US military probes FBI Guantanamo abuse claims
WASHINGTON: The US military has begun an investigation into allegations by FBI agents of torture at the Guantanamo prison, officials said on Wednesday, and newly released documents showed 26 agents saw detainees abused.
Miami-based Southern Command, which oversees the prison camp for foreign terrorism suspects at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said two officers will look into abuse allegations described in numerous FBI documents released by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The group obtained the documents under court order through the Freedom of Information Act, and an ACLU lawyer questioned over whether the FBI aggressively pursued the charges.
The FBI documents have described suspects being shackled hand and foot in a fetal position on a floor for 18 to 24 hours, and left to urinate and defecate on themselves. Others said Pentagon interrogators impersonated FBI agents at the base and used “torture techniques” on a prisoner.
Southern Command spokesman Raul Duany said Brig. Gen. John Furlow will lead the investigation, and will be joined by a Navy captain. The two were ordered to report back by Feb. 1 to Gen. Bantz Craddock, head of Southern Command.
In previously released documents one FBI agent reported seeing a barely conscious prisoner who had torn out his hair after being left overnight in a sweltering room. Another told of an interrogation in which a prisoner was wrapped in an Israeli flag and bombarded with loud music and strobe lights. “It is specifically going to concentrate on those allegations raised by the FBI in e-mails and memoranda but it’s not limited to that,” Duany said of the investigation.
Duany said evidence gathered in the probe potentially could be used later to bring charges against military and civilian interrogators. The ACLU released a batch of FBI documents concerning Guantanamo last month and made public a new batch on Wednesday
The new documents stated Steve McCraw, assistant director of the FBI Office for Intelligence, asked 530 FBI agents who had been stationed there as part of the intelligence-gathering process whether they saw “aggressive treatment, interrogations or interview techniques” that exceeded FBI rules.
An Aug. 17, 2004, e-mail stated that of the 478 agents who responded, “there were 26 employees who stated they observed what was believed to be some form of mistreatment,” none at the hands of FBI personnel.
The document showed that these 26 agents wrote summaries of what they witnessed, a small number of which previously have been made public. It stated that FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni determined that the abuse described by 17 agents involved “approved DOD (Department of Defense) techniques,” and that there would be no follow-up interviews in those cases.
Caproni did order follow-up interviews of the nine agents who witnessed mistreatment deemed to violate both Pentagon and FBI policies, the document stated. The documents did not clarify whether those interviews took place and what actions resulted.
“These documents make clear that the FBI commenced an investigation whose scope was later scaled back dramatically,” said Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU lawyer. “These documents raise serious questions about how aggressively the government is investigating the abuse of detainees.”
The United States holds about 550 non-US citizens at Guantanamo, most captured in the US invasion of Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America. The military began sending them to Guantanamo three years ago. Only four have been charged. reuters