December 11, 2008 – Senior U.S. officials authorized the use of aggressive interrogation techniques resulting in the abuse of military detainees in U.S. custody, according to a report released by the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
The authorization was not only the cause of aggressive interrogation techniques, but also conveyed the message that it was OK to mistreat and degrade detainees in U.S. custody, according to the report released by panel Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and ranking member John McCain (R-Ariz.).
The panel’s investigation focused mainly on the influence of Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) training techniques on the interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody.
SERE training is designed to teach soldiers how to resist interrogation by enemies who refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions and international law. During SERE training, U.S. troops are exposed to harsh techniques such as stress positions, forced nudity, use of fear, sleep deprivation and, until recently, the waterboard, according to a release issued by the committee. The SERE techniques were never intended to be used against detainees in U.S. custody.
The committee’s investigation found that senior officials in the U.S. government decided to use some of these harsh techniques against detainees based on flawed interpretations of U.S. and international law, according to the release.
“SERE training techniques were designed to give our troops a taste of what they might be subjected to if captured by a ruthless, lawless enemy so that they would be better prepared to resist,” Levin said in a statement. “The techniques were never intended to be used against detainees in U.S. custody.”
Levin also said that the abuses that took place at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and earlier at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq are not the actions of just a “few bad apples.”
“Attempts by senior officials to pass the buck to low-ranking soldiers while avoiding any responsibility for abuses are unconscionable,” Levin said. “The message from top officials was clear: It was acceptable to use degrading and abusive techniques against detainees.”
McCain said, “The committee’s report details the inexcusable link between abusive interrogation techniques used by our enemies who ignored the Geneva Conventions and interrogation policy for detainees in U.S. custody. These policies are wrong and must never be repeated.”
In the course of its more than 18-month-long investigation, the committee reviewed hundreds of thousands of documents and conducted extensive interviews with more than 70 individuals.