You'd Think This Was Hard To Figure Out
I was going through some old files and came across the following article that I had saved from way back when. I'm pretty sure that this coincided with a series of articles written by Mark Bowden forThe Atlantic Monthly on torture and explains, to me anyway, why I kept it. I haven't time to really comment on it, which may well be a blessing for some of you, but I think it's an interesting piece in light of the Budiansky article and what we're hearing about what's going on with regard to interrogation of prisioners:
NY Times, September 7, 2004
General Says Less Coercion of Captives Yields Better Data
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Sept. 6 - American interrogators working in Iraq have obtained as much as 50 percent more high-value intelligence since a series of coercive practices like hooding, stripping and sleep deprivation were banned, a senior American official said Monday.
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the American commander in charge of detentions and interrogations, said that the number of "high-value" intelligence reports drawn from interrogations of Iraqi prisoners had increased by more than half on a monthly basis since January. That was when American officials first disclosed that they were investigating abuses of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of American military police and intelligence officers at Abu Ghraib.
Such intelligence is used to hunt down guerrillas, prevent attacks and break up insurgent networks. The military defines a "high value" intelligence report as one that describes what is regarded as a significant piece of information about the insurgency.
But the successes listed by General Miller were tempered by the release this week of figures showing that the guerrilla insurgency in Iraq appears to be reaching a new level of intensity, raising questions about the value of the intelligence. An American military official said Monday that American soldiers and their allies were attacked an average of 87 times each day in August, the highest such figure since American and British forces deposed Saddam Hussein and his government 17 months ago.
General Miller, the former commandant of the American detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, attributed the greater success at intelligence gathering to a system that encourages the establishment of a "rapport" between interrogator and detainee and bestows "respect and dignity" on the person being interrogated.
In May, a number of physically and psychologically coercive practices used by interrogators to break down suspected Iraqi insurgents were prohibited, following reports of widespread abuse at Abu Ghraib. Among those techniques banned by American commanders were sleep deprivation, hooding, stripping and the use of dogs to frighten detainees.
"In my opinion, a rapport-based interrogation that recognizes respect and dignity, and having very well-trained interrogators, is the basis by which you develop intelligence rapidly and increase the validity of that intelligence," General Miller said in a briefing for reporters. "It is very similar to what you would see civilian law enforcement authorities use."
The system described by General Miller appears to mark a change in the chaotic and often coercive environment that prevailed at Abu Ghraib prison in late 2003 and early 2004, when a number of American soldiers assaulted and humiliated Iraqi prisoners. In testimony and photographs that have since been made public, Iraqis were shown to have been severely and regularly abused at the prison, often for the stated purpose of persuading them to provide more information on the insurgency.
Those abuses, still being investigated by the military and other public agencies, have so far resulted in criminal charges against seven American soldiers. One of those charged has pleaded guilty.
General Miller toured Iraq's prisons last summer but did not take command of them until April, after leaving his post as commandant of the American prison for Qaeda and Afghan war prisoners at Guantánamo. In his time at Guantánamo, General Miller was credited with setting up a system that extracted a large amount of intelligence from detainees, and often very quickly. He was brought to Abu Ghraib to set up a similar system.
General Miller said he had imposed a series of far-reaching changes on the workings of Abu Ghraib prison and the other detention camps in Iraq, in order to ensure that prisoners were treated more humanely and that intelligence flowed quickly.
General Miller suggested that he had needed some time to get the system working, and to bolster the morale of the police and intelligence officers following the scandal.
"In May, June and July, we made slow progress, because we were developing our teams again, getting our procedures, and allowing them to get their confidence built back up," General Miller said.
Of the coercive tactics formerly in use in Iraq, only one - holding a prisoner in isolation for more than 30 days - is still permitted, and then only with the permission of a senior officer. To date, even that tactic has not been used since General Miller's arrival, said a senior American military officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
General Miller first toured Abu Ghraib last summer, when the insurgency began to pick up momentum. The unexpected intensity of the rebellion has been cited in several investigations as having contributed to the atmosphere that led to the abuses at the prison.
At the time, the number of attacks on American soldiers and other members of the coalition averaged close to 50 a day - a figure considerable lower than the number of attacks last month.
Since arriving, General Miller has imposed a number of other changes intended to make the detention and interrogation system more efficient and to make it more acceptable to Iraqis. The prison population, which peaked last year at close to 10,000, has dropped to about 5,500 now, according to the senior military official.
The official also said the changes had addressed one of the Iraqis' principal complaints: that it takes far too long to process those arrested and to release the innocent. According to the military official, what used to take between 120 and 140 days is now down to an average of 60 days.
The rapid release of so many Iraqi prisoners does not appear to have contributed to the intensification of the insurgency, the official said. Of the thousands of Iraqi detainees who have been released, only about 25 have been recaptured on suspicion of taking part in attacks on American forces, the military officer said.
That statistic appears to buttress the finding by human rights groups and the International Committee for the Red Cross that an overwhelming majority of the Iraqis detained in American prisons in Iraq had nothing to do with the insurgency.
The American official also said that among the 5,500 Iraqis now being held, only two are women - both of them, he said, "high-value detainees" who were involved in "Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program." The American prisons hold some 65 to 70 juveniles, 40 of whom are scheduled to be released by Sept. 15, he added.
Between 130 and 140 non-Iraqi foreigners suspected of supporting the insurgency are being held in Iraq, the official said. The American official said that a "small number" of suspected foreign fighters had been released, "the vast majority" of whom had been handed over to the governments of the countries from which they came.
Some 750 Iraqis have been handed over to the Iraqi criminal justice system, where they will be tried for attacking American troops.