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Pentagon to release Rumsfeld interrogation memos

Official says Rumsfeld never approved 'water boarding'

From Jamie McIntyre
CNN Washington Bureau

United States
Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (Cuba)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Pentagon's release of memos Tuesday will show that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld never approved a controversial interrogation technique called "water boarding," according to a source who Monday had told CNN the opposite.

The senior defense official who provided the original information to CNN now says Rumsfeld only approved "mild, noninjurious physical contact" with a high-level al Qaeda detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and specifically did not approve a request to use water boarding.

The tactic involves strapping a prisoner down and immersing him in water and making the subject feel as though he is drowning.

The memos to and from Rumsfeld are expected to be released later Tuesday, and will show that while the water boarding technique was on a list of requested aggressive tactics, Rumsfeld did not approve it, officials say.

The list of aggressive tactics included the following:

  • Use of scenario to convince the detainee that death or severe pain could be imminent for him or his family
  • Exposure to cold weather or water
  • Use of a wet towel or dripping water to induce a perception of suffocating.
  • And mild noninjurious physical contact such as grabbing someone's arm, poking them in the chest or light shoving.
  • Only tactic number four, mild noninjurious physical contact, was approved.

    Last week, Rumsfeld complained that people were defining torture in a way that, in his words, "doesn't fit a dictionary definition of the word that one would normally accept."

    "There is no wiggle room in the president's mind or my mind about torture," he told reporters at the Pentagon after a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

    "That is not something that's permitted under the Geneva Convention or the laws of the United States. That is not to say that somebody else couldn't characterize something in a way that would fit what I described."

    Iraqi prisoner abuse

    The question of whether Rumsfeld or President Bush authorized interrogation techniques in the war on terrorism that would violate U.S. or international laws has become an issue in the wake of the revelations of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

    Seven U.S. soldiers have been accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib outside Baghdad, all reservists with the 372nd Military Police Company.

    One pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in prison and given a bad-conduct discharge. Six others are awaiting possible courts-martial. (Full story)

    Rumsfeld is scheduled to brief the Senate Armed Services Committee this week about a Red Cross report on abuse of Iraqi prisoners in U.S. custody, according to a spokesperson for Republican Sen. John Warner of Virginia, the committee's chairman.

    The committee has been looking into the abuse charges at Abu Ghraib. The International Committee of the Red Cross has been monitoring conditions in Iraq's prisons during the coalition occupation of Iraq.

    Rumsfeld had agreed to provide the report to Congress during previous testimony.

    According to a classified report prepared for Rumsfeld last year, the United States was not bound by prohibitions against torture in the Geneva Conventions in detaining al Qaeda and Taliban members.

    The report, a copy of which was obtained by CNN, was dated March 6, 2003, and based on an advisory opinion from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel. (Full story)

    Bush was asked about the report during a June 10 news conference at the G-8 summit in Georgia.

    "The authorization I issued was that anything we did would conform to U.S. law and would be consistent with international treaty obligations," Bush told reporters.

    Bush said he could not remember whether he saw the report but reiterated he had instructed that the treatment of terror suspects stay within U.S. and international laws.

    Bush was asked, "If you knew a person was in U.S. custody and had specific information about an imminent terrorist attack that could kill hundreds or even thousands of Americans, would you authorize the use of any means necessary to get that information and to save those lives?"

    "What I've authorized is that we stay within U.S. law," Bush responded.

    Leading up to the Iraq war, Bush said Iraqi prisoners would be treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. Rumsfeld said last month that Bush had made that instruction clear.

    Under heavy questioning from Democratic senators at a hearing two weeks ago, Attorney General John Ashcroft refused to say what legal advice his department might have given others in the executive branch regarding the possible use of torture against terror suspects. (Full story)

    But he insisted Bush did not authorize illegal techniques during interrogations.

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