DOJ Official Describes 'Abusive' Interrogation

The Justice Department's inspector general today detailed what department officials have called the abusive and ineffective interrogation of the suspected "20th hijacker" in the Sept. 11 terror plot.

Inspector General Glenn Fine, testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said interrogators at Guantanamo Bay used dogs to intimidate Mohammad Al Qahtani, used stress positions during 20-hour interrogations and placed women's underwear on his head and showed him pornographic pictures.

Fine's testimony comes a day before Sept. 11 conspirators Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Ramzi bin al Shibh, Ammar al Baluchi, Waleed Bin Attash and Mustafa al Hawsawi are scheduled to be arraigned at military commissions at Guantanamo Bay. Qahtani will not be arraigned because the 9/11-related charges were dropped by the Convening Authority overseeing the military commissions.

Fine elaborated on his recent report, which documented alleged abuses FBI agents have said they witnessed at the facility and highlighted ongoing tensions between the FBI and the military over how to interrogate high-level suspected terrorists.

"The friction between FBI officials and the military over the interrogation plans for Al Qahtani increased, with the FBI advocating a long-term rapport-based strategy and the military insisting on a different, more aggressive approach," he said. "As a result of the interrogations of Al Qahtani and other detainees at Guantanamo, several FBI agents raised concerns with the Department of Defense and FBI headquarters. The concerns related to the legality and effectiveness of DOD techniques and the impact of these techniques on the future prosecution of detainees in court or before military commissions."

The testimony prompted a tense exchange when Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., questioned whether many of these activities were merely pranks or serious instances of torture.

"The things that you are suggesting here were just so unacceptable by this man who was conspiring to kill tens of thousands of American civilians," he said. "They seem more like pranks, hazing pranks from some fraternity than some well-thought-out policy of how do you torture someone and get information from them. I mean, OK, telling -- describing his mother and sister as whores, that's certainly not a nice thing to do."

But Fine argued that the issue was more important than that.

"The FBI said that they objected to, for a variety of reasons, one, it was not effective in obtaining intelligence," he said. "The FBI had a longstanding ability and skills in obtaining intelligence from people who didn't want to give it to them, whether it was domestic or al Qaeda."

At the hearing, committee chairman Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., expressed concern over the disclosure in Fine's report released last month that Chinese detainees of Uigher ethnicity were allowed to be interrogated by agents from Chinese Intelligence Services at Guantanamo Bay.

"We had American military personnel collaborating, doing this to, if you will, soften up the Uighurs for examination by Chinese communist agents?" Delahunt said.

"We were informed by the FBI agents that the Chinese government sent people to interview or to interrogate the Uighurs, and that the night before that interrogation was to occur the Uighurs were woken up every 15 minutes so that they couldn't sleep, and to put them in a position to be interrogated by the Chinese government," Fine told the Committee.

When Fine was asked if other nation's security services had been given access to detainees at Guantanamo Bay, he told the committee he would have to check into that.

In his overall assessment, Fine commended FBI agents for how they handled themselves during interrogations.

He also said senior Justice Department officials attempted to discuss the issue with the Pentagon and top Bush administration officials.

"Several senior DOJ Criminal Division officials told us that they raised concerns about particular DOD detainee practices in 2003 with the National Security Council," Fine said. "Several witnesses also told us that they believed that [former] Attorney General [John] Ashcroft spoke with the National Security Council or the DOD about these concerns."

"While the FBI could have provided clearer guidance earlier and pressed harder its concerns about detainee abuse by other agencies, we believe it should be credited for generally avoiding participation in detainee abuse," he said.