U.s. Report 'Connects The Dots' On Torture Use

April 22, 2009|By Julian E. Barnes | Julian E. Barnes,Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - A U.S. military agency that trains troops to resist and survive torture offered critical help in developing harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA, according to a Senate committee report to be released Wednesday.

The military expertise also was used by the Justice Department to develop controversial legal justifications for abusive interrogation methods, according to the report by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sen. Carl M. Levin, a Michigan Democrat and committee chairman, said the report "connects the dots" to show how the techniques familiar to military experts found their way into controversial memos by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel that authorized abusive interrogation practices.

Last week, the Obama administration released Justice Department memos outlining many of the harsh techniques used by the CIA. Most of the techniques were used at the military's Survive, Evade, Resist and Escape schools to prepare American service members for possible torture in captivity overseas.

The report fills in key details about the development of the Bush administration's controversial detention and interrogation policies, which were ordered discontinued by President Barack Obama when he took office.

The 200-page Senate report was completed last November. Defense Department officials only recently signed off on its release.

The techniques described to the CIA by SERE school officials in 2002 included many of the techniques that eventually became part of the agency's program, including cramped confinement, waterboarding, manhandling, slaps to the face and abdomen, and stress positions.

Levin said that top civilians in the Bush administration allowed the SERE program to be used to mistreat detainees.

"They took a program called SERE, totally distorted it and put it to a purpose it was never intended to be put," Levin said.

Lt. Col. Morgan Banks, a senior Army SERE psychologist, wrote in a 2002 memo cited by the Senate report that while applying pain could make detainees talk, it could not make them tell the truth.

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