Rumsfeld allowed and encouraged Gitmo prisoner abuse

    U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld allowed and encouraged an “abusive and degrading”
    interrogation of an al Qaeda detainee in 2002, the online magazine Salon
    reported on Friday, 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
    U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    The report at www.salon.com, titled “What Rumsfeld Knew,” comes amid calls by
    a string of respected military commanders for the Pentagon chief to resign to
    take responsibility for U.S. military setbacks in Iraq.

    Rumsfeld spoke regularly to Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, a key figure in
    the treatment of detainees in Iraq and Guantanamo, during the interrogation of
    Mohammed al-Kahtani, a Saudi suspected to have been an intended September 11
    hijacker, the Salon report said.

    Kahtani 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, forced him to wear
    women’s underwear and made him perform “dog tricks” on a leash, the Salon report
    said.

    Salon cited Lt. Gen. Randall 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 as saying under oath that he concluded Rumsfeld did not
    specifically order the interrogation methods used on Kahtani, but that his
    approval of broad policies permitted abuses to take place.

    Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, dismissed the report’s allegation that
    Rumsfeld or the defense department condoned abuse.

    “We’ve gone over this countless times and yet some still choose to print
    fiction versus facts,” Gordon 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.”

    Schmidt, an Air Force fighter pilot, was quoted as telling the inspector
    general 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 al Qaeda
    leader Osama bin Laden’s health and methods of evading capture as well as the
    group’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.

    In an interview with Dubai’s Al Arabiya television aired on Friday, Rumsfeld
    acknowledged the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and said that soldiers
    had been punished for that.

    “It’s something that should not have happened, it did happen, and we regret
    it deeply,” he said.