Disagreement widespread within US government over 2002 harsh interrogations
Even some military lawyers opposed the techniques, according to congressional testimony this week.
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Documents and testimony in the House and Senate over the last 10 days established that senior Pentagon lawyers as early as July 2002 sought background information on a training program known as "Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape" (SERE) that prepares US service members for experience as a prisoner. In the past, SERE participants have been briefly exposed to waterboarding, a technique that induces a sense of drowning.Skip to next paragraph
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But as to who first broached the idea of changing interrogation rules – whether it was a low-level interrogator or a White House level official – lawmakers learned little.
"So our frustration is: We would like to hold someone responsible, and it's like trying to catch shadows here, because no one is willing to say where this came from," said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) of Missouri at one point.
Among the most damaging items unearthed by congressional investigators was the minutes of an October 2002 meeting on "counter-resistance strategy" at Guantánamo in which a CIA lawyer advised a group of military officials about the use of harsh techniques.
According to the minutes, John Fredman, the CIA attorney, argued that determining what actions constitute torture is subject to perception.
"If the detainee dies, you're doing it wrong," the minutes quote Mr. Fredman as saying.
At the same meeting, Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, a staff judge advocate at the Guantánamo base, said that it would be better to curb harsh techniques when the International Committee of the Red Cross was making one of its periodic inspection visits.
"It is better not to expose them to any controversial techniques," said Colonel Beaver, according to the meeting minutes.
Testifying before the Senate on June 18, Beaver denied that she had implied that the US should hide any actions from the Red Cross. Intensive interrogations, done properly, take time, she said – and it would be best not to interrupt them with a visit from a Red Cross representative.
Beaver – author of an October 2002 memo that argued that abusive methods could legally be used against Guantánamo prisoners – portrayed herself as a scapegoat in Senate hearings.
She said she was "shocked" to find out that her memo became the basis for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's approval of harsh techniques, she said. She said that she had considered it a virtual draft that would be critiqued and expanded by higher-level Pentagon lawyers with greater expertise and resources.