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Monday, August 30, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
Top U.S. general in Iraq sent memo authorizing use of dogs to scare prisoners
By R. Jeffrey Smith
The Sept. 14 cable signed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez listed several dozen strategies for extracting information, drawn partly from what officials now say was an outdated and improperly permissive Army field manual.
But it added one used on suspected terrorists held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, but not previously approved for use in Iraq: "Exploit Arab fear of dogs while maintaining security during interrogations."
"Enclosed is the policy modeled on the one implemented for interrogation conducted at Gitmo," Sanchez said in his cable, referring to Guantánamo Bay.
It authorized not only exploiting prisoners' "fear" of dogs but also the use of isolation; "sleep management"; "yelling, loud music, and light control ... to create fear, disorient detainees and capture shock"; deception, including fake documents and reports; and "stress positions," such as forced kneeling for as many as four hours at a time.
The cable placed no restrictions on the use of dogs on "detainees" and "security internees," but said any use involving enemy prisoners of war would require Sanchez's direct approval.
Within one month, Sanchez's cable was rescinded on instructions from senior officials at U.S. Central Command and replaced with a more cautious memo that allowed the use of muzzled dogs during interrogations only when Sanchez gave his direct approval something he told investigators he was never asked to do.
Sanchez's order calling on police dog handlers to help intimidate detainees at Abu Ghraib prison into talking a practice later seen in searing photographs was one of a handful of documents written by senior officials that Army officials now say helped sow the seeds of prison abuse in Iraq.
They did so, according to an Army report released Wednesday, by lending credence to the idea that aggressive interrogation methods were sanctioned by officers going up the chain of command.
The text of the Sanchez cable was not included in public copies of the Army's report, but was obtained by The Washington Post from a government official upset by what Sanchez approved.
The authors of the Army report did not accuse Sanchez of directly instigating abuse, and they did not cite the contents of his memo in the unclassified version.
Whatever Sanchez's intent or policy, the practice of "abusing detainees with dogs started almost immediately" after the Army brought several dog teams to Abu Ghraib in November 2003, the report said. No one above the military grade of the top intelligence commander at Abu Ghraib was legally "culpable" for the abuse, the Army report concluded.
This interpretation, that top officers committed sins of omission, rather than commission by writing ambiguous instructions and failing to police subordinates, is likely to be challenged in court, according to lawyers for some of the soldiers on trial in connection with the abuse.
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