Peter Finn & Joby Warrick/ The Washington Post – 2009-04-25 22:50:33
WASHINGTON (April 25, 2009) — The military agency that helped to devise harsh interrogation techniques for use against terrorism suspects referred to the application of extreme duress as “torture” in a July 2002 document sent to the Pentagon’s chief lawyer and warned that it would produce “unreliable information.”
“The unintended consequence of a US policy that provides for the torture of prisoners is that it could be used by our adversaries as justification for the torture of captured US personnel,” says the document, an unsigned two-page attachment to a memo by the military’s Joint Personnel Recovery Agency. Parts of the attachment, obtained in full by the Washington Post, were quoted in a Senate report on harsh interrogation released this week.
It remains unclear whether the attachment reached high-ranking officials in the Bush administration. But the document offers the clearest evidence that has come to light so far that those who helped formulate the harsh interrogation techniques voiced early concerns about the effectiveness of applying severe physical or psychological pressure.
The document was included among July 2002 memorandums that described severe interrogation techniques used against Americans in past conflicts and the psychological effects of such treatment. JPRA ran the military program known as Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, which trains pilots and others to resist hostile questioning.
The cautionary attachment was forwarded to the Pentagon’s Office of the General Counsel as the administration finalized the legal underpinnings to a CIA interrogation program that would sanction the use of 10 forms of coercion, including waterboarding. The JPRA material was sent from the Pentagon to the CIA’s acting general counsel, John Rizzo, and on to the Justice Department, according to testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.
An Aug. 1, 2002, memo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel authorized the use of the 10 methods against Abu Zubaydah, the nom de guerre of an al Qaeda associate captured in Pakistan in March 2002. Former intelligence officials have recently contended that he provided little useful information about the organization’s plans.
Senate investigators were unable to determine whether William Haynes II, the Pentagon’s general counsel in 2002, passed the cautionary memo to Rizzo or other Bush administration officials reviewing the CIA’s proposed program.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he believed the attachment was deliberately ignored and perhaps suppressed. “It’s part of a pattern of squelching dissent,” he said.
A former administration official said the National Security Council, which was briefed repeatedly that summer on the CIA’s planned interrogation program by then-Director George Tenet and agency lawyers, did not discuss the issues raised in the attachment.
“That information was not brought to the attention of the principals,” said the former administration official, who was involved in deliberations on interrogation policy and who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “That would have been relevant. The CIA did not present with pros and cons, or points or concern. They said this was safe and effective, and there was no alternative.”
The August 2002 memo on the interrogation of Zubaydah draws from the JPRA’s memo on psychological effects to conclude that while waterboarding constituted “a threat of imminent death,” it did not cause “prolonged mental harm.” Therefore, the memo concluded, waterboarding “would not constitute torture within the meaning of the statute.”
But the JPRA’s two-page attachment questioned the effectiveness of employing extreme duress to obtain intelligence.
“In essence, physical and/or psychological duress are viewed as an alternative to the more time-consuming conventional interrogation process,” the document said. “The error inherent in this line of thinking is the assumption that, through torture, the interrogator can extract reliable and accurate information. History and a consideration of human behavior would appear to refute this assumption.”
© 2009 Hearst Communications Inc.
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