General says investigation of Guantanamo prison fails to prove abuse

Some senators angered at commander's defense

July 14, 2005|By Mark Mazzetti and Steven Bodzin | Mark Mazzetti and Steven Bodzin,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - During weeks of steady interrogation, soldiers at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, forced a suspected terrorist to wear a leash, perform dog tricks, wear women's underwear on his head and dance with a male interrogator - treatment that U.S. military investigators said was degrading and abusive.

The investigators recommended that the prison commander, Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, be reprimanded for failing to monitor those abusive interrogations, the investigators told a Senate committee yesterday.

Yet the top U.S. commander overseeing the island prison told senators that the interrogation techniques violated no U.S. law or policy and defended his decision to reject the recommendation that Miller be reprimanded.

Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock also said he was skeptical of the conclusions of his investigators that the techniques used on the detainee - a Saudi named Mohammed Al-Qahtani, whom U.S. officials call "the 20th hijacker" for his intention to participate in the Sept. 11 attacks - were degrading and abusive.

"It may well be the case, but their report did not prove it conclusively to me," said Craddock, the chief of U.S. Southern Command in Miami.

Several senators reacted angrily to Craddock's decision, some citing it as an example of the Pentagon's refusal to hold senior officials accountable for abuses at U.S. military prisons worldwide.

"General Craddock, I think what you've done is taken an investigation which was sincere and detailed and turned it into a justification and exoneration for a senior officer ... which is consistent with all these other investigations," said Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat. "We're in this muddle because no one's taken responsibility at a senior level for what's been done."

Others questioned Craddock's assertion that Miller had little experience with detainees upon taking charge at Guantanamo Bay and therefore ought not be held accountable for every aspect of prison operations.

"Why, if this is such a valuable and important operation, would we appoint somebody in charge who had no experience?" asked Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, who criticized vague ground rules that the investigators said allowed interrogators to cross the line into abusive methods.

The Senate hearing was held to accept the report by Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt and Army Brig. Gen. John T. Furlow, whom Craddock had chosen to investigate allegations of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo made by FBI officials visiting the base.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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