U.S. hid suspects from Red Cross
Seattle Times
by Warren P. Strobel
McClatchy Newspapers June 18, 2008

WASHINGTON — The U.S. military hid the locations of suspected terrorist detainees and concealed harsh treatment to avoid the scrutiny of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), according to documents a Senate committee released Tuesday.

"We may need to curb the harsher operations while ICRC is around. It is better not to expose them to any controversial techniques," Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, a military lawyer who has since retired, said during an October 2002 meeting at the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, prison to discuss employing interrogation techniques that some have equated with torture.

Beaver also appeared to confirm that U.S. officials at another detention facility — Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan — were using sleep deprivation to "break" detainees well before Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved that technique. "True, but officially it is not happening," she told another person at the 2002 meeting.

A third person at the meeting, Jonathan Fredman, chief counsel for the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, said detainees were moved routinely to avoid the scrutiny of the ICRC, which keeps tabs on prisoners in conflicts around the world. "In the past when the ICRC has made a big deal about certain detainees, the [Defense Department] has 'moved' them away from the attention of the ICRC," Fredman said, according to the minutes.

The document, along with two dozen others, shows that top administration officials pushed for tougher interrogation methods in the belief terrorism suspects were resisting interrogation.

It's unclear whether the Pentagon moved the detainees or merely told the ICRC they were no longer at a facility.

Fredman also appeared to be advocating the use of techniques harsher than those authorized by the military. "If the detainee dies, you're doing it wrong," he is reported to have said.

Beaver testified Tuesday that she didn't recall making the comment about avoiding "harsher operations" while ICRC representatives were around, but she said she probably was referring to the need to conduct extended interrogations without disruption.

The minutes of the Guantánamo meeting were among the documents released Tuesday by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee and is leading an investigation of the origins of cruel treatment of detainees in the "war on terrorism." The Levin probe fits into a broader picture of the government's handling of detainees, including FBI and CIA interrogations in secret prisons. A final report is expected by year's end.

The documents show the administration overrode or ignored objections from all four military services and from criminal investigators, who warned that the practices would imperil their ability to prosecute the suspects.

In one e-mail on Oct. 28, 2002, Mark Fallon, then the deputy commander of the Pentagon's Criminal Investigation Task Force, wrote a colleague: "This looks like the kind of stuff congressional hearings are made of. ... Someone needs to be considering how history will look back at this."

The objections from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines prompted Navy Capt. Jane Dalton, legal adviser to Gen. Richard Myers, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to begin a review of the proposed techniques.

But Dalton, now retired, told the hearing Tuesday that the review was aborted quickly. Myers, she said, took her aside and told her that William Haynes, then-Defense Department general counsel "does not want this ... to proceed."

Haynes testified Tuesday that he didn't recall the objections of the military. He said he was doing the best he could to help prevent another terrorist attack.

"There was a limited amount of time and a high degree of urgency," Haynes said of his decision to cut short a departmentwide review of the legality of the interrogation methods.

Also Tuesday, Physicians for Human Rights reported that medical examinations of 11 former terrorism suspects held at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Guantánamo Bay found evidence of torture and other abuse that resulted in serious injuries and mental disorders.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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