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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Bush declined to waive Genevain Afghanistan, papers show



The Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- President Bush claimed the right to waive anti-torture laws and treaties covering prisoners of war after the invasion of Afghanistan, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld authorized guards to strip detainees and threaten them with dogs, according to documents released Tuesday.

The documents were handed out at the White House in an effort to blunt allegations the administration had authorized torture against al-Qaida prisoners from Afghanistan and Iraq. "I have never ordered torture," Bush said a few hours before the release.

The Justice Department, meanwhile, disavowed a memo written in 2002 that appeared to justify the use of torture in the war on terror. The memo also argued that the president's wartime powers superseded anti-torture laws and treaties.

That 50-page document, dated Aug. 1, 2002, will be replaced, senior Justice Department officials said. A new memo will instead narrowly address the question of proper interrogation techniques for al-Qaida and Taliban detainees, the officials said.

Bush outlined his own views in a Feb. 7, 2002, document regarding treatment of al-Qaida detainees from Afghanistan. He said the war against terrorism had ushered in a "new paradigm" and that terrorist attacks required "new thinking in the law of war." Still, he said prisoners must be treated humanely and in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

"I accept the legal conclusion of the attorney general and the Department of Justice that I have the authority under the Constitution to suspend Geneva as between the United States and Afghanistan, but I decline to exercise that authority at this time," the president said in the memo, entitled "Humane Treatment of al-Qaida and Taliban Detainees."

In a separate Pentagon memo, dated Nov. 27, 2002, the Defense Department's chief lawyer, William J. Haynes II, recommended that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approve the use of 14 interrogation techniques on detainees at Guantanamo Bay, such as yelling at a prisoner during questioning and using "stress positions," like standing, for up to four hours.

Haynes also recommended approval of one technique among harsher methods requested by U.S. military authorities at Guantanamo: use of "mild, non-injurious physical contact such as grabbing, poking in the chest with the finger and light pushing."

Among the techniques that Rumsfeld approved on Dec. 2, 2002, in addition to that one, the yelling and the stress positions:

* Use of 20-hour interrogations.

* Removal of all comfort items, including religious items.

* Removal of clothing.

* Using detainees' "individual phobias such as fear of dogs to induce stress."

In a Jan. 15, 2003, note, Rumsfeld rescinded his approval and said that a review would be conducted to consider legal, policy and operational issues relating to interrogations of detainees.

Rumsfeld's decision was prompted at least in part by objections raised by some military lawyers, officials said earlier this year.


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