Campaign 2010

May 16, 2004

Fear Up Harsh

The Washington Post reports on a memo sent to Sanchez, stating that a method termed “fear up harsh” would be used on a Syrian being held in Abu Ghraib, who was suspected to have knowledge of money and fighters flowing in from abroad.

But the fact that a plan for such intense and highly organized pressure was proposed by Col. Thomas M. Pappas—a senior military intelligence officer in Iraq who took his job at the insistence of a general dispatched from the Pentagon—suggests a wider circle of involvement in aggressive and potentially abusive interrogations of Iraqi detainees, encompassing officers higher up the chain of command, than the Army has previously detailed.

While the Army has blamed the physical abuses documented in soldiers’ photographs on a handful of night-shift soldiers at Abu Ghraib who ignored rules on humane treatment, government officials and humanitarian experts say the order indicates the abuses could instead have been an outgrowth of harsh treatment that had been approved.

They suggest in particular that military intelligence officials may not only have improperly tolerated physical abuses, as stated in the Army’s official internal report, but also that they may have deliberately set the stage for them. According to a hypothesis now being explored by members of Congress, this stage was set through a directed collaboration between two units of military police and intelligence officers, virtually unprecedented in recent Army practice.

The interrogation plan for the Syrian “clearly allows for a crossing of the line into abusive behavior,” said James Ross, a senior legal adviser to Human Rights Watch who reviewed it for The Washington Post.

What makes its wording so troubling, Ross added, is that it allows “wide authority for soldiers conducting interrogations. . . . Were the superior officer to agree to these techniques, it would be opening the door for any soldier or officer to be committing abusive acts and believe they were doing so” with official sanction.

Congressional testimony by Defense Department and Army officials over the past two weeks has highlighted the fact that the abuses in Iraq—which mostly occurred in the last quarter of 2003—came at a time of heightened pressures in Washington for more robust intelligence-gathering, because of proliferating attacks on U.S. forces and the dwindling intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s suspected weapons of mass destruction.

Although no direct links have been found between the documented abuses and orders from Washington, Pentagon officials who spoke on the condition that they not be named say that the hunt for data on these two topics was coordinated during this period by Defense Undersecretary Stephen A. Cambone, the top U.S. military intelligence official and long one of the closest aides to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.

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