May 21, 2008, Washington, DC – F.B.I. agents complained repeatedly, beginning in 2002, about the harsh interrogation tactics that military and C.I.A. interrogators were using in questioning terrorism suspects, like making them do dog tricks and parade in the nude in front of female soldiers, but their complaints appear to have had little effect, according to an exhaustive report released Tuesday by the Justice Department’s inspector general.
The report describes major and repeated clashes between F.B.I. agents and their counterparts over the rough methods being used on detainees in Guantánamo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq — some of which, according to the inspector general, may have violated the Defense Department’s own policies at the time.
It also provides new insight into the intense debates at senior levels of the Justice Department, the Defense Department and the National Security Council over what should and should not be allowed — a debate in which the Defense Department prevailed.
The inspector general found that in a few instances, F.B.I. agents participated in interrogations using pressure tactics that would not have been permitted inside the United States. But the “vast majority” of agents followed the bureau’s legal guidelines and “separated themselves” from harsh treatment.
For instance, F.B.I. agents expressed “strong concerns” about the abusive treatment by the C.I.A. in 2002 of Abu Zubaydah, a senior Al Qaeda figure, leading to tense discussions between senior officials at the two agencies over how such important prisoners should be handled.
Still, the bureau “had not provided sufficient guidance to its agents on how to respond when confronted with military interrogators who used interrogation techniques that were not permitted by the F.B.I.,” and that fueled confusion and dissension, the report said.
“In sum, while our report concluded that the F.B.I. could have provided clearer guidance earlier, and while the F.B.I. and DoJ could have pressed harder for resolution of F.B.I. concerns about detainee treatment, we believe the F.B.I. should be credited for its conduct and professionalism in detainee interrogations in the military zones in Afghanistan,” in Iraq and at Guantánamo Bay, the report said. DoJ refers to the Justice Department, the bureau’s parent agency.
Jameel Jaffer, who tracks detainee issues for the American Civil Liberties Union, took a more critical stance. “The report confirms that senior F.B.I. officials knew as early as 2002 that other agencies were using abusive interrogation methods,” Mr. Jaffer said. “The report shows unequivocally, however, that the F.B.I.’s leadership failed to act aggressively to end the abuse.”
He said the report documents “a failure of leadership” at the bureau, and “only underscores the pressing need for an independent and comprehensive investigation of prisoner abuse.”
The report said that several senior Justice Department Criminal Division officials raised concerns with the National Security Council in 2003 about the military’s treatment of detainees, but saw no changes as a result of their complaints.
John Ashcroft, the former attorney general, declined to be interviewed by the inspector general’s office of the department he had headed, an unusual refusal and one that hampered investigators’ attempts to learn of discussions inside the council, the report said.
A Pentagon spokesman had no immediate comment on the report.
The inspector general’s office started its investigation in late 2004, following widespread public attention to the question of detainee treatment spurred by graphic photographs of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The American Civil Liberties Union, through a lawsuit, also unearthed numerous internal e-mail messages from the bureau about agents’ complaints of rough interrogation tactics at Guantánamo Bay, which proved central in the Justice Department’s review.
The investigation examined about a half-million documents and included surveys of 1,000 F.B.I. agents regarding their experiences with interrogation tactics by military and C.I.A. interrogators, as well as interviews with hundreds of other bureau personnel, officials said. The investigation centered on the accounts of what the agents witnessed in the treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and how those complaints were handled. The Justice Department’s inspector general does not have jurisdiction over the Pentagon.
The bulk of the report was completed last year, but its public release by the inspector general was bottled up for months because of concerns from the Defense Department about the disclosure of sensitive information centering on interrogation tactics. The final report from the inspector general, unlike some earlier terrorism investigations, was released with relatively few blacked-out sections.
The bureau stationed agents at Guantánamo Bay and other military detention sites to assist in the questioning of detainees taken into custody after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but the rough tactics by military interrogators soon became a major source of friction between the bureau and sister agencies. Agents complained to superiors beginning in 2002 that the tactics they had seen in use yielded little actual intelligence, prevented them from establishing a rapport with detainees through more traditional means of questioning, and might violate bureau policy or American law.
One bureau memorandum spoke of “torture techniques” used by military interrogators. Agents described seeing things like inmates handcuffed in a fetal position for up to 24 hours, left to defecate on themselves, intimidated by dogs, made to wear women’s underwear and subjected to strobe lights and extreme heat and cold.
Ultimately, the bureau ordered its agents not to participate in or remain present when such tactics were used. But that directive was not formalized until May 2004, and it governed only the bureau’s own agents. Robert S. Mueller III, director of the F.B.I., told Congress that he was not made aware of his agents’ concerns until 2004.
Democrats in Congress have been anxiously awaiting the findings from the inspector general as they seek to push for answers from the Bush administration about how interrogation policies were developed. Representative Jerrold Nadler, the New York Democrat who leads a House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution and civil right, told reporters on Monday, in advance of the report’s release, that he sensed a “a reluctance to confront senior administration officials” about interrogation policies from the bureau and elsewhere. He said the report should help answer key questions about how policies were executed.