A new army manual bans some prisoner interrogation techniques used by the US since the September 11, 2001 attacks and adds others the defence department thinks are necessary, officials said today.
Delayed for more than a year amid criticism of the department’s treatment of prisoners, the new Army Field Manual was set to be released today.
It spells out appropriate conduct and procedures on a wide range of military issues and applies to all the armed services, not just the Army.
It does not cover the Central Intelligence Agency, which also has come under investigation for mistreatment of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan and for allegedly keeping suspects in secret prisons elsewhere around the world since September 11, 2001.
There has been an outcry about prisoner rights since shortly after those attacks.
Human rights groups and some nations have urged the Bush administration to close the prison at the US naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since not long after it opened in 2002 with prisoners from the campaign against al Qaida in Afghanistan.
Scrutiny of US treatment of prisoners shot to a new level in 2004 with the release of photos showing US troops beating, intimidating and sexually abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq – and then again with news of secret facilities.
Though defence officials said earlier this year that were debating writing a classified section of the manual to keep some interrogation procedures a secret from potential enemies, officials said there is no secret section to the new manual.
The Pentagon today also released a new policy directive on detention operations that says the handling of prisoners has to – at a minimum – abide by the standards of the Geneva Conventions and lays out the responsibilities of senior civilian and military officials who oversee detention operations.
The new Army manual specifically forbids intimidating prisoners with military dogs, putting hoods over their heads and simulating the sensation of drowning with a procedure called “water boarding,” one defence official said.
Sixteen of the manual’s 19 interrogation techniques were covered in the old manual and three new ones were added on the basis of lessons learned in the counter-terror war, the official said, adding only that the techniques are “not more aggressive” than those in the pre-Sept. 11 manual.
Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said from the start of the war that prisoners are treated humanely and in a manner “consistent with Geneva Conventions".
However, President George Bush decided shortly after the September 11 attacks that since this is not a conventional war, ”enemy combatants” captured in the fight against al-Qaida would not be considered POWs and thus would not be afforded the protections of the convention.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman today said that the new Army manual “reflects the department's continued commitment to humane, professional and effective detention operations and builds on lessons learned and a review of detention operations.”