FBI reports Guantanamo ‘abuse’

Alleged incidents include physical abuse, ‘intense isolation’

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A memo from a senior FBI counterterrorism official has outlined three alleged cases of abuse in 2002 that FBI agents had become aware of while serving at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base prison.

The complaints included allegations of a female interrogator grabbing a detainee’s genitals and bending back his thumbs and a prisoner being gagged with duct tape.

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Another complaint talked of a dog being used to intimidate a prisoner and jailers subjecting the same prisoner to what the FBI official called “intense isolation” in a “cell that was always flooded with light.”

The memo was written in July 2004 by Deputy Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Thomas Harrington, and was directed to Maj. Gen. Donald Ryder of the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command.

In the first incident outlined by Harrington, an FBI agent was present in an observation room while an interrogation of a detainee was under way. A “Sgt. Lacey” (the memo says her first name is unknown) entered the room and ordered a Marine to duct tape a curtain over the observation window, thereby blocking the view of the interrogation.

On a monitor showing the view of a surveillance camera, the FBI agent saw the sergeant “apparently whispering in the detainee’s ear, and caressing and applying lotion to his arms…. On more than one occasion the detainee appeared to be grimacing in pain, and Sgt. Lacey’s hands appeared to be making some contact with the detainee,” the memo states.

Later it says the Marine who had been in the room came out, and the FBI agent asked what had happened.

“The Marine said Sgt. Lacey had grabbed the detainee’s thumbs and bent them backwards 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,” the memo states.

The memo included another incident from October 2002 that involved a detainee being “gagged with duct tape that covered much of his head,” according to an FBI agent’s account. A contractor observing the detainee’s interrogation told the FBI agent the detainee “had been chanting the Koran and would not stop.”

The final case involves FBI agents allegedly observing a dog being used in an “aggressive manner to intimidate a detainee,” who was subject to what the FBI official called “intense isolation” in a “cell that was always flooded with light.”

The FBI memo says at least the two first incidents were known to some Pentagon officials as far back as January 2003, when a U.S. Air Force captain referenced them in a timeline concerning the reported use of interrogation techniques.

Interestingly, the memo discusses a debate between FBI and Defense Department officials regarding the treatment of detainees.

The author, Harrington, said he wrote the July 2004 document because he said he had no record that the FBI’s “specific concerns regarding these three incidents were communicated to DOD for appropriate action.”

An FBI official confirmed the memo was authentic but refused any further comment.

Imprisoned

Many detainees at Guantanamo have been held without charge and without access to attorneys since the camp opened in January 2002. The United States has imprisoned about 550 men accused of links to Afghanistan’s ousted Taliban regime or al Qaeda. Four have been charged.

The Associated Press reported it too had seen a letter from Harrington to Maj. Ryder but listed the two alleged incidents involving the same man — relating to the dog and the period of isolation — separately.

Ryder is the Army’s chief law enforcement officer who’s investigating abuses at U.S.-run prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and at Guantanamo, AP said.

It said that three of the four incidents mentioned in the letter it saw 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.

America vs. Human Rights

“The United States has long regarded itself as a beacon of human rights, as evidenced by an enlightened constitution, judicial independence, and a civil society grounded in strong traditions of free speech and press freedom. But the reality is more complex; for decades, civil rights and civil liberties groups have exposed constitutional violations and challenged abusive policies and practices. In recent years, as well, international human rights monitors have documented serious gaps in U.S. protections of the human rights of vulnerable groups. Both federal and state governments have nonetheless resisted applying to the U.S. the standards that, rightly, the U.S. applies elsewhere.”
Human Rights Watch

Last month, Miller was reassigned to the Pentagon, with responsibility for housing and other support operations, AP said.

The ACLU released internal government memos Tuesday that underscore the friction between the FBI and the military over interrogation methods, AP reported. (Full story)

The documents are among 5,000 that the New York-based American Civil Liberties Union received under two Freedom of Information Act requests, the group’s executive director, Anthony Romero, told AP.

In one document obtained by the ACLU and seen by AP, an FBI agent recalls Miller wanting to “Gitmo-ize” the Abu Ghraib prison, where photographs surfaced of U.S. troops forcing Iraqi prisoners to strip and pose in sexually humiliating positions. Troops often refer to the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo as “Gitmo.”

Commander: Allegations taken seriously

Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, the current commander of the mission in Guantanamo, said allegations of mistreatment and abuse are taken seriously and investigated, AP reported.

“The appropriate actions were taken. Some allegations are still under investigation,” Hood told AP.

None of the people named in the letter are still at the base, a Guantanamo spokesman told AP, but it was not clear if any disciplinary action had been taken. The letter identified the military interrogators only by last name and rank, and mentioned a civilian contractor.

Lt. Col. Gerard Healy, an Army spokesman, told AP the female interrogator identified as Sgt. Lacey was being investigated, but the Army would not comment further or fully identify her.

The U.S. military says prisoners are treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit violence, torture and humiliating treatment. Still, at least 10 incidents of abuse have been substantiated at Guantanamo, all but one from 2003 or this year, AP reported.

CNN Producers Kevin Bohn, Terry Frieden and Ingrid Arnesen contributed to this report

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Dec. 8, 2004
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Religion News Blog posted this on Wednesday December 8, 2004.
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