Harsh Tactics Were Allowed, General Told Jailers in Iraq

By REUTERS  March 30, 2005



WASHINGTON, March 29 (Reuters) - The top United States commander in Iraq authorized prisoner interrogation tactics that were harsher than accepted Army practice, including using guard dogs to exploit "Arab fear of dogs," a memo made public on Tuesday showed.

The memo, dated Sept. 14, 2003, and signed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, then the senior commander in Iraq, was released by the American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained it from the government under court order through the Freedom of Information Act.

The Abu Ghraib scandal, in which United States forces physically abused and sexually humiliated Iraqi prisoners at a jail on the outskirts of Baghdad, occurred under General Sanchez's command.

In the memo, General Sanchez laid out which interrogation techniques were permitted in Iraq, and said some required his prior approval. Some of the harshest techniques were disallowed the next month because of opposition from some military lawyers.

The memo also noted that the Geneva Conventions "are applicable" and that detainees must be treated humanely.

The fact that the Sanchez memo existed was previously known, but not its contents.

The memo allowed for military working dogs, or M.W.D., to be present during interrogations, saying the practice "exploits Arab fear of dogs while maintaining security during interrogations."

"Dogs will be muzzled and under control of M.W.D. handler at all times to prevent contact with detainee," the memo added.

The memo also permitted isolation, "stress positions" (in which prisoners are placed in potentially painful positions to try to get them to talk) and "environmental manipulation," like making a room very hot or very cold, or using an "unpleasant smell," or disrupting normal sleep patterns.

A military official who asked not to be identified said, "It's important to note that Lieutenant General Sanchez and his staff thoroughly reviewed the policy for compliance with Geneva Conventions prior to its approval."

The official said a Pentagon investigation into detainee policies led by Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III, released March 10, found that "none of the techniques contained in [General Sanchez's] interrogation policy would have permitted abuses such as those at Abu Ghraib."

The A.C.L.U. said the Pentagon initially refused to release General Sanchez's memo on the ground of national security.

"It is apparent that the government has been holding this document not out of any genuine concern that it will compromise national security, but to protect itself from embarrassment," said a lawyer for the group, Amrit Singh.


Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company