You are here: Home / Projects / The Guantánamo Testimonials Project / Testimonies / Testimonies of the Defense Department / Report of the Department of Defense Inspector General, August 25, 2006

Report of the Department of Defense Inspector General, August 25, 2006

Pictures of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib flooded the media in the Spring of 2004. On May 7 of that year, 110 members of Congress formally requested that the Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General “supervise the investigations of tortured Iraqi prisoners of war and other reported gross violations of the Geneva Conventions at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq.” In response to this request, the Office of the Deputy Inspector General for Intelligence monitored allegations of detainee and prisoner abuse and evaluated 13 senior-level inspections, assessments, reviews, and investigations of detention and interrogation operations that were initiated as a result of allegations of detainee abuse. The purpose of this review was to evaluate these reports in order to determine whether any overarching, systemic issues, should be addressed.

As a result of these activities, the Office of the DoD Inspector General produced a
Review of DoD-Directed Investigations of Detainee Abuse (Report No. 06-INTEL-10) on August 25, 2006. The report made three findings. One of them was that SERE, a course designed to prepare selected American forces to withstand interrogations that did not abide by the Geneva Conventions, was turned into a program for harsh, coercive interrogation. In this way, a course of training to resist cruel, degrading, and inhumane treatment was transformed into a program to counter this very resistance. This program was carried out in the interrogation of Guantánamo prisoners before it "migrated" to Iraq. Officially, Guantánamo prisoners were not entitled to the protections afforded by the Geneva Conventions; Iraqi prisoners were.

The finding in question is entitled "DoD Interrogation Techniques
," and is reproduced in its entirety below.


C. DoD Interrogation Techniques (U)


It is important to note that techniques effective under carefully controlled conditions in Guantanamo became far more problematic when they migrated and were not adequately safeguarded.

Final Report of the Independent Panel to Review DoD Detention Operations, August 24, 2004


(U) Counterresistance interrogation techniques migrated [from Guantanamo] to Iraq because operations personnel believed that traditional interrogation techniques were no longer effective for all detainees. In addition, policy for and oversight of interrogation procedures were ineffective. As a result, interrogation techniques and procedures used exceeded the guidelines established in the Army F[ield] M[anual] 34-52.



Background (U)


(U) Counterresistance techniques. The FM 34-52 provides guidance on what techniques an intelligence interrogator should use to gain the cooperation of a detainee. As stated in the Secretary of Defense memorandum, “Counter-Resistance Techniques in the War on Terrorism," dated April 15, 2003, specific implementation guidance for techniques A-Q (see Appendix S) is provided in the FM 34-52. This finding addresses those techniques that are not included in FM 34-52.

(U) Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) Training. The U.S. Joint Forces Command is the DoD Executive Agent responsible for providing Service members with SERE training. The Joint Personnel Recovery Agency at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, monitors and oversees all DoD SERE training programs at the four DoD schools: Fairchild Air Force Base, Spokane, Washington (Air Force); Fort Bragg, North Carolina (Army); Naval Air Station Brunswick, Maine (Navy/Marines); and Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, California (Navy/Marines). The Services train an estimated 6,200 members annually at these schools.

(U) DoD SERE training, sometimes referred to as code of conduct training, prepares select military personnel with survival and evasion techniques in case they are isolated from friendly forces. The schools also teach resistance techniques that are designed to provide U.S. military members, who may be captured or detained, with the physical and mental tools to survive a hostile interrogation and deny the enemy the information they wish to obtain. SERE training incorporates physical and psychological pressures, which act as counterresistance techniques, to replicate harsh conditions that the Service member might encounter if they are held by forces that do not abide by the Geneva Conventions.

(U) Defensive Interrogation Techniques. The U.S. Joint Forces Command defines the training employed to increase the Service member’s resistance capabilities as a defensive response to interrogation. The Deputy Commander and the Command Group has concluded that the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency and the SERE schools do not have personnel assigned to be interrogators and do not advocate interrogation measures to be executed by our force. The SERE expertise lies in training personnel how to respond and resist interrogations--not in how to conduct interrogations. Therefore, the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency and SERE mission is defensive in nature, while the operational interrogation mission is sometimes referred to as offensive.

(U) Migration of Techniques. Migration refers to the introduction of interrogation techniques from one theater of operation to another. Official migration relates to those interrogation techniques intended only for use at a specific facility that are officially approved for use at other facilities. Unofficial migration occurred when interrogators remained unaware of the approved guidance and believed that techniques that they may have experienced, including those from basic training, SERE training, or tours at other detention facilities, were permissible in other theaters of operation.

(U) While this report primarily addresses the U.S. Central Command Area of Operations, some discussion of the involvement of the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency with the JTF 170 at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is necessary background information explaining how SERE techniques migrated to Iraq.


Joint Personnel Recovery Agency Involvement in the Development of Interrogation Policy at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (U)

(U) (S) Counterresistance techniques taught by the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency contributed to the development of interrogation policy at the U.S. Southern Command. According to interviewees, at some point in 2002, the U.S. Southern Command began to question the effectiveness of the Joint Task Force 170 (JTF-170), the organization at Guantanamo that was responsible for collecting intelligence from a group of hard core al Qaeda and Taliban detainees. As documented in the Vice Admiral Church report (Appendix M), the interrogators believed that some of the detainees were intimately familiar with FM 34-52 and were trained to resist the techniques that it described.

(U) (S//NF) Counterresistance techniques were introduced because personnel believed that interrogation methods used were no longer effective in obtaining useful information from some detainees. On June 17, 2002, the Acting Commander, Southern Command requested that the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) provide his command with an external review of ongoing detainee intelligence collection operations at Guantanamo Bay, which included an examination of information and psychological operations plans. The CJCS review took place between August 14, 2002, and September 4, 2002, and concluded that the JTF-170 had limited success in extracting usable information from some of the detainees at Guantanamo because traditional interrogation techniques described in FM 34-52 had proven to be ineffective. The CJCS review recommended that the Federal Bureau of Investigation Behavioral Science Unit, the Army’s Behavioral Science Consultation Team, the Southern Command Psychological Operations Support Element, and the JTF-170 clinical psychologist develop a plan to exploit detainee vulnerabilities. The Commander, JTF-170 expanded on the CJCS recommendations and decided to also consider SERE training techniques and other external interrogation methodologies as possible DoD interrogation alternatives.

(U) (S//NF) Between June and July 2002, but before the CJCS review, the Chief of Staff of the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, working with the Army Special Operations Command’s Psychological Directorate, developed a plan designed to teach interrogators how to exploit high value detainees.

(U) (S//NF) On September 16, 2002, the Army Special Operations Command and the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency co-hosted a SERE psychologist conference at Fort Bragg for JTF-170 interrogation personnel. The Army’s Behavioral Science Consultation Team from Guantanamo Bay also attended the conference. Joint Personnel Recovery Agency personnel briefed JTF-170 representatives on the exploitation techniques and methods used in resistance (to interrogation) training at SERE schools. The JTF-170 personnel understood that they were to become familiar with SERE training and be capable of determining which SERE information and techniques might be useful in interrogations at Guantanamo. Guantanamo Behavioral Science Consultation Team personnel understood that they were to review documentation and standard operating procedures for SERE training in developing the standard operating procedure for the JTF-170, if the command approved those practices. The Army Special Operations Command was examining the role of interrogation support as a “SERE Psychologist competency area.”

(U) (C) On September 24, 2002, a Joint Personnel Recovery Agency representative at the SERE conference recommended in a conference memorandum report to his Commander that their organization “not get directly involved in actual operations.” Specifically, the memorandum states that the agency had “no actual experience in real world prisoner handling,” developed concepts based “on our past enemies,” and assumes that “procedures we use to exploit our personnel will be effective against the current detainees.” In a later interview, the Commander, Joint Personnel Recovery Agency stated that his agency’s support to train and teach “was so common that he probably got 15 similar reports [memoranda] a week and it was not his practice to forward them to the U.S. Joint Forces Command.”

(U) (S//NF) The Commander, JTF-170 forwarded a request on October 11, 2002, to the Commander, U.S. Southern Command, seeking approval of counterresistance strategies. This memorandum in part stated:

“...the following techniques and other aversive techniques, such as those used in U.S. military interrogation resistance training or by other U.S. government agencies, may be utilized in a carefully coordinated manner to help interrogate exceptionally resistant detainees. Any or [sic] these techniques that require more than light grabbing, poking, or pushing, will be administered only by individuals specifically trained in their safe application.”

The use of scenarios designed to convince the detainee that death or severely painful consequences are imminent for him and/or his family: exposure to cold weather or water (with appropriate medical monitoring); use of a wet towel and dripping water to induce the misperception of suffocation; use of mild, noninjurious physical contact such as grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger, and light pushing.

The accompanying legal brief recommended that the proposed methods of interrogation be approved and that the interrogators be properly trained in the approved methods of interrogation.

(U) (S//NF) On at least two occasions, the JTF-170 requested that Joint Personnel Recovery Agency instructors be sent to Guantanamo to instruct interrogators in SERE counterresistance interrogation techniques. SERE instructors from Fort Bragg responded to Guantanamo requests for instructors trained in the use of SERE interrogation resistance techniques. Neither of those visits was coordinated with the Joint Forces Command, which is the office of primary responsibility for SERE training, or the Army, which is the office of primary responsibility for interrogation.

(U) As discussed previously, the U.S. Southern Command’s request led to the issuance of Secretary of Defense, December 2, 2002, memorandum (see Appendix V). In response to Service-level concerns, a Working Group was formed to examine counterresistance techniques, leading to the Secretary of Defense, April 16, 2003, memorandum that approved counterresistance techniques for U.S. Southern Command.


Migration of Counterresistance Interrogation Techniques into the U.S. Central Command Area of Operation (U)


(U) Counterresistance interrogation techniques in the U.S. Central Command Area of Operation derived from multiple sources that included migration of documents and personnel, the JTF-Guantanamo Assessment Team, and the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency.

(U) Unlike Guantanamo and Afghanistan where detainees were designated as unlawful combatants, the Geneva Conventions applied in Iraq. The Commander, CJTF-7 confirmed this by stating that “we all clearly understood that the conditions in GTMO [Guantanamo] were different than what the conditions were in Iraq because the Geneva Conventions applied.”

(U) (S/NF) Afghanistan. The Church report acknowledges that a draft copy of a Working Group report from which the Secretary of Defense’s April 16, 2003, Guantanamo policy was derived influenced the development of interrogation policy in Afghanistan. The Jacoby Report observed the following: “There is a void in the availability of interrogation guidance in the field, and interrogation practice is as inconsistent and varied across the theater as are detention methods. There is some correlation between individual training and experience and interrogation methods being used, but there is little correlation between location and techniques employed.” To fill this perceived void, interrogators attempted to integrate draft policy and “unevenly applied standards” in Afghanistan.

(U) (S//NF) Iraq. The Church report also acknowledges the migration of policy and personnel in the interrogation procedures used. As documented in the Church Report, the CJTF-7 interrogation policy (Appendix V) itself drew from the techniques found in FM 34-52, the April 2003 Guantanamo policy, the special mission unit policy, and the experiences of interrogators in Afghanistan. Because interrogators were often unaware of the approved guidance, they relied on their prior training and experience.

(U) Between August 2003 and February 2004, several visiting teams went to Iraq to advise the task force and assess interrogation operations within the Central Command’s area of responsibility. On at least two occasions, visiting assessment teams discussed interrogation methods not sanctioned by FM 34-52.

(U) (FOUO) JTF-Guantanamo Assessment Team. In August 2003, the Joint Chiefs of Staff J3 requested the U.S. Southern Command to send experts in detention and interrogation operations from Guantanamo to Iraq to assess the Iraq Survey Group’s interrogation operations. The Iraq Survey Group did not request the assessment because they believed they had the proper interrogation standard operating procedures in place and in compliance with FM 34-52. Based on interviews with cognizant personnel, the JTF-Guantanamo assessment team reportedly discussed the use of harsher counterresistance techniques with Iraq Survey Group personnel. The Iraq Survey Group interrogators disagreed with what they described as the “hard line approach” that the assessment team recommended.

(U) (S//NF) While the Iraq Survey Group did not endorse the JTF Guantanamo techniques, the CJTF-7 incorporated some of the techniques in its policies and procedures. As discussed in the Church report, the CJTF-7 Staff Judge Advocate stated that its September 14, 2003, Interrogation Policy was influenced by multiple factors, including the Army Field Manual. The Interrogation Policy also incorporated the Guantanamo counterresistance policies. The CJTF-7 Staff Judge Advocate attributed the “genesis of this product” to the JTF-Guantanamo assessment team.

(U) (S//NF) Joint Personnel Recovery Agency Team. The Joint Personnel Recovery Agency was also responsible for the migration of counterresistance interrogation techniques into the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility. In September 2003, at the request of the Commander, TF-20, the Commander, Joint Personnel Recovery Agency sent an interrogation assessment team to Iraq to provide advice and assistance to the task force interrogation mission. The TF-20 was the special mission unit that operated in the CJTF-7 area of operations. The Joint Personnel Recovery Agency did not communicate its intent to introduce SERE interrogation resistance training to TF-20 interrogators with the Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command.

(U) (S//NF) The Commander, Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, explained that he understood that the detainees held by TF-20 were determined to be Designated Unlawful Combatants (DUCs), not Enemy Prisoners of War (EPW) protected by the Geneva Convention and that the interrogation techniques were authorized and that the JPRA team members were not to exceed the standards used in SERE training on our own Service members. He also confirmed that the U.S. Joint Forces Command J-3 and the Commanding Officer, TF-20 gave a verbal approval for the SERE team to actively participate in “one or two demonstration” interrogations.

(U) (S//NF) SERE team members and TF-20 staff disagreed about whether SERE techniques were in compliance with the Geneva Conventions. When it became apparent that friction was developing, the decision was made to pull the team out before more damage was done to the relationship between the two organizations. The SERE team members prepared After Action Reports that detailed the confusion and allegations of abuse that took place during the deployment. These reports were not forwarded to the U.S. Joint Forces Command because it was not a common practice at that time.

Oversight (U)

(U) A lack of uniform interrogation standards and oversight at the Combatant Command level from 2002-2004 as well as a lack of oversight over the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency activities allowed counterresistance techniques to influence interrogation operations. It was only after the Joint Personnel and Recovery Agency requested to take a SERE team to Afghanistan in May 2004, that the U.S. Joint Forces Command concluded that “the use of resistance to interrogation knowledge for offensive purposes lies outside the roles and responsibilities of JPRA [Joint Personnel Recovery Agency].” A Joint Personnel Recovery Agency Mission Guidance Memorandum, September 29, 2004, from the Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command expressly prohibited such activities without specific approval from the U.S. Joint Forces Commander, Deputy, or Chief of Staff.

Get original here.