New York Daily News – World : Military lawyers at the Guantanamo Bay terrorist prison tried to stop inhumane interrogations, but were ignored by senior Pentagon officials, the Daily News has learned.
Judge advocates – uniformed legal advisers known as JAGs who were assigned to a secret war crimes task force – repeatedly objected to aggressive interrogations by a separate intelligence unit at Camp Delta, where Taliban and Al Qaeda suspects have been jailed since January 2002.
But Pentagon officials “didn't think this was a big deal, so they just ignored the JAGs,” a senior military source said.
The military lawyers' actions had never been disclosed and are the first known cases of lower-level officers resisting interrogations at the Cuban camp that might constitute torture. Some officials called them “unsung heroes” for risking their careers by crossing senior officials who approved the techniques.
The lawyers' objections were that battlefield interrogation methods, where slapping around a prisoner might be justifiable if it immediately saved lives, were immoral and possibly illegal if used on prisoners far from a war zone and long after their capture, three sources said. Abuse cases reported in FBI memos obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union are now being probed by the Justice Department and the U.S. Southern Command, the Pentagon unit that oversees Gitmo.
One of the judge advocates, an Air Force officer, left Gitmo and then filed a Jan. 15, 2003, “Memorandum for the Record,” sources said. According to portions read to The News, the memorandum noted conflicting interrogation policies at Gitmo and objected to aggressive techniques.
These were raised repeatedly with the Southern Command by their secret unit, the Criminal Investigation Task Force, a 150-person team of investigators from each branch of the military. Its mission was to work with the FBI and Secret Service to identify detainees' fitness for military war crimes trials.
On the same day of the 2003 Memorandum for the Record, Rumsfeld temporarily rescinded his December 2002 order permitting “stress positions,” the use of dogs and “mild” physical contact to intimidate uncooperative prisoners, because of legal concerns.
The objectionable interrogations were done by Joint Task Force-Guantanamo, a separate intelligence unit seeking tips on terror threats, sources said.
I've said it before — the JAG lawyers are the only ones coming out of this with dignity.