry "regarding the alleged rape of [a] juvenile 
male detainee at Abu Ghraib Prison." The name of the investigating officer or 
unit has been blanked out, and no identifying information is offered pertaining 
to the case.

Another document notifies Valene Caproni of the FBI¹s Office of the General 
Counsel, that two FBI agents who were stationed in Iraq were to be interviewed 
by Army investigators looking into the alleged torture of an Iraqi detainee. 
Gary Bald of the Bureau¹s Counterterrorism Division wrote the email message, in 
which he notes suspicious military paperwork on a detainee whose name is 
redacted. He also writes that the two FBI special agents were with the military 
police unit that held the Iraqi and signed receipts claiming to have seen him 
before he was transferred to Abu Ghraib for further interrogation.

While the email states that the prisoner does not mention the FBI in his 
complaint, he described his treatment in troubling detail. "They tortured me and
cuffed me in an act called the scorpion and pouring cold water on me," the email
quotes the detainee¹s complaint as saying. "They tortured me from morning until 
the morning of the next day, and when I fell down from the severe torture I fell
on the barbed wires, and then they dragged me from my feet and I was wounded 
and, and they punched me on my stomach."

SOURCE: The New Standard

Escaping the Matrix website
cyberjournal website  
subscribe cyberjournal list     mailto:•••@••.•••
Posting archives      
  cyberjournal forum  
  Achieving real democracy
  for readers of ETM  
  Community Empowerment
  Blogger made easy