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The Complicit General

September 13, 2009

by Philippe Sands
from THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS

On April 24, 1863, President Lincoln signed his General Order No. 100, written by Columbia University professor Francis Lieber, to decree that “military necessity does not admit of cruelty.” The United States military formally respected that rule for nearly 140 years—until, on December 2, 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld signed a memorandum on “Counter-Resistance Techniques” prepared for him by his general counsel, William J. Haynes II.

The Rumsfeld memo authorized the military commander in charge of Guantánamo “to employ, in his discretion,” special “counter-resistance” techniques “during the interrogation of detainees at Guantánamo Bay.” The memo purported to be a response to requests from military officers in charge at Guantánamo, who in October 2002 complained to senior Pentagon officials that “the current guidelines for interrogation procedures at GTMO limit the ability of interrogators to counter advanced resistance.” In the memo, Haynes states that he has “discussed this with the Deputy [Paul Wolfowitz], Doug Feith and General Myers” and that he recommends authorizing most of a proposed three-step interrogation plan. In this sequence, relatively benign techniques (“Category I”) such as yelling and deception are supplanted by increasingly harsh ones—”Category II” and “Category III”—such as prolonged stress positions, deprivation of light and sound, hooding, forced grooming, removal of clothing, and manipulation of “individual phobias (such as fear of dogs) to induce stress.” The memo also concluded that, beyond these fifteen, three additional Category III techniques, including waterboarding, “may be legally available,” although it stated that “as a matter of policy, a blanket approval” of those techniques “is not warranted at this time.” more

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