EXCLUSIVE: Guantanamo's Chief Interrogator Says 'We Don't Employ Torture'

The Supreme Court could rule today on the future of the detainees being held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. While most Americans continue to favor holding suspected terrorists at the detention, the public overwhelmingly opposes the current terms of their imprisonment.

"Nightline" anchor Terry Moran is at Guantanamo Bay this week, and had the rare opportunity to interview the prison's director of interrogations.

Here is the transcript from "Nightline" on June 26, 2006:

PAUL RESTER, JOINT INTERROGATION GROUP The entire effort is to be as - I know the - it's hard to fathom this. But as cordial as possible under these circumstances.

TERRY MORAN That slightly grandfatherly civilian there with us is Paul Rester, he's the director of the joint interrogations group in Guantanamo Bay. He's the man who runs all the interrogations of detainees here, though he doesn't like to use the word "interrogation." Interrogation is a negative word. What would you call what you do?

PAUL RESTER Here, we are -- we are involved into custodial interviews.

TERRY MORAN Paul Rester has been interrogating or interviewing or questioning America's enemies or suspected enemies for 35 years, going back to Vietnam. He is fiercely proud of his work at Guantanamo Bay.

TERRY MORAN When people think about interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, they think about torture.

PAUL RESTER I think that what people forget is that when these individuals were first brought here, there were four smoking holes in the ground. We had individuals who in fact were party to or witting of, at the time, present and future, immediate future plans and intentions to continue to do harm against the mainland of the United States and the American people or its interests abroad. I really think we should give some pause to simply throwing semantics around and cheapening terms such as torture and human rights abuses. And really look at the root of what the issues are. TERRY MORAN So, you define torture for me.


TERRY MORAN No, for the people who are going to be interrogated. What counts as torture?

PAUL RESTER Well, we don't employ torture.

TERRY MORAN What is torture?

PAUL RESTER For myself, torture is the deliberate and sadistic of mental or physical pain on another human being. It's as simple as that. For the pure and simple satisfaction of doing it. It serves no redeeming social value in eliciting concrete information. It serves no redeeming social value in -- in obtaining the knowledge we need to combat this particular enemy.

TERRY MORAN But Rester frankly acknowledges that some of the techniques used here pushed the limits, his words, of what is permissible.

TERRY MORAN But there was policy here at Guantanamo Bay that you could put a detainee in stress positions for hours.

PAUL RESTER Again, when you say a detainee, I want to be perfectly clear, there were special plans for specific detainees that allowed certain processes which are available in the public record.

TERRY MORAN Forcible enemas?

PAUL RESTER Excuse me?

TERRY MORAN A forcible enema?

PAUL RESTER No, I'm not aware of forcible enemas.

TERRY MORAN That's the allegations...

PAUL RESTER People can allege what they want to allege. I've seen any number of allegations that are -- that are patently outrageous.

TERRY MORAN You short-shackled people to the floor for hours at a time, until they soiled themselves?

PAUL RESTER If you were able to locate the detainee that was allegedly shackled on the floor in his own excrement, pulling his hair out, because that's what's in that e-mail, I think there may be another explanation that is not related to interrogation. The individual might have been simply ill, you know. I mean, I don't know. TERRY MORAN And as for two of the most explosive allegations that detainees were threatened with dogs or made to believe they were about to be drowned, a technique called water boarding?

TERRY MORAN Dogs used here in interrogations?


TERRY MORAN Water boarding?

PAUL RESTER No. The other event you mentioned...

TERRY MORAN Water boarding.

PAUL RESTER Again, not of record.

TERRY MORAN Meaning, it's not...

PAUL RESTER It's not of record. And I have no one who has ever told me or witnessed to me that it took place.

TERRY MORAN What Paul Rester does know, he says, is that the detainees here represent a real threat to the United States. And that the interrogations here have elicited vital information and continue to do so. For instance, this chart from a briefing we got today, outlines the al Qaeda bomb makers officials say are here at the camp, 15 of them. Officials say roadside bombs from Iraq and Afghanistan are actually brought here to Guantanamo, where detainees are asked about their designs and who might have helped make them.

TERRY MORAN Are you getting anything good? Is there still point in interrogating these people?

PAUL RESTER Yeah. Because they know who's still out there. They know how they do business.

TERRY MORAN For Paul Rester and many Americans here at Guantanamo Bay, getting that information is tough business but worth it.

PAUL RESTER That's what people ought to take away from this. The United States continues to be at-risk. If it doesn't seem to quite aware of it, then maybe that's what those of us who are doing this really want. I am not any way disappointed when I go home and my neighbor doesn't know where Guantanamo is and never heard of a war because that's our job, to keep them safe.