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
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.