US torture methods 'endanger troops' (AU)
June 19, 2008

THE use by the United States of harsh interrogation methods against suspected terrorists has stained the country's image and is putting US soldiers' lives at risk, experts say.

"If we use torture when we question prisoners, we forfeit the right to demand that anyone treat our soldiers decently if they are taken prisoner," former army intelligence officer Stuart Herrington told Agence France-Presse at a forum in Washington DC on the use of torture in interrogations.

"If we engage in that kind of activity, we put our soldiers at increased risk," he said.

"Our place in the world has been eroded" by the use of torture in interrogations at "war-on-terror" prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, said Ken Robinson, who served for 20 years in organisations including the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Agency.

"We have lost the moral high ground," he said.

Sarah Mendelson of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, which hosted the forum along with Human Rights First, deplored the Bush administration's "new ambivalence towards torture prohibition".

In a report, Dr Mendelson accused the Bush administration of appearing "increasingly prepared to pay lip-service to or ignore entirely US obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law".

The forum came a day after Carl Levin, the Democratic head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told a congressional hearing that top US government officials had ignored the advice of lawyers from all branches of the military and sanctioned the use of harsh interrogation methods when questioning terrorism suspects.

Mr Levin tied the hardball US interrogation policies to Donald Rumsfeld, the powerful defence secretary from 2001 to 2006, and other top officials in President George W Bush's administration.

Many US allies would call those tough interrogation methods - including waterboarding, or simulated drowning, and sensory deprivation - torture, Dr Mendelson said in her report.

Mr Bush has made "an egregious mistake" in turning a blind eye to the use of harsh interrogation methods, and has "made the United States into an entity that is feared, as opposed to being loved and respected," Mr Herrington said.

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