FBI agents have lodged repeated complaints of physical and mental mistreatment of prisoners held in Iraq and Cuba, saying in reports that military officials have placed lighted...

Share story

WASHINGTON — FBI agents have lodged repeated complaints of physical and mental mistreatment of prisoners held in Iraq and Cuba, saying in reports that military officials have placed lighted cigarettes in detainees’ ears and humiliated Arabic captives by wrapping Israeli flags around them, according to new documents released yesterday.

The FBI records, which are among the latest set of documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union in its lawsuit against the federal government, also include instances in which bureau officials said they were disgusted by military interrogators who pretended to be FBI agents as a “ruse” to glean intelligence from prisoners.

The FBI complained that military interrogators had gone beyond the restrictions of the Geneva Conventions prohibiting torture, citing Bush administration guidelines that permit the use of dogs and other techniques to harass prisoners.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks

The FBI agents referred to what they described as a new executive order on prisoner treatment by President Bush.

The records, including e-mail from an FBI agent, did not include a copy of the Bush order or make clear when it was signed. According to FBI officials, the Bush order approved interrogation tactics that include “sleep deprivation and stress positions,” as well as “loud music, interrogators yelling at subjects and prisoners with hoods on their heads.”

But a White House spokesman and another government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said yesterday that the e-mail’s author was mistakenly referring to Defense Department orders authorizing various interrogation methods.

FBI and Pentagon officials said the order in question was signed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in December 2002 and revised after complaints from military lawyers that he had authorized methods that violated international and domestic law.

Asked about Guantánamo at his news conference yesterday, Bush said, “You’ve got to understand the dilemma we’re in. These are people that got scooped up off a battlefield attempting to kill U.S. troops. And I want to make sure, before they’re released, that they don’t come back to kill again.”

Earlier this year, White House documents and legal memos outlined the administration’s legal view that enemy combatants are not strictly prisoners of war and that therefore the Geneva Conventions may not always apply in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, war against terrorism. Iraqi detainees always have been considered POWs. Top administration officials said Bush could ignore some anti-torture laws in the interrogation of terrorism suspects.

The records disclosed yesterday are the second set in which FBI officials objected to military detention practices and are notable because some instances occurred after revelations this year of prisoner abuses at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

FBI officials participate in interrogations at military prisons and lockups as part of counterterrorism duties. FBI agents have been stationed at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and in Iraq.

The government is holding about 550 people detained in the war on terrorism at a prison on the U.S. Navy base at Guantánamo Bay. Some have been held for nearly three years without charges or access to attorneys. Several dozen have taken advantage of a June ruling by the Supreme Court and petitioned federal courts to challenge their imprisonment.

A U.S. military panel set up to review the detentions has for only the second time reversed a Guantánamo prisoner’s “enemy combatant” designation by the Pentagon, and the man will be released, Navy Secretary Gordon England said yesterday.

In many of the records released yesterday, FBI officials expressed revulsion upon learning that military interrogators posed as FBI agents in interviews with prisoners.

In one instance, an FBI official told his superiors in a December 2003 e-mail that impersonation “tactics have produced no intelligence.”

The official added that these techniques actually “have destroyed any chance of prosecuting this detainee.”

In a June “urgent report” to the FBI director from the Sacramento, Calif., field office, a supervising special agent described abuses such as “strangulation, beatings, placement of lit cigarettes into the detainees’ ear openings and unauthorized interrogations.” The supervisor added that some military officials “were engaged in a cover-up of these abuses.”

In an e-mail on Aug. 2, 2004, an FBI agent recounted seeing detainees on some occasions at Guantánamo Bay chained “hand and foot in a fetal position on the floor, with no chair, food, or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18, 24 hours or more.”

Compiled from Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and Baltimore Sun