Ex-Pentagon Lawyers Face Inquiry on Interrogation Role
NY Times
Published: June 17, 2008

WASHINGTON — Senior Pentagon lawyers played a more active role than previously known in developing the aggressive interrogation techniques approved for use in 2002 at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, according to officials familiar with a Senate investigation.

Investigators with the Senate Armed Services Committee have found documents from July 2002 showing that Pentagon lawyers working for William J. Haynes II, then the Defense Department general counsel, gathered information about a program used to train American pilots to withstand captivity, according to the officials.

Some of the techniques used in the program were later approved for use on prisoners in American military custody.

It has been known for some time that Mr. Haynes played a role in recommending that Donald H. Rumsfeld, who was then the defense secretary, approve interrogation techniques beyond what military interrogators were normally authorized to use, which Mr. Rumsfeld did in December 2002.

But the timing of the Pentagon requests for information earlier that year suggest that senior Pentagon lawyers played an active role in developing the aggressive interrogation program.

The military was never authorized to carry out interrogations as aggressive as those approved for use by the C.I.A., which until the end of 2003 included water boarding. The harshest techniques that Mr. Rumsfeld approved in December 2002 were rescinded by him a month later, but Pentagon investigations have found that some were later used without authorization in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is unclear why Mr. Haynes and his staff sought information from officers who ran the pilots' training program.

But Richard Schiffrin, a former Pentagon lawyer who will testify Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Monday in an interview that Mr. Haynes and other Pentagon lawyers at the time expressed "great frustration" that the military was not effectively obtaining information from prisoners. "The intelligence being obtained from detainees was deemed insufficient," he said.

Mr. Schiffrin said that he had requested interrogation information from the senior officers who administered the pilots' program, based at Fort Belvoir, Va. He said that much of the information he received involved psychological studies about the effects of interrogation, and some studies of how North Korean officers tried mind-control experiments on American prisoners during the Korean War. "It was real ‘Manchurian Candidate' stuff," he said.

Mr. Haynes is also scheduled to testify at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday. The committee is planning to issue a report this summer on the military's development of harsh interrogation practices.

Senator Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who is the committee's chairman, said in a statement that the deliberations on interrogation techniques conducted by senior Bush administration lawyers in 2002 laid the groundwork for the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq a year later.

"Senior officials in the United States government sought out information on aggressive techniques, twisted the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees," Mr. Levin said.

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