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Investigators recommended disciplining Gitmo commander

Officials detail abuse of high-profile prisoner

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Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt testifies Wednesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- Military investigators said they proposed disciplining the prison commander at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, because of abusive and degrading treatment of a suspected terrorist that included forcing him to wear a bra, dance with another man and behave like a dog.

They said Wednesday they recommended that Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller be reprimanded for failing to oversee his interrogation of the prisoner, who was suspected of involvement in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, commander of U.S. Southern Command, said he overruled their recommendation and will instead refer the matter to the Army's inspector general. Craddock concluded that Miller did not violate any U.S. laws or policies, according to officials familiar with the report.

Investigators described their findings before the Senate Armed Services Committee Wednesday. They were looking into allegations by FBI agents who say they witnessed abusive interrogation techniques at the Guantanamo prison for terrorist suspects.

The chief investigator, Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt, described the interrogation techniques used on Mohamed al-Qahtani, a Saudi who was captured in December 2001 along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

It was learned later that he had tried to enter the United States in August 2001 but was turned away by an immigration agent at the Orlando, Florida, airport. Mohamed Atta, ringleader of the September 11 hijackers, was in the airport at the same time, officials have said.

Schmidt said that to get him to talk, interrogators told him his mother and sisters were whores, forced him to wear a bra, forced him to wear a thong on his head, told him he was homosexual and said that other prisoners knew it. They also forced him to dance with a male interrogator, Schmidt added, and subjected him to strip searches with no security value, threatened him with dogs, forced him to stand naked in front of women and forced him onto a leash, to act like a dog.

Still, he said, "No torture occurred."

Al-Qahtani was provided food, water and medical care, he said. Together these techniques are degrading and abusive, he said. FBI agents raised their concerns about the techniques to Miller, and he should have monitored them, but he apparently took no action, Schmidt said.

"It is clear from the report that detainee mistreatment was not simply the product of a few rogue military police in a night shift," said Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the committee.

Bush administration officials have sought to portray the excesses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq as just that.

Armed Services Chairman John Warner, R-Virginia, said investigators found only three instances, out of thousands of interrogations, where military personnel violated Army policy. He did not immediately describe those incidents.

Investigators determined that interrogators violated the Geneva Conventions and Army regulations three times. It was unclear from the aide's description what those instances were.

The military investigation was conducted by Schmidt and Army Brig. Gen. John T. Furlow after the FBI agents' reports of abuse at Guantanamo surfaced last year. Craddock and the two investigators testified about their findings at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Wednesday.

Previous investigations of prisoner abuse in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo have hurt U.S. standing worldwide.

No officer of Miller's rank or higher has been officially admonished in connection with any of the abuse scandals. Former Brig. Gen. Janice Karpinski, who was in charge of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, is the highest-ranking officer to face punishment, despite calls from human rights groups to hold more senior leaders accountable.

"I am deeply concerned about the failure -- indeed, outright refusal -- of our military and civilian leaders to hold higher ups accountable for the repeated and reports of abuse and torture of the prisoners at Guantanamo," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts.

Miller, a subject of criticism by human rights groups, took command of the prison camp at Guantanamo in late 2002 with a mandate to get more and better information from prisoners. He later went to Iraq to oversee detainee operations there. He is now stationed at the Pentagon in a position unrelated to prisoners.

According to investigators:

  • A female interrogator in one case smeared what she described as menstrual blood -- it was fake -- on a prisoner, but they recommended no further action on the allegation because it happened some time ago. The woman was disciplined, investigators said.
  • A Navy officer threatened one high-value prisoner by saying he would go after his family. This was in violation of U.S. military law, the investigation found.
  • Military interrogators impersonated FBI and State Department agents. This practice was stopped after the FBI complained.
  • Interrogators improperly used duct tape on a detainee. An FBI agent said a prisoner was bound on the head with duct tape, his mouth covered, because he was chanting verses from the Quran, the Muslim holy book.
  • Interrogators used cold, heat, loud music and sleep deprivation on prisoners to break their will to resist interrogation. These techniques were approved at certain times at Guantanamo.
  • Chaining a detainee to the floor in a fetal position was not authorized; however, the investigation could not confirm an FBI agent's allegation that detainees were left in this position for long periods.
  • The report said the military should review how it determines the legal status of prisoners at Guantanamo, and decide what forms of treatment and interrogation techniques will be allowed.

    Guantanamo holds 520 prisoners, while more than 230 others have been released or transferred to the custody of their home governments. Most were captured during the U.S. war in Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001, attacks; only a few have been charged with any crime.

    There have also been accusations that American personnel at Guantanamo mishandled the Quran. A separate Pentagon investigation found five such instances.

    Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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