[Congressional Record: April 21, 2009 (Senate)]
[Page S4504-S4506]


  Mr. LEVIN. Madam President, today we are releasing the declassified 
report of the Senate Armed Services Committee's investigation into the 
treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. The report [large pdf] was approved by the 
committee on November 20, 2008, and has, in the intervening period, 
been under review at the Department of Defense for declassification.
  In my judgment, the report represents a condemnation of both the Bush 
administration's interrogation policies and of senior administration 
officials who attempted to shift the blame for abuse--such as that seen 
at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and Afghanistan--to low ranking 
soldiers. Claims, such as that made by former Deputy Secretary of 
Defense Paul Wolfowitz that detainee abuses could be chalked up to the 
unauthorized acts of a ``few bad apples,'' were simply false.
  The truth is that, early on, it was senior civilian leaders who set 
the tone. On September 16, 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney suggested 
that the United States turn to the ``dark side'' in our response to 9/
11. Not long after that, after White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales 
called parts of the Geneva Conventions ``quaint,'' President Bush 
determined that provisions of the Geneva Conventions did not apply to 
certain detainees. Other senior officials followed the President and 
Vice President's lead, authorizing policies that included harsh and 
abusive interrogation techniques.
  The record established by the committee's investigation shows that 
senior officials sought out information on, were aware of training in, 
and authorized the use of abusive interrogation techniques. Those 
senior officials bear significant responsibility for creating the legal 
and operational framework for the abuses. As the committee report 
concluded, authorizations of aggressive interrogation techniques by 
senior officials resulted in abuse and conveyed the message that 
physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for 
detainees in U.S. military custody.
  In a May 10, 2007, letter to his troops, GEN David Petraeus said that 
``what sets us apart from our enemies in this fight . . . is how we 
behave. In everything we do, we must observe the standards and values 
that dictate that we treat noncombatants and detainees with dignity and 
respect. While we are warriors, we are also all human beings.'' With 
last week's release of the Department of Justice Office of Legal 
Counsel, OLC, opinions, it is now widely known that Bush administration 
officials distorted Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape ``SERE'' 
training--a legitimate program used by the military to train our troops 
to resist abusive enemy interrogations--by authorizing abusive 
techniques from SERE for use in detainee interrogations. Those 
decisions conveyed the message that abusive treatment was appropriate 
for detainees in U.S. custody. They were also an affront to the values 
articulated by General Petraeus.
  In SERE training, U.S. troops are briefly exposed, in a highly 
controlled setting, to abusive interrogation techniques used by enemies 
that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions. The techniques are based 
on tactics used by Chinese Communists against American soldiers during 
the Korean war for the purpose of eliciting false confessions for 
propaganda purposes. Techniques used in SERE training include stripping 
trainees of their clothing, placing them in stress positions, putting 
hoods over their heads, subjecting them to face and body slaps, 
depriving them of sleep, throwing them up against a wall, confining 
them in a small box, treating them like animals, subjecting them to 
loud music and flashing lights, and exposing them to extreme 
temperatures. Until recently, the Navy SERE school also used 
waterboarding. The purpose of the SERE program is to provide U.S. 
troops who might be captured a taste of the treatment they might face 
so that they might have a better chance of surviving captivity and 
resisting abusive and coercive interrogations.

[[Page S4505]]

  SERE training techniques were never intended to be used in the 
interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody. The committee's report, 
however, reveals troubling new details of how SERE techniques came to 
be used in interrogations of detainees in U.S. custody.
  The committee's investigation uncovered new details about the 
influence of SERE techniques on military interrogations at Guantanamo 
Bay, Cuba--GTMO. According to newly released testimony from a military 
behavioral scientist who worked with interrogators at GTMO, ``By early 
October [2002] there was increasing pressure to get `tougher' with 
detainee interrogations'' at GTMO. (p. 50). As a result, on October 2, 
2002, 2 weeks after attending interrogation training led by SERE 
instructors from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, JPRA, the DOD 
agency that oversees SERE training, the behavioral scientist and a 
colleague drafted a memo proposing the use of aggressive interrogation 
techniques at GTMO. The behavioral scientist said he was told by GTMO's 
intelligence chief that the interrogation memo needed to contain 
coercive techniques or it ``wasn't going to go very far.'' (p. 50). 
Declassified excerpts from that memo indicate that it included stress 
positions, food deprivation, forced grooming, hooding, removal of 
clothing, exposure to cold weather or water, and scenarios designed to 
convince a detainee that ``he might experience a painful or fatal 
outcome.'' On October 11, 2002, MG Michael Dunlavey, the Commander of 
JTF-170 at GTMO, requested authority to use aggressive techniques. 
Major General Dunlavey's request was based on the memo produced by the 
behavioral scientists.
  Major General Dunlavey's request eventually made its way to 
Department of Defense, DoD, General Counsel Jim Haynes' desk. 
Notwithstanding serious legal concerns raised by the military service 
lawyers, Haynes recommended that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld 
approve 15 of the interrogation techniques requested by GTMO. On 
December 2, 2002, Secretary Rumsfeld approved Haynes' recommendation, 
authorizing such techniques as stress positions, removal of clothing, 
use of phobias--such as fear of dogs--and deprivation of light and 
auditory stimuli.
  The committee's investigation revealed that, following Secretary 
Rumsfeld's authorization, senior staff at GTMO drafted a standard 
operating procedure--SOP--for the use of SERE techniques, including 
stress positions, forcibly stripping detainees, slapping, and 
``walling'' them. That SOP stated that ``The premise behind this is 
that the interrogation tactics used at U.S. military SERE schools are 
appropriate for use in real-world interrogations.'' Weeks later, in 
January 2003, trainers from the Navy SERE school travelled to GTMO and 
provided training to interrogators on the use of SERE techniques on 
detainees. (pp. 98-104).
  The influence of Secretary Rumsfeld's December 2, 2002, authorization 
was not limited to interrogations at GTMO. Newly declassified excerpts 
from a January 11, 2003, legal review by a special mission unit, SMU, 
Task Force lawyer in Afghanistan state that ``SECDEF's approval of 
these techniques provides us the most persuasive argument for use of 
`advanced techniques' as we capture possible [high value targets] . . . 
the fact that SECDEF approved the use of the . . . techniques at GTMO, 
[which is] subject to the same laws, provides an analogy and basis for 
use of these techniques [in accordance with] international and U.S. 
law.'' (p. 154).
  The committee's report also includes a summary of a July 15, 2004, 
interview with CENTCOM's then-Deputy Staff Judge Advocate, SJA, about 
Secretary Rumsfeld's authorization and its impact in Afghanistan. The 
Deputy SJA said: ``the methodologies approved for GTMO would appear to 
me to be legal interrogation processes. [The Secretary of Defense] had 
approved them. The General Counsel had approved them . . . I believe it 
is fair to say the procedures approved for Guantanamo were legal for 
Afghanistan.'' (p. 156).
  The committee's report provides extensive details about how the 
aggressive techniques made their way from Afghanistan to Iraq. In 
February 2003, an SMU Task Force designated for operations in Iraq 
obtained a copy of the SMU interrogation policy from Afghanistan that 
included aggressive techniques, changed the letterhead, and adopted the 
policy verbatim. (p. 158). Months later, the Interrogation Officer in 
Charge at Abu Ghraib obtained a copy of the SMU interrogation policy 
and submitted it, virtually unchanged, through her chain of command to 
Combined Joint Task Force 7--CJTF-7--led at the time by Lieutenant 
General Ricardo Sanchez. On September 14, 2003, Lieutenant General 
Sanchez issued an interrogation policy for CJTF-7 that authorized 
interrogators to use stress positions, environmental manipulation, 
sleep management, and military working dogs to exploit detainees' fears 
in their interrogations of detainees.
  The committee's investigation uncovered documents indicating that, 
almost immediately after Lieutenant General Sanchez issued his 
September 14, 2003, policy, CENTCOM lawyers raised concerns about its 
legality. One newly declassified email from a CENTCOM lawyer to the 
Staff Judge Advocate at CJTF-7--sent just three days after the policy 
was issued--warned that ``Many of the techniques [in the CJTF-7 policy] 
appear to violate [Geneva Convention] III and IV and should not be used 
. . .'' (p. 203). Even though the Bush administration acknowledged that 
the Geneva Conventions applied in Iraq, it was not until nearly a month 
later that CJTF-7 revised that policy.
  Not only did SERE techniques make their way to Iraq, but SERE 
instructors did as well. In September 2003, JPRA sent a team to Iraq to 
provide assistance to interrogation operations at an SMU Task Force. 
The Chief of Human Intelligence and Counterintelligence at the Task 
Force testified to the Committee in February 2008 that JPRA personnel 
demonstrated SERE techniques to SMU personnel including so-called 
``walling'' and striking a detainee as they do in SERE school. (p. 
175). As we heard at our September 2008 hearing, JPRA personnel were 
present during abusive interrogations during that same trip, including 
one where a detainee was placed on his knees in a stress position and 
was repeatedly slapped by an interrogator. (p. 176). JPRA personnel 
even participated in an interrogation, taking physical control of a 
detainee, forcibly stripping him naked, and giving orders for him to be 
kept in a stress position for 12 hours. In August 3, 2007, testimony to 
the committee, one of the JPRA team members said that, with respect to 
stripping the detainee, ``we [had] done this 100 times, 1000 times with 
our [SERE school] students.'' The committee's investigation revealed 
that forced nudity continued to be used in interrogations at the SMU 
Task Force for months after the JPRA visit. (pp. 181-182).
  Over the course of the investigation, the committee obtained the 
statements and interviews of scores of military personnel at Abu 
Ghraib. These statements reveal that the interrogation techniques 
authorized by Secretary Rumsfeld in December 2002 for use at GTMO--
including stress positions, forced nudity, and military working dogs--
were used by military intelligence personnel responsible for 
  The Interrogation Officer in Charge in Abu Ghraib in the fall of 2003 
acknowledged that stress positions were used in interrogations at Abu 
Ghraib. (p. 212).
  An Army dog handler at Abu Ghraib told military investigators in 
February 2004 that ``someone from [military intelligence] gave me a 
list of cells, for me to go see, and pretty much have my dog bark at 
them. . . . Having the dogs bark at detainees was psychologically 
breaking them down for interrogation purposes.'' (p. 209).
  An intelligence analyst at Abu Ghraib told military investigators in 
May 2004 that it was ``common that the detainees on [military 
intelligence] hold in the hard site were initially kept naked and given 
clothing as an incentive to cooperate with us.'' (p. 212).
  An interrogator told military investigators in May 2004 that it was 
``common to see detainees in cells without clothes or naked'' and says 
it was ``one of our approaches.'' (p. 213).
  The investigation also revealed that interrogation policies 
authorizing aggressive techniques were approved months after the CJTF-7 
policy was revised to exclude the techniques, and

[[Page S4506]]

even after the investigation into detainee abuses at Abu Ghraib had 
already begun. For example, an interrogation policy approved in 
February 2004 in Iraq included techniques such as use of military 
working dogs and stress positions. (p. 220).
  A policy approved for CJTF-7 units in Iraq in March 2004 also 
included aggressive techniques. While much of the March 2004 policy 
remains classified, newly declassified excerpts indicate that it warned 
that interrogators ``should consider the fact that some interrogation 
techniques are viewed as inhumane or otherwise inconsistent with 
international law before applying each technique. These techniques are 
labeled with a [CAUTION].'' Among the techniques labeled as such were a 
technique involving power tools, stress positions, and the presence of 
military working dogs. (pp. 220-221).
  Some have asked why, if it is okay for our own U.S. personnel to be 
subjected to physical and psychological pressures in SERE school, what 
is wrong with using those SERE training techniques on detainees? The 
committee's investigation answered that question.
  On October 2, 2002, LTC Morgan Banks, the senior Army SERE 
psychologist warned against using SERE training techniques during 
interrogations in an email to personnel at GTMO, writing that:

       [T]he use of physical pressures brings with it a large 
     number of potential negative side effects . . . When 
     individuals are gradually exposed to increasing levels of 
     discomfort, it is more common for them to resist harder . . . 
     If individuals are put under enough discomfort, i.e. pain, 
     they will eventually do whatever it takes to stop the pain. 
     This will increase the amount of information they tell the 
     interrogator, but it does not mean the information is 
     accurate. In fact, it usually decreases the reliability of 
     the information because the person will say whatever he 
     believes will stop the pain . . . Bottom line: the likelihood 
     that the use of physical pressures will increase the delivery 
     of accurate information from a detainee is very low. The 
     likelihood that the use of physical pressures will increase 
     the level of resistance in a detainee is very high . . . (p. 

  Likewise, the Deputy Commander of DOD's Criminal Investigative Task 
Force at GTMO told the committee in 2006 that CITF ``was troubled with 
the rationale that techniques used to harden resistance to 
interrogations would be the basis for the utilization of techniques to 
obtain information.'' (p. 69).
  Other newly declassified emails reveal additional warnings. In June 
2004, after many SERE techniques had been authorized in interrogations 
and JPRA was considering sending its SERE trainers to interrogation 
facilities in Afghanistan, another SERE psychologist warned: ``[W]e 
need to really stress the difference between what instructors do at 
SERE school (done to INCREASE RESISTANCE capability in students) versus 
what is taught at interrogator school (done to gather information). 
What is done by SERE instructors is by definition ineffective 
interrogator conduct . . . Simply stated, SERE school does not train 
you on how to interrogate, and things you `learn' there by osmosis 
about interrogation are probably wrong if copied by interrogators.'' 
(p. 229).
  If we are to retain our status as a leader in the world, we must 
acknowledge and confront the abuse of detainees in our custody. The 
committee's report and investigation makes significant progress toward 
that goal. There is still the question, however, of whether high level 
officials who approved and authorized those policies should be held 
accountable. I have recommended to Attorney General Holder that he 
select a distinguished individual or individuals--either inside or 
outside the Justice Department, such as retired federal judges--to look 
at the volumes of evidence relating to treatment of detainees, 
including evidence in the Senate Armed Services Committee's report, and 
to recommend what steps, if any, should be taken to establish 
accountability of high-level officials--including lawyers.