- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 7, 2006

The Pentagon is banning eight interrogation techniques and mandating humane treatment in an overhaul of how the military handles detainees in the war on terror — a response to complaints from human rights groups.

But the Pentagon is sticking by the Bush administration’s original stand that captured al Qaeda terrorists do not qualify as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions and, therefore, unlike soldiers, can be prosecuted for deaths they cause.

“The inhumane treatment of detainees is prohibited and is not justified by the stress of combat or deep provocation,” says Defense Department Directive No. 2310, which was announced yesterday.

A revamped Army field manual for intelligence collection sets out 19 interrogation techniques for detainees that are permitted and the eight that are banned.

The manual bans the use of hoods, a widespread practice in transporting Taliban, al Qaeda and Iraq insurgency suspects. It also prohibits the use of dogs in interrogations, a method used sporadically at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.

“We have used straightforward language in the field manual for use by soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines,” Lt. Gen. John F. Kimmons, Army deputy chief of staff for intelligence, told reporters at the Pentagon. “It is not written for lawyers.”

The policies stem from 12 major investigations conducted by the military into accusations of prisoner abuse in Afghanistan, Iraq and the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Human rights groups have accused President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other senior leaders of condoning torture in their zeal to extract information from al Qaeda operatives, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the September 11 mastermind. Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld say they never condoned torture.

“The new manual is broader in scope and incorporates hard-won wartime lessons learned since 9/11,” Gen. Kimmons said.

The Army is in charge of all detainee operations in the war on terror. It has processed more than 56,000 detainees and is holding about 15,000 today.

The service has conducted more than 600 criminal investigations in response to abuse complaints. The investigations resulted in charges against 251 soldiers, who faced courts-martial or administrative punishment.

The Army says it has conducted 21 criminal investigations into 22 detainee deaths, either because the death was caused by mistreatment or because there was misconduct, such as obstruction of justice. In the 22 deaths, 11 were caused by shootings, nine by blunt force traumas, one by drowning and one by asphyxiation.

Directive 2310 sets out basic guidelines for detainee treatment in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

“All persons captured, detained, interned or otherwise in the control of DoD personnel during the course of military operations will be given humane care and treatment from the moment they fall into the hands of DoD personnel until release, transfer out of DoD control or repatriation,” the directive states.

“All detainees will be respected as human beings. They will be protected against threats or acts of violence including rape, forced prostitution, assault and theft, public curiosity, bodily injury and reprisals. They will not be subjected to medical or scientific experiments. They will not be subjected to sensory deprivation.”

The new rules, said Cully Stimson, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs, “provide our forces in the field the policy guidance needed to ensure the safe, secure and humane detention during armed conflicts.”

The administration is retaining the category of “unlawful enemy combatant,” which is not part of the Geneva Conventions, for Taliban, al Qaeda and other U.S.-designated terrorists. This means they will not be granted “combatant immunity” given to soldiers and can be prosecuted.

The policy prohibits the military from turning over custody of detainees to another government agency, such as the CIA, unless approved by higher-ups. In Iraq, the CIA moved “ghost detainees” in and out of military prisons and kept them from the Red Cross.

Besides banning hoods and dogs, Gen. Kimmons said, interrogators cannot force detainees to be naked or perform sex acts and cannot inflict any type of physical pain or deprive them of food and water.

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