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Official US replies to Panorama

The United States Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Donald Rumsfeld, US Defense Secretary between 2001 and 2006, are all featured in Panorama's film 'Licence to Torture'.

Below are their responses to the allegations Panorama made on the programme:

United States Department of Defense:

"Since 2003 the Department has released 14 senior-level reports which provided extensive coverage of interrogation and detention operations, including detainee abuse.

In the senior-level reports 492 separate recommendations were made.

The Department established the Detainee Senior Leadership Oversight Committee to review and track all recommendations. The effort was monitored until both the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff were convinced that the recommendation had been implemented and could be closed.

All credible allegations of abuse are thoroughly investigated and if substantiated, individuals are held accountable for their actions.

Over a dozen internal reviews and investigations since 2001 did not find any policy that ever condoned or tolerated abuse. Those reviews have improved our detention and interrogations operations over time.

Internal investigations into detainee mistreatment since 2001 have resulted in approximately 430 disciplinary actions against military personnel, to include prison sentences, bad conduct discharges, reduction in ranks, forfeiture of pay and allowances, and a range of other punitive measures.

The Department of Defense (DoD) complies with all applicable law and policy pertaining to the detention, interrogation and treatment of detainees.

The Department of Defense conducts interrogation operations effectively within the parameters set by US policy, the laws of war, and the Geneva Conventions with trained, disciplined personnel under strong, knowledgeable leadership.

We will continue to question terror suspects who may have information that can potentially save lives. But we will not compromise the rule of law or the values and principles that make us strong.

The Army Field Manual on Interrogations strictly prohibits use of SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) techniques against individuals detained by DoD. SERE techniques were never authorised, nor approved for use against detainees.

The Army Field Manual on Interrogations, which was revised in 2006 to incorporate lessons learned during Operation Enduring Freedom, complies with the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which prohibits cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in accordance with and as defined in U.S. law.

All detainees in DoD custody, wherever they are held, have access to medical professionals who assess their physical and psychological needs".

Central Intelligence Agency

"A great deal of nonsense has been said and written over the years about the CIA's past interrogation practices. In fact, that effort rested on a foundation of legal and policy guidance.

It is wrong to suggest that the waterboard was used with Abu Zubaydah before the Justice Department memo authorizing that technique - a document dated August 1, 2002.

Zubaydah, a major terrorist facilitator, provided a virtual roadmap of al-Qaeda's structure and personnel.

That, in turn, fed operations to chip away at al-Qaeda, piece by piece. That's how counter-terrorism works.

George Bush recounted the story of Abu Zubaydah in his speech of September 6, 2006, as did George Tenet in his book, At the Center of the Storm.

More broadly, it was a policy decision that launched the terrorist detention program, and it was a policy decision that ended it. The CIA is acting in strict accord with President Obama's Executive Orders."

The office of Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense, 2001-2006, issued this statement in response to publication of the executive summary of the Senate Armed Services Committee report on its Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in US custody in November 2008. His office directed Panorama to that statement:

"It's regrettable that Senator Levin has decided to use the committee's time and the taxpayer's dollars to make unfounded allegations against those who have served our nation.

The twelve non-partisan investigations that have been conducted in recent years do not support his partisan point of view. The false narrative he has been pursuing for some years is well known and inconsistent with the preponderance of the facts.

Because of the irresponsible charges by a few individuals in positions of responsibility, millions of people around the world have been led to believe that the Department of Defense condoned torture and abuse.

Those false allegations have made the task of the hundreds of thousands of men and women serving in the United States military all the more difficult.

Some key facts:

• In 2001, both President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld directed that DoD detainees were to be given "humane treatment."

• At no time did Secretary Rumsfeld approve any techniques that were not reviewed and approved by the proper legal authorities.

• After the United States was attacked on September 11th, 2001, it was important to interrogate detainees to gain intelligence from key detainees to try to prevent further attacks and save American lives.

• With the recommendation of the DoD General Counsel, Secretary Rumsfeld approved some techniques requested by the U.S. SOUTHCOM Combatant Commander in December 2002 for one "high value detainee that ultimately provided extremely valuable intelligence." (Schmidt Report)

• In January 2003, when Secretary Rumsfeld first heard of some concerns about techniques used in the interrogation of one suspected terrorist at Guantanamo, he immediately withdrew the authorization for the interrogation and ordered a broad legal review by relevant individuals across the Department.

• The result of that legal review ended up proposing 35 interrogation techniques, of which Secretary Rumsfeld authorized 24 in April 2003.

• Any known abuse that took place by individuals in the Department of Defense was unauthorized. All allegations of abuse were investigated and properly prosecuted.

• The Levin investigation has been going on for two years. His committee has access to over 200,000 pages of documents released by the Department of Defense.

• To date there have been 12 major nonpartisan reports on detention operations. None of those reports concluded that there was any DoD policy or DoD officials that condoned or tolerated abuse".

Licence to Torture
Friday, 10 July 2009, 15:52 GMT |  Panorama

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