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Senate Investigation Reveals Frank 2002 Discussion of Gitmo Interrogation

For 18 months, the Senate Armed Services Committee has been conducting a wide-ranging investigation into the military's adoption of new interrogation techniques after 9/11. And in a hearing this morning, the panel released a number of documents showing the development of the adminstration's interrogation policy back in 2002.

The documents show, among other things, that Pentagon officials began inquiring into what harsh interrogation techniques might be used in the summer of 2002 -- contrary to testimony by former Defense Department general counsel William Haynes II, who testified in 2006 that requests for such techniques had come in the fall of 2002 from commanders at Guantanamo Bay, as the Washington Postreports this morning.

Credit: AP Photo/Brennan LinsleyIn his opening statement, Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) walked through the timeline for how the Pentagon adopted the harshest interrogation techniques, relying on a number of documents (pdf) uncovered by the committee. One particularly remarkable document details the minutes from a meeting at Guantanamo Bay that included John Rizzo, the acting CIA general counsel, Jonathan Fredman, the CIA's chief counsel to its Counterterrorism Center, and Gitmo staff. It occurred October 2, 2002 -- just a week after a delegation of senior administration lawyers including Haynes and counsel to the Vice President David Addington, had visited the facility.

Levin covers the lowlights:

"When the GTMO Chief of Staff suggested at the meeting that GTMO 'can’t do sleep deprivation,' LTC Beaver, GTMO’s senior lawyer, responded 'Yes we can – with approval.' LTC Beaver added that GTMO 'may need to curb the harsher operations while [International Committee of the Red Cross] is around.' Mr. Fredman, the senior CIA lawyer, suggested it’s 'very effective to identify [detainee] phobias and use them' and described for the group the so-called 'wet towel' technique, which we know as waterboarding. Mr. Fredman said 'it can feel like you’re drowning. The lymphatic system will react as if you’re suffocating, but your body will not cease to function.' And Mr. Fredman presented the following disturbing perspective of our legal obligations under anti-torture laws, saying 'It is basically subject to perception. If the detainee dies you’re doing it wrong.'... What was GTMO’s senior JAG officer, LTC Beaver’s response? 'We will need documentation to protect us.'"

Equally revealing is an e-mail responding to the meeting by Mark Fallon, deputy commander of the Defense Department's Criminal Investigative Task Force at Gitmo. Forwarded a copy of the meeting minutes in late October, Fallon replied: 

"This looks like the kinds of stuff Congressional hearings are made of.... Someone needs to be considering how history will look back at this."

Fallon is just one of a number of military officials who opposed the new techniques. Among them was Alberto Mora, then the general counsel of the U.S. Navy, who will be testifying today. The hearing is airing on C-Span3.

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