Washington, Dec.12 (ANI): A Senate Armed Services Committee report has blamed Bush administration officials, including former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for the abuses committed by American troops during interrogations at the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq; the Guantnamo Bay detention center in Cuba; and other military detention centers.
The New York Times says Senator Carl Levin of Michigan Senator John McCain of Arizona, the authors of the report, have undertaken a thorough review of the interrogation process at these prisons and detention centers, and have conclusively and explicitly rejected the Bush administration's contention that tough interrogation methods have helped keep the country and its troops safe.
The report also rejected previous claims by Rumsfeld and others those Defense Department policies played no role in the harsh treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 and in other episodes of abuse.
The abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the report says, "was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own" but grew out of interrogation policies approved by Mr. Rumsfeld and other top officials, who "conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees."
By the time of the abuses at Abu Ghraib, Rumsfeld had formally withdrawn approval for use of the harshest techniques, which he authorized in December 2002 and then ruled out a month later. But the report said that those methods, including the use of stress positions and forced nudity, continued to spread through the military detention system, and that their use "damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority."
Most of the report, the product of an 18-month inquiry and interviews with more than 70 people by committee staff members, remains classified. But the 29-page summary offers the clearest timeline to date linking the acts of Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials to abusive treatment in the field.
A spokesman for Rumsfeld, Keith Urbahn, said a dozen earlier investigations had found no such connection, and he dismissed the report as "unfounded allegations against those who have served our nation."
Committee staff members said the report was approved by a voice vote without dissent, but only 17 of the committee's 25 members were present for the vote.
The report documents how the military training program called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE, became a crucial source for interrogations as the Bush administration looked for tougher methods after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The SERE training was devised decades ago to give American military personnel a taste of the treatment they might face if taken prisoner by China, the Soviet Union or other cold war adversaries.
The report found that senior Defense Department officials inquired about SERE techniques for prisoner interrogations as early as December 2001, when the war in Afghanistan was weeks old and American troops were just beginning to capture people suspected of being members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The committee's report says little about the Central Intelligence Agency, except to note that that agency also drew on the SERE program for harsh methods it used in secret overseas jails for Qaeda suspects. (ANI)