FBI agents raised misgivings about US interrogators’ mistreatment of terror suspects detained in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay during the three years after September 11, but in some cases were slow to report it, a US Justice Department report says.
Additionally, in a few isolated cases, FBI agents did not immediately withdraw when they witnessed harsh treatment of detainees who were being questioned, according to two law enforcement officials familiar with the report.
The report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine is expected to be released today after more than three years in the making.
It is certain to fuel debate over whether the Bush administration knowingly allowed the use of interrogation tactics widely defined as illegal forms of torture.
Overall, the report gives the FBI fairly positive marks for repeatedly objecting between 2001 and 2004 to interrogation methods at three military prisons: Abu Ghraib in Iraq, Bagram, Afghanistan, and at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
According to the two law enforcement officials, who have seen the report, its 12 chapters touch on a range of issues, including the interrogations of terror suspects who were thought to have had valuable information.
“The FBI decided it would not participate in joint interrogations of detainees with other agencies in which techniques not allowed by the FBI were used,” the report concluded, according to one law enforcement official.
General Fine’s office also concluded that clearer guidance was needed for FBI agents left wondering what to do when interrogation tactics appeared to violate what would be allowed in the US, as opposed to military law or rules in overseas detention centres, according to the second law enforcement official.
The report also raps the FBI in some cases for not reporting questionable interrogations immediately or leaving the room when they were under way, the officials said.
Justice department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse declined to comment.
The report’s release was delayed for more than three years over disagreements and negotiations between Fine’s office and the US Defence Department over how much would be classified or otherwise shielded from public review, according to several people familiar with the situation.
It also is expected to raise questions about the justice department’s refusal to prosecute interrogators who used waterboarding on suspects, despite the FBI’s conclusion that such tough tactics appeared to be illegal. Waterboarding is a tactic in which a suspect undergoes partial drowning to force him to reveal secrets.
“Allegations are being made that people are being tortured, that federal laws are being broken, and they’re not responded to adequately or quickly,” Democratic Rep Jerrold Nadler told reporters yesterday.
Waterboarding involves strapping a person down and pouring water over his or her cloth-covered face to create the sensation of drowning. At least three top al Qaida operatives, including confessed September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, were waterboarded in 2002 and 2003.
Both the Pentagon and CIA banned its staff from waterboarding detainees in 2006.
Mr Nadler said he had not yet seen the report or been briefed about it by administration officials as of last night but had little praise for its anticipated conclusions about the FBI.
“They may have been in white hats compared to everybody else in the administration, but in general I don’t think anybody is entitled to wear white hats,” he said.
FBI guidelines prohibit the use of brutality, physical violence, intimidation or other means of causing duress when interviewing suspects. FBI director Robert Mueller has repeatedly said the FBI does not use coercive techniques when questioning suspects or witnesses and he reportedly pulled his agents out of CIA or military interrogations several years ago to protect them from legal consequences.
Last week, Mr Mueller said FBI agents remained involved in interrogations around the world, but refused to give details.