WASHINGTON - FBI agents repeatedly complained that harsh interrogation techniques used on detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo might violate the law, but administration officials did little to address the concerns, a government watchdog said in a report released yesterday.
At one point in 2003, several top Justice Department officials took the concerns about interrogation practices used by the military at Guantanamo to the National Security Council, Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine said in his report.
However, Fine said, the complaints did not appear to elicit any response from the National Security Council, which includes President Bush and Vice President Cheney and was chaired by then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.
While the FBI's concerns were previously known, Fine's report provides the most detailed narrative yet of how top law enforcement and military officials were slow to respond to the agents' complaints and how, in some instances, they appeared to have disregarded them.
Several witnesses told Fine's investigators that then-Attorney General John Ashcroft also brought the matter to the attention of the National Security Council or the Pentagon, but Fine could not verify the accounts because Ashcroft refused to be interviewed.
The 370-page report took four years to complete, with its release delayed by the Pentagon's attempt to keep a larger portion of the report classified, according to Fine.
His investigators interviewed more than 230 witnesses and surveyed 1,000 FBI agents.
The report describes how agents beginning in 2002 became troubled by some of the interrogations they witnessed. It details frequent clashes between agents and their military counterparts over the military's and CIA's use of harsh techniques that one agent described as "borderline torture."
In late 2002, the military adopted broad interrogation policies that clashed with those permitted by the FBI. Among the permitted techniques were hooding, putting prisoners in stress positions for as long as four hours, and 20-hour interrogations.
While FBI agents took part in interrogations in a few isolated cases "that would not normally be permitted in the United States," Fine said the situations "in no way resembled" the treatment of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, where graphic photos later exposed abuses.
A vast majority of the FBI agents followed FBI policies and did not participate when other agencies used techniques that violated the bureau's policies, Fine said.
Fine has no jurisdiction over the CIA or the Pentagon.
Yesterday, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Defense Department found no evidence that interrogators tortured detainees during a 2005 review of techniques used at Guantanamo.
In a brief statement, Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the department was "pleased" that the report "credited the FBI for its conduct and professionalism during interrogations."
Justice and Pentagon officials, however, did not address the questions raised by the report's description of interrogation techniques that disturbed FBI agents.
Agents at Guantanamo, for example, witnessed and complained about the use of sleep deprivation; prolonged short-shackling, in which a detainee's hands are shackled close to his feet; and holding of detainees in rooms at extremely cold or hot temperatures.
At times, agents witnessed detainees' thumbs twisted, female interrogators touching detainees sexually and the wrapping of detainees' heads in duct tape, the report said.
View the full report via http://go.philly.com/report