WASHINGTON — The physical and mental abuse of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was the direct result of Bush administration detention policies and should not be dismissed as the work of bad guards or interrogators, according to a bipartisan Senate report released Thursday.
The Senate Armed Services Committee report concludes that harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA and the U.S. military were directly adapted from the training techniques used to prepare special forces personnel to resist interrogation by enemies that torture and abuse prisoners. The techniques included forced nudity, painful stress positions, sleep deprivation, and until 2003, waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning.
The report is the result of a nearly two-year investigation that directly links President Bush's policies after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, legal memos on torture, and interrogation rule changes with the abuse photographed at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq four years ago. Much of the report remains classified. Unclassified portions of the report were released by the committee Thursday.
Administration officials publicly blamed the abuses on low-level soldiers_ the work "of a few bad apples." Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., called that "both unconscionable and false."
"The message from top officials was clear; it was acceptable to use degrading and abusive techniques against detainees," Levin said.
Arizona Republican and former prisoner of war Sen. John McCain, called the link between the survival training and U.S. interrogations of detainees inexcusable.
"These policies are wrong and must never be repeated," he said in a statement.
Lawrence Di Rita, a senior aide to former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at the time the Abu Ghraib and other abuses took place, disputed the report.
"This oddly timed report provides no evidence that contradicts more than a dozen other investigations that found that there was no systematic or widespread detainee mismanagement," Di Rita told The AP. "A relatively small number of people abused detainees, and they were brought to justice in criminal or civil proceedings."
The report comes as the Bush administration continues to delay and in some cases bar members of Congress from gaining access to key legal documents and memos about the detainee program, including an August 2002 memo that evaluated whether specific interrogation techniques proposed to be used by the CIA would constitute torture.
That memo, written by Jay Bybee, then-chief of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, was guided in part by an assessment of the psychological effects of resistance survival training on U.S. military personnel. The CIA provided that document to his office, Bybee told the Senate Armed Services Committee in an October letter, obtained by The Associated Press.