“Dietary manipulation” and “sleep management” — the military’s terms for keeping prisoners hungry and depriving them of sleep — are among the harsh interrogation techniques that the Army’s chief of interrogations and detentions in Iraq says should be mostly banned from use by U.S. forces.

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller said he’d sent a review to Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition forces in Iraq, recommending that “most” of about 10 of the most aggressive interrogation techniques be disavowed. Miller said he expected a new policy would be announced next week.

“In my experience, they’re not useful in developing intelligence,” Miller said this week.

Additionally, Miller said it was unacceptable to make prisoners strip naked during interrogations, and always has been.

His comments during a media tour Monday of the Abu Ghraib prison — one of the U.S.-run prisons he oversees in Iraq — would seem to contradict a report in The Washington Post this week that said the Defense Department last year approved a list of interrogation techniques for use at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba that included making prisoners disrobe entirely, as well as exposing them to heat or cold, disrupting normal sleep patterns and “sensory assault” through loud music and bright lights.

According to the Post report, Miller, then warden of the Guantanamo prison, asked the Pentagon for explicit rules for interrogation.

“The classified list of roughly 20 techniques was approved at the highest levels of the Pentagon and Justice Department and represents the first known documentation of an official policy permitting interrogators to use physically and psychologically stressful methods during questioning,” according to the Post.

Using any of the listed techniques required approval from senior Pentagon officials and, in some cases, the secretary of defense, the Post said.

But on Monday, Miller said that aggressive techniques should be used only rarely, to get intelligence from “very bad people.”

More commonly, he said, such methods were counterproductive.

“It’s about developing rapport,” he said. “You need to develop rapport as quickly as you can. It goes almost to a conversation.”

Asked what the 10 most aggressive interrogation techniques were, Miller recalled two: “dietary manipulation” and “sleep management.” He confirmed that the first was keeping prisoners hungry and the second was depriving them of sleep.

Miller did not reply to an e-mail request for more information on the techniques, including how often they were used by U.S. interrogators, and which ones he recommended be maintained.

His comments came as he was leading a busload of reporters around the sprawling prison complex that has been at the center of an inflammatory abuse scandal.

Photographs of naked Abu Ghraib detainees being sexually abused and humiliated, and apparently attacked by dogs, have done considerable damage to U.S. credibility.

On Monday, the International Committee of the Red Cross released a report from an October visit that said prisoners were systematically abused, forced to remain naked and hooded in their cells for days at a time. The report said Abu Ghraib personnel told them their interrogation techniques included stripping a prisoner of everything, including clothes and bedding, and doling those things out only in return for cooperation.

The Red Cross report said abuse was widespread in Iraq and often began with physical abuse by U.S. soldiers at the time of arrest, most of which were indiscriminate.

Miller said the prison tour, the second conducted, represented an effort to provide “transparency” and restore confidence that whatever abuse had happened at the prison, it was not happening now and never would again.

But Miller is widely credited with — and criticized for — a recommendation after a visit to Iraq in August that military police, working as jail guards, become more active in interrogations as the military looked for intelligence to root out insurgency.

According to an Army report by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, Miller’s recommendation that military police help “set the conditions” for interrogations resulted in guards keeping prisoners awake and depriving them of clothing.

The closer relationship between intelligence-gathering and military police was a factor in what Taguba’s report called, “sadistic, wanton and criminal abuses” on Abu Ghraib detainees by military police.

Taguba wrote that he believed military intelligence and two civilian interrogators were either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuses.

Miller rejects that analysis, saying that to “set the conditions” meant only that the MPs should notice and record the prisoners’ actions, moods and the like — “if they didn’t eat breakfast, if they had a fight with another detainee,” and report those things to interrogators.

The abuse was a result of poor leadership and disregard for correct procedures, Miller said.

Miller said it was improper for interrogators to touch prisoners at all, let alone beat them. He said prisoners should not ever be made to disrobe except during search after capture. A photograph of a naked prisoner would be allowable only to document that there had been no abuse, he said, and such photos should only exist in a prisoner’s medical file.

“There’s no authorization [for prisoners to be naked] during interrogation in this theater,” Miller said.

He also said there was no authorization for it in Guantanamo. He said that in Guantanamo, senior officers carefully monitored interrogations and conditions, so if “youngsters would make an honest mistake,” they could immediately be corrected.

author picture
Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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