Report says Rumsfeld allowed Guantanamo abuse
WASHINGTON, Apr 15: US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld allowed an ''abusive and degrading'' interrogation of an al Qaeda detainee in 2002, the online magazine Salon reported today, citing an Army document.
In a report a Pentagon spokesman denounced as ''fiction,'' Salon quoted a December 2005 Army inspector general's report in which officers told of Rumsfeld's direct contact with the general overseeing the interrogation at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The report at www.salon.com, titled ''What Rumsfeld Knew,'' comes amid a spate of calls by retired US generals for the Pentagon chief to resign to take responsibility for US military setbacks in Iraq.
Rumsfeld spoke regularly to US Army Maj Gen Geoffrey Miller, a key player in the treatment of detainees in Iraq and Guantanamo, during the interrogation of Mohammed al-Kahtani, suspected to have been an intended September 11 hijacker, Salon quoted the inspector general's report as saying.
Kahtani, a Saudi national, received ''degrading and abusive'' treatment by soldiers who were following the interrogation plan Rumsfeld had approved, Salon said, quoting the 391-page report, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.
Over 54 days in late 2002, soldiers forced Kahtani to stand naked in front of a female interrogator, accused him of being a homosexual, and forced him to wear women's underwear and to perform ''dog tricks'' on a leash, Salon reported.
Salon cites Lt Gen Randall M Schmidt, an Army investigator, as saying in a sworn statement to the inspector general that ''The secretary of defense is personally involved in the interrogation of one person.'' Schmidt is quoted under oath as saying he concluded that Rumsfeld did not specifically order the interrogation methods used on Kahtani, but that Rumsfeld's approval of broad policies permitted abuses to take place.
Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, dismissed the report's allegation that Rumsfeld or the agency condoned abuse.
''We've gone over this countless times and yet some still choose to print fiction versus facts,'' he said by telephone.
''Twelve major reviews, to include one done by an independent panel, all confirm the Department of Defense did not have a policy that encouraged or condoned abuse. To suggest otherwise is simply false,'' he said.
Schmidt, an Air Force fighter pilot, was quoted as telling the inspector general that he had concerns about the length and repetition of the harsh interrogation methods, which he likened to abuses later uncovered at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
''There were no limits,'' Schmidt is quoted as telling the inspector general in an August 2005 interview.
The Pentagon has said Kahtani gave interrogators information on Osama bin Laden's health and methods of evading capture, and on al Qaeda's infiltration routes.
Miller -- who headed the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, helped shape detention practices at Abu Ghraib and later oversaw all detention operations in Iraq -- in January invoked his right not to incriminate himself in the courts martial of soldiers tried for Abu Ghraib abuses.