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Context of 'April 2003-2004: Suspected Iraqi Insurgents Interrogated at Delta Force Facility with Poor Reputation'

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Captured suspected “insurgents” and other militants are brought to the ultra-secret Battlefield Interrogation Facilities (BIF) in Baghdad run by Delta Force. NBC will report that “it is the scene of the most egregious violations of the Geneva Conventions in all of Iraq’s prisons.” BIF is described as a “place where the normal rules of interrogation don’t apply.” Prisoners “are kept in tiny dark cells. And in the BIF’s six interrogation rooms, Delta Force soldiers routinely drug prisoners, hold a prisoner under water until he thinks he’s drowning, or smother them almost to suffocation.” Pentagon officials will deny that prisoners held at the facility are subjected to illegal interrogation tactics. [MSNBC, 5/20/2004; CNN, 5/21/2004 Sources: Two unnamed top US government sources]

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The 519th Military Intelligence Battalion produces a memo laying down new “Interrogation Rules of Engagement” (IROE), for use in its new mission in Iraq. [US Department of the Army, 3/9/2004] The person apparently mostly responsible for writing the memo is Cpt. Carolyn A. Wood, formerly in charge of military intelligence interrogators at Bagram, which serves as the main screening area in Afghanistan. [Guardian, 6/23/2004] Col. Billy Buckner, the chief public affairs officer at Fort Bragg, home to the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, later says that Wood brought the interrogations rules used at Bagram with her to Iraq. [Associated Press, 5/24/2004] But the rules are also adapted and made somewhat less aggressive. “Those rules were modified,” according to Buckner, “to make sure the right restraints were in place.” [Guardian, 6/23/2004] The modifications nevertheless fall outside normal military doctrine. According to a classified portion of the later Fay report (see August 25, 2004), the memo allows the “use of stress positions during fear-up harsh interrogation approaches, as well as presence of military working dogs, yelling, loud music,… light control,” sleep management, and isolation. [New York Review of Books, 10/7/2004] The memo is adopted from interrogation procedures known as “Battlefield Interrogation Team and Facility Policy,” in use by a secretive unit called Joint Task Force (JTF) 121 , that is active in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The 519th Military Intelligence Battalion worked in close cooperation with Special Operations Forces like JTF-121 during its tour in Afghanistan, and “at some point,” according to the Fay report, it “came to possess the JTF-121 interrogation policy.” [New York Times, 8/27/2004] Cpt. Wood adopts the JTF-121 policy “almost verbatim.” [New York Times, 8/27/2004] Like the highest US command in Iraq, the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion apparently believes the standard Army Field Manual is an insufficient guideline for interrogations. Interrogation techniques falling outside the scope of standard military doctrine have already been devised at the Pentagon, but only for use in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. These “non-doctrinal approaches, techniques, and practices,” according to Gen. George R. Fay, nevertheless, become “confused at Abu Ghraib.” [US Department of the Army, 3/9/2004] JTF-121 consists of CIA officials and Special Operations troops, including soldiers from the Army’s Delta Force and Navy Seals. The unit is later alleged to have been instrumental in the capture of Saddam Hussein. [New York Times, 5/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Troy Armstrong, George R. Fay, Saddam Hussein, Carolyn A. Wood

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

CNN analyst Donald Shepperd.CNN analyst Donald Shepperd. [Source: New York Times]With criticism of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility reaching new heights, new allegations of abuse from UN human rights experts, Amnesty International receiving plenty of media exposure for calling the facility “the gulag of our times” (see May 25, 2005), and many calling for the facility’s immediate closure, the Pentagon counters by launching the latest in its propaganda counteroffensive designed to offset and blunt such criticism (see April 20, 2008). The Pentagon and White House’s communications experts place a select group of around ten retired military officers, all who regularly appear on network and cable news broadcasts as “independent military analysts,” on a jet usually used by Vice President Dick Cheney, and fly them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of the facility. [New York Times, 4/20/2008]
A Four-Hour Tour - During the three-hour flight from Andrews Air Force Base to Cuba, the analysts are given several briefings by various Pentagon officials. After landing, but before being taken to the detention facility, they are given another 90-minute briefing. The analysts spend 50 minutes lunching with some of the soldiers on base, then begin their tour. They spend less than 90 minutes viewing the main part of the Guantanamo facility, Camp Delta; in that time, they watch an interrogation, look at an unoccupied cellblock, and visit the camp hospital. They spend ten minutes at Camp V and 35 minutes at Camp X-Ray. After less than four hours in Guantanamo’s detention facilities, they depart for Washington, DC. [Salon, 5/9/2008] This is the first of six such excursions, all designed to prepare the analysts for defending the administration’s point of view and counter the perception that Guantanamo is a haven for abusive treatment of prisoners. During the flight to the facility, during the tour, and during the return flight, Pentagon officials hammer home the message they want the analysts to spread: how much money has been spent on improving the facility, how much abuse the guards have endured, and the extensive rights and privileges granted to the detainees.
Producing Results - The analysts provide the desired results. All ten immediately appear on television and radio broadcasts, denouncing Amnesty International, challenging calls to close the facility, and assuring listeners that the detainees are being treated humanely. Donald Shepperd, a retired Air Force general, tells CNN just hours after returning from Guantanamo, “The impressions that you’re getting from the media and from the various pronouncements being made by people who have not been here in my opinion are totally false.” The next morning, retired Army General Montgomery Meigs appears on NBC’s flagship morning show, Today, and says: “There’s been over $100 million of new construction [at Guantanamo]. The place is very professionally run.” Transcripts of the analysts’ appearances are quickly circulated among senior White House and Pentagon officials, and cited as evidence that the Bush administration is winning the battle for public opinion. [New York Times, 4/20/2008]

Entity Tags: NBC, Donald Shepperd, Amnesty International, Bush administration (43), CNN, Montgomery Meigs, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: US Military, Torture of US Captives, Iraq under US Occupation, Domestic Propaganda

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