April 14, 2006

Report says Rumsfeld allowed Guantanamo abuse

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald
Rumsfeld allowed an "abusive and degrading" interrogation of an
al Qaeda detainee in 2002, the online magazine Salon reported
on Friday, citing an Army document.

In a report a Pentagon spokesman denounced as "fiction,"
Salon quoted a December 2005 Army inspector general's report in
which officers told of Rumsfeld's direct contact with the
general overseeing the interrogation at the U.S. naval base at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The report at www.salon.com, titled "What Rumsfeld Knew,"
comes amid a spate of calls by retired U.S. generals for the
Pentagon chief to resign to take responsibility for U.S.
military setbacks in Iraq.

Rumsfeld spoke regularly to U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey
Miller, a key player in the treatment of detainees in Iraq and
Guantanamo, during the interrogation of Mohammed al-Kahtani,
suspected to have been an intended September 11 hijacker, Salon
quoted the inspector general's report as saying.

Kahtani, a Saudi national, received "degrading and abusive"
treatment by soldiers who were following the interrogation plan
Rumsfeld had approved, Salon said, quoting the 391-page report,
obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Over 54 days in late 2002, soldiers forced Kahtani to stand
naked in front of a female interrogator, accused him of being a
homosexual, and forced him to wear women's underwear and to
perform "dog tricks" on a leash, Salon reported.

Salon cites Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt, an Army
investigator, as saying in a sworn statement to the inspector
general that "The secretary of defense is personally involved
in the interrogation of one person."

Schmidt is quoted under oath as saying he concluded that
Rumsfeld did not specifically order the interrogation methods
used on Kahtani, but that Rumsfeld's approval of broad policies
permitted abuses to take place.

Jeffrey Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman, dismissed the
report's allegation that Rumsfeld or the agency condoned abuse.

"We've gone over this countless times and yet some still
choose to print fiction versus facts," he said by telephone.

"Twelve major reviews, to include one done by an
independent panel, all confirm the Department of Defense did
not have a policy that encouraged or condoned abuse. To suggest
otherwise is simply false," he said.

Schmidt, an Air Force fighter pilot, was quoted as telling
the inspector general that he had concerns about the length and
repetition of the harsh interrogation methods, which he likened
to abuses later uncovered at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

"There were no limits," Schmidt is quoted as telling the
inspector general in an August 2005 interview.

The Pentagon has said Kahtani gave interrogators
information on Osama bin Laden's health and methods of evading
capture, and on al Qaeda's infiltration routes.

Miller -- who headed the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay,
helped shape detention practices at Abu Ghraib and later
oversaw all detention operations in Iraq -- in January invoked
his right not to incriminate himself in the courts martial of
soldiers tried for Abu Ghraib abuses.