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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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At one point she called her boss, the staff judge advocate at the US Southern Command, for guidance. She reached him on the golf course during Columbus Day weekend, she said, and after stating her request, she received no response.

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"I was hung out [to dry]," she said.

The context of the original decision to approve harsh interrogations is important to keep in mind, defenders of the move argued before Congress this month.

It was only one year after the attacks of 2001 and many in the US national security structure expected another attack to occur soon in the US. Furthermore, the anthrax attacks in Washington had raised fears that terrorists would use weapons of mass destruction.

Meanwhile, some terror suspects thought to be privy to key information were proving hard to crack. Commanders at Guantánamo suspected that some key Al Qaeda suspects there had been trained in interrogation-resistance techniques.

"I ... remember a widespread belief that the people that the United States had captured in the war on terror were not producing as much information as we believed they had," William Haynes, former general counsel at the Department of Defense, told senators. "Similarly, there was widespread frustration that the existing doctrine was inadequate and that the country's capabilities were inadequate to the task."

Harsh techniques applied by trained personnel under supervised conditions were an attempt to surmount this problem, Mr. Haynes and other defenders of the move argued. The techniques approved by the Pentagon were not unlimited, they said. While "removal of clothing" was an approved technique, they did not mean detainees should be stripped naked, they said. Use of muzzled dogs was approved, but Pentagon officials thought that meant that muzzled dogs would walk the perimeter of the detainee camp, not – as happened on at least occasion – used to directly confront a prisoner in his cell.

"It can't be sadistic. It has to be for a governmental purpose," Beaver told senators.

That was not the way lawyers for the military services saw things. Before Rumsfeld made his decision in 2002, Air Force, Navy, and Army lawyers all submitted memos strenuously objecting to the use of any new, tougher interrogation methods.

In general, the services thought that any short-term gain would be overwhelmed by longer term disadvantages, including the loss of respect for the US around the world when the techniques were inevitably exposed and greater danger for any US service personnel captured in future conflicts.

Ley, for instance, noted that in his view both waterboarding and the use of threats to convince a detainee he faced imminent death or severely painful consequences constituted possible violations of statutes prohibiting torture.

"If we mistreat detainees, we will quickly lose the moral high ground and public support will erode," wrote Ley. "The techniques noted above will not read well in either the New York Times or the Cairo Times."