Pentagon Lied to Reporters About Interrogations

Pentagon officials apparently lied to reporters last Friday when they said that the top US general in Iraq had not permitted the use of banned interrogation techniques such as stripping prisoners, sleep deprivation, un-muzzled military dogs, and “environmental manipulation.”

Speaking from the Pentagon briefing room on Friday, officials claimed that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez had never even received requests for permission to use the banned techniques. Now, documents prove that not only did Lt. Gen. Sanchez receive requests for permission to use the banned techniques, but he actually issued orders directing implementation of the banned interrogation techniques.

On Friday, the Pentagon said that prior to May 13, certain harsh techniques for interrogating prisoners had been allowed, but rarely used. Those harsh techniques had included sleep deprivation, use of muzzled dogs, “environmental manipulation,” and “segregation.” They explained that segregation is essentially solitary confinement for longer than one month.

The officials explained that those harsh interrogation techniques had been only theoretically available — for use in exceptional circumstances. They said that “exceptions,” meaning the use of harsh interrogation techniques, required Lt. Gen. Sanchez’s approval. They insisted that the only “exceptions” made for the use of harsh techniques were for 25 cases of “segregation.”

According to these Pentagon officials, “Not a single exception was granted for anything other than segregation.”

When asked if any other “exceptions” had ever been requested, the officials replied that such requests had “never reached the commanding general,” meaning Sanchez.

Recently disclosed information shows their assurances were false.

On May 18, it was reported that the Army’s still-secret 6,000 page Taguba report concludes that Lt. Gen. Sanchez approved in writing the use of these same banned interrogation techniques that the Pentagon denied were ever approved.

The Pentagon’s prevarications are also corroborated by a secret Army cable sent by Col. Thomas Pappas, the commander of Abu Ghraib prison, to Lt. Gen. Sanchez requesting permission to use the same banned techniques—including stripping a detainee naked.

Pappas has admitted that under certain circumstances, intelligence officers under his command had naked prisoners shackled to the floor during interrogations. However, at the time in question, Pappas was under withering fire from his superiors in Iraq to extract more intelligence from detainees.

Pappas was directly supervised by his commander, Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, with whom he met up to 5 times per week. It was Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast who prioritized interrogations, leaving it up to Pappas to carry them out.

Disciplinary action against Col. Pappas was recommended in the leaked summary of the secret Taguba report, but no recommendations have been made against his direct superiors, Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast and Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez.

A pattern of prevarication and buck-passing is starting to emerge.

Denials in stark contradiction to each other proliferate; secret reports, such as the one painstakingly compiled by Major General Antonio M. Taguba, are called into question.

Senior military officials speak without attribution, and officially contradict reports that were touted by the Pentagon as the last word in candor hardly a week before.

Americans have become inured to seeing closely worded denials from officials. Even exquisitely constructed weasel words may be understandable in some sensitive situations, but has outright lying now become an acceptable practice on the part of public officials?