This took them long enough to confirm...
Senate Report Blames Rumsfeld for Detainee Abuses
By SCOTT SHANE and MARK MAZZETTI
Published: December 11, 2008
WASHINGTON — A report released Thursday by leaders of the Senate Armed Services committee said that top Bush administration officials, including Donald H. Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary, bear major responsibility for the abuses committed by American troops in interrogations at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other military detention centers.
The report was issued jointly by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the Democratic chairman of the panel, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican. The report represents most thorough review by Congress to date of the origins of the abuse of prisoners in American military custody, and it explicitly rejects the Bush administration’s contention that tough interrogation methods have helped keep the country and its troops safe.
The report also rejected previous claims by Mr. Rumsfeld and others that Defense Department policies played no role in the the harsh treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 and in other incidents of abuse.
The abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the report says, “was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own” but grew out of interrogation policies approved by Mr. Rumsfeld and other top officials “conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees.”
By the time of the abuses at Abu Ghraib, Mr. Rumsfeld had formally withdrawn approval for use of the harshest techniques, which he authorized in December 2002 and then ruled out a month later. But the report said that those methods, including the use of stress positions and forced nudity, continued to spread through the military detention system. It added that their use “damaged our ability to collect accurate intelligence that could save lives, strengthened the hand of our enemies, and compromised our moral authority.”
Most of the report, the product of an 18-month inquiry and interviews of more than 70 people by committee staff, remains classified. But the 29-page summary offers the clearest timeline to date linking the acts of Pentagon officials, including William J. Haynes II, the former Defense Department general counsel, to abusive treatment in the field.
Committee staff members said the report was approved by a voice vote without dissent, but only 17 of the committee’s 25 members were present for the vote. Mr. McCain, who was tortured while being held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, has been an outspoken opponent of harsh interrogation tactics, but some other Republicans have defended such methods as legal and necessary.
Most of the facts in the report summary have been previously made public, notably at hearings the Senate committee held in June and September. But the report documents how the military training program called Surveillance, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, or SERE, became a major source for interrogation methods as the Bush administration looked for tougher methods after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The SERE training was based on methods used by “a ruthless, lawless enemy,” Mr. Levin said in a statement. “The techniques were never intended to be used against detainees in U.S. custody,” he said.
Mr. McCain called the adoption of SERE methods “inexcusable.”
“These policies are wrong and must never be repeated,” said Mr. McCain, who led the successful fight in Congress in 2005 to prohibit military interrogators from using coercive methods.