DoJ Absolves FBI on Torture

Slate's blog on legal issues.
May 20 2008 1:03 PM

DoJ Absolves FBI on Torture

The Justice Department released its inspector general report (PDF) today clearing the FBI of most wrongdoing in connection with the coercive interrogations (read: torture) of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. For the most part, the report concludes that FBI agents did the right thing by objecting to the interrogation methods they saw that were abusive, and that FBI agents did not participate in these questioning sessions. However, the report faults senior leaders at the Justice Department and FBI for not giving clearer guidance to their agents in the field, allowing some special agents to be confused about "how to draw the line between behavior that was 'abusive' or merely harsh, such as the use of loud music and stripping."

According to the Post:

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"The FBI could have provided clearer guidance earlier and pressed harder its concerns about detainee abuse by other agencies," Fine said. "But we believe the FBI should be credited for its conduct and professionalism in detainee interrogations in the military zones and in generally avoiding participation in detainee abuse."

Interrogation practices—including the use of dogs, sleep deprivation and simulated drowning or waterboarding—repeatedly created friction between FBI agents and military leaders. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has stressed that the bureau prefers to build rapport with detainees as the most effective way of eliciting accurate information from them.

In congressional testimony last month, Mueller hinted that the FBI's hands were tied in part by opinions from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, which approved several of the coercive interrogation strategies.

Seems to me like it would have been tough for the DoJ and FBI to issue better guidance while  this guy  was calling the shots. But that's just me.

Phillip Carter is an Iraq veteran who now directs the veterans research program at the Center for a New American Security.

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