Last updated on: 1/23/2009 5:36:00 AM PST

Has the United States condoned the use of torture tactics on prisoners captured in Iraq?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
An unclassified Department of the Army memo signed on Sep. 14, 2003 by Ricardo Sanchez, US Army Lieutenant General, and the Commanding Officer of coalition forces in Iraq between June 2003 and June 2004, authorized interrogation and counter-resistance techniques for use by US officials in Iraq (including Abu Ghraib Prison), which include but are not limited to the following:

  • "Attacking or insulting the ego of a detainee
  • Environmental manipulation: Altering the environment to create moderate discomfort (e.g. adjusting temperature or introducing an unpleasant smell)
  • Isolation
  • Presence of Military Working Dog: Exploits Arab Fear of dogs while maintaining security during interrogations
  • Dietary Manipulation
  • Sleep Adjustment
  • Sleep Management
  • Stress Positions: Use of physical postures (sitting, standing, kneeling, prone, etc)"

  • Sep. 14, 2003 - Unclassified Department of the Army memo (1.52 MB)  

    PRO (yes)

    Patrick Leahy, JD, US Senator (D-VT), stated in the "Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy, Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee Confirmation Hearings on the Nomination of Alberto Gonzales to Be Attorney General of the United States January 6, 2005," accessed on the Senate website of Senator Leahy:

    "Those policies include this nominee's role in developing interpretations of the law to justify harsh treatment of prisoners tantamount to torture...

    Yet senior officials in the Bush White House, Ashcroft Justice Department and Rumsfeld Pentagon set in motion a systematic effort to minimize, distort and even ignore our laws, policies and agreements on torture and the treatment of prisoners. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and, later, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, authorized the use of techniques that were contrary to both U.S. military manuals and international law. Former CIA Director Tenet requested and Secretary Rumsfeld approved the secret detention of 'ghost detainees' in Iraq so that they could be hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Still unexplained are instances where the U.S. Government delivered prisoners to other countries known to utilize torture."

    Jan. 6, 2005 - Patrick Leahy, JD 

    Janis Karpinski, MA, US Army Colonel (demoted from Brigadier General), stated in a Mar. 8, 2006 interview on Australia's SBS TV news program, Dateline, with host George Negus:

    "GEORGE NEGUS: So what you're saying is that people like yourself, as the commander of the prison at the time, had no idea that the American Government was taking no notice whatsoever of any Geneva Convention and therefore, if you like, the gloves were off and anything was OK, so far as torture and interrogation was concerned.

    JANIS KARPINSKI: Absolutely....

    GEORGE NEGUS: Janis, you have been attributed with the comment that Donald Rumsfeld ordered the torture that occurred in Abu Ghraib, that is a gigantic call. Are you prepared to stick by that, that it went that high?

    JANIS KARPINSKI: Absolutely... However, nobody on the Senate Armed Services Committee asked them 'Did you know anything about the actions depicted in those photographs?' Because they would have had to give a truthful answer and the answer would have been yes, in fact they authorised the actions depicted in those photographs.

    The Secretary of Defence authorised it, in conversations with General Miller, his Under-Secretary for Intelligence not only authorised those actions but was staying on top of the progress of those actions and those activities."

    Mar. 8, 2006 - Janis Karpinski, MA 

    Jameel Jaffer, JD, a Staff Attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), quoted on May 26, 2005 and Feb. 23, 2006 in two press releases on the ACLU website, stated:

    "Defense Department interrogators, possibly on instructions from high-level officials, went to great lengths to avoid being held accountable for the use of unlawful interrogation methods... Apparently Defense Department personnel were willing to use torture but they wanted others to be held responsible for it."

    May 26, 2005

    "We now possess overwhelming evidence that political and military leaders endorsed interrogation methods that violate both domestic and international law..."

    Feb. 23, 2006 - Jameel Jaffer, JD 

    William Schulz, PhD, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, stated on June 5, 2005 during an interview on Fox News Sunday:

    "All we are saying is that the United States should be the one that should investigate those who are alleged at least to be architects of torture, not just the foot soldiers who may have inflicted the torture directly, but those who authorized it or or encouraged it or provided rationales for it or in the case of Rumsfeld, provided the exact rules, 27 of them in fact, for interrogations, some of which do constitute torture or cruel, inhumane treatment.

    But I do know that what you've just described, the use of dogs, stress position, that constitutes a violation of the convention against torture. That in and of itself is a clear violation."

    June 5, 2005 - William Schulz, PhD 

    CON (no)

    George W. Bush, MBA, 43rd US President, in a Sep. 6, 2006 interview on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, stated:

    "I've said to the people that we don't torture, and we don't."

    Sep. 6, 2006 - George W. Bush, MBA 

    Dick Cheney, MA, US Vice President at the time of the quote, was quoted by the Associated Press on Oct. 28, 2006 in an article titled "Bush Says U.S. Doesn't Torture after Cheney Flap":

    "We don't torture. That's not what we're involved in."

    Oct. 28, 2006 - Dick Cheney, MA 

    Donald Rumsfeld, former US Secretary of Defense, said in a June 27, 2005 interview on FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace:

    "I think anyone who is beaten is -- call it what you want, it's a beating. And it shouldn't happen. And people have been instructed to treat people humanely. And to the extent it has happened, people have been punished and convicted in a court martial, under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

    So the idea that there's any policy of abuse or policy of torture is false. Flat false."

    June 27, 2005 Donald Rumsfeld 

    [Editor's Note: According to unclassified Department of Defense memos, discussions of specific interrogation and counter-resistance techniques to establish a consistent US policy on interrogation included Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, commanding Generals, and military legal counsel. Approved techniques, including those mentioned in the General Reference above, were evaluated within the context of domestic and international laws on torture, prisoners of war, and military rules of engagement. One technique approved as policy was defined as illegal and constituting assault in the memo:

  • "The use of physical contact with the detainee, such as pushing and poking will technically constitute an assault under Article 128, UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice]."

    The linked unclassified Department of the Army memo was written and signed by Ricardo Sanchez, Lieutenant General, US Army, and the Commanding Officer of coalition forces in Iraq between June, 2003, and June, 2004. The memo approved multiple interrogation techniques while also cautioning that they can be interpreted as illegal by domestic and international law. Listed below is one example from the memo:

  • "I. Pride and Ego Down: Attacking or insulting the ego of a detainee, not beyond the limits that would apply to an EPW. [Caution: Article 17 of Geneva III provides, 'Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed in any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.' Other nations that believe detainees are entitled to EPW [Enemy Prisoner of War] protections may consider this technique inconsistent with the provisions of Geneva..."]

  • John Ashcroft, JD, former US Attorney General, stated the following as he was questioned by Democratic Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) in a June 8, 2004 US Senate Judiciary Committee hearing:

    "SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, D-Vt.: Did your department issue a memorandum that would suggest that torture is allowed under certain circumstances, as the press has reported?

    ATTORNEY GENERAL JOHN ASHCROFT: I want to confirm that the president has not directed or ordered any conduct that would violate the Constitution of the United States, that would violate any one of these enactment's of the United States Congress, or that would violate the provisions of any of the treaties as they have been entered into by the United States, the president, the administration and this government…

    SEN. KENNEDY: We've been looking about where the president -- because we know, when we have these kinds of orders, what happens. We get the stress test, we get the use of dogs, we get the forced nakedness that we've all seen on these, and we get the hooding. This is what directly results when you have that kind of memoranda out there.

    ATTN. GEN. ASHCROFT: First of all, let me completely reject the notion that anything that this president has done or the Justice Department has done has directly resulted in the kinds of atrocities which were cited. That is false. It is an inappropriate conclusion…

    I will say that this administration rejects terror -- pardon me, torture. It rejects terror as well. It has operated with respect to all of the laws enacted by the Congress, all of the treaties embraced by the president and the Congress together, and the Constitution of the United States, and no direction or order has been given to violate any of those laws."

    June 8, 2004 - John Ashcroft, JD 

    Condoleezza Rice, PhD, US Secretary of State at the time of the quote, is quoted on the State Department website, speaking at a Dec. 5, 2005 press conference held at Andrews Air Force Base:

    "With respect to detainees, the United States Government complies with its Constitution, its laws, and its treaty obligations. Acts of physical or mental torture are expressly prohibited. The United States Government does not authorize or condone torture of detainees. Torture, and conspiracy to commit torture, are crimes under U.S. law, wherever they may occur in the world."

    Dec. 5, 2005 - Condoleezza Rice, PhD