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Profile: Rick Baccus
Positions that Rick Baccus has held:
- Commander of Military Police at Guantanamo
Rick Baccus was a participant or observer in the following events:
Rick Baccus. [Source: PBS]Brig. Gen. Michael Lehnert is succeeded by Rhode Island Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Rick Baccus as commander of JTF-160 at Guantanamo. [American Forces Press Service, 1/14/2003] Soon, Baccus will be seen as out of sync with the more aggressive attitude towards the Guantanamo detainees held at the Defense Department. A Pentagon source, quoted by Newsweek, says Baccus mainly “wanted to keep the prisoners happy.” [Newsweek, 5/24/2004] At one point, Baccus says his MPs must ensure that the detainees are treated within the spirit of the Geneva Conventions. “Humane treatment,” he says, “means we have to provide them clothing, food, shelter, and allow them to practice their religious beliefs. However, what we don’t allow them to do are things like live in groups, use the canteen or work on work details.” [American Forces Press Service, 1/14/2003] Baccus’ statements reveal that he is an officer thoroughly trained in the use of the Geneva Conventions. Noting that the Third Geneva Convention states that detainees shall be incarcerated under similar conditions as those who guard them, he says: “You wouldn’t want detainees living in substandard conditions, which is something we in the United States wouldn’t want to happen. Obviously our soldiers—the guard force—who deal with them every day are living in the same area as the detainees at Camp Delta.” [American Forces Press Service, 1/14/2003] Baccus furthermore provides detainees with Korans, special meals for Ramadan, and information on prisoners’ rights. [American Forces Press Service, 1/14/2003] When addressing the detainees, he begins his speech saying, “[P]eace be with you,” and ends with, “[M]ay God be with you.” [Guardian, 10/16/2002] “All the service members here recognize the fact that they need to treat the detainees humanely,” he says. “Any time anyone lays down their arms, our culture has been to treat them as non-combatant and humanely.” [American Forces Press Service, 1/14/2003] Harsh interrogation tactics may have been employed without Baccus’ knowledge. After his replacement in October 2002, he will say, “In no instance did I interfere with interrogations.” [Guardian, 10/16/2002] However, there is at least one worrying practice he is aware of. He later says medical records of prisoners are routinely shared with military intelligence personnel. Doctors and medics advise interrogators to help them determine the prisoners’ ability to endure the questioning. [Washington Post, 6/10/2004]
The POW-style treatment of detainees at Guantanamo by MP commander Gen. Rick Baccus (see March 28, 2002) does not resonate well with Pentagon and White House policymakers. [Newsweek, 5/24/2004] Pentagon officials complain that Baccus is “too nice” to the prisoners and makes it difficult for interrogators to extract information from them. Maj. Gen. Michael E. Dunlavey, head of the interrogators’ unit JTF-170, is reportedly irritated by Baccus’ decision allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to put up posters informing detainees they need only provide interrogators with their name, rank, and number. [Guardian, 10/16/2002] Irritation with Baccus’s attitude towards detains will culminate in his dismissal (see October 9, 2002) on October 9.
Camp X-Ray prisoners. Their detention cages can be seen on the right. Pictures like this provoked an outrage about their treatment. [Source: Shane T. McCoy/ Associated Press]In Guantanamo, the 300 detainees (see April 28, 2002) being held in at Camp X-Ray are transferred to Camp Delta. Although cells at Camp Delta are even smaller than at Camp X-Ray (8 ft x 6 ft, 8 inches compared to 8 ft x 8 ft), [American Forces Press Service, 1/14/2003] the cells are now equipped with a flush toilet, a sink with running water and a metal bed frame. “There is indoor plumbing, exercise areas are better controlled, and detainees are out of the sun more,” Brig. Gen. Rick Baccus, the commander of Military Police at Guantanamo says. [American Forces Press Service, 1/14/2003] The new facility also has the advantage of being more secure. “We’ve a much more secure facility to house them in Camp Delta. For instance, the guards don’t have to escort them to the bathroom all the time and those types of things. That’s a great improvement in terms of how the guards have to deal with them on a daily basis.” [American Forces Press Service, 1/14/2003] Recreation time goes up from 5 minutes a day at Camp X-Ray to 15 minutes at Camp Delta. [Mirror, 3/12/2004] Use of Camp X-ray does not end. An undated Pentagon memo shows the camp is still used for isolation purposes between December 2002 and January 15, 2003. [US Department of Defense, 1/2003 ] Still, according to a Pentagon adviser, around the middle of 2002, some high-security prisoners will enjoy their recreation time strapped into heavy, straitjacket-like clothing, with their arms tied behind them, goggles over their eyes and their heads hooded. Describing what he was told by a Pentagon official, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh writes in the Guardian of London: “The restraints forced [these prisoners] to move, if he chose to move, on his knees, bent over at a 45-degree angle. Most prisoners just sat and suffered in the heat.” [Guardian, 9/13/2004] The Camp Delta facility was built by Brown & Root, a Halliburton subsidiary, which was awarded the contract even though it was estimated military engineers could do the job for about half the price. [New York Times, 7/13/2002]
Brig. Gen. Rick Baccus, the commander of Military Police at Guantanamo, tells journalists visiting Guantanamo that military officers have concerns that the inmates are still being considered “enemy combatants” rather than “prisoners of war.” [Guardian, 10/16/2002]
Gen. Rick Baccus is relieved of his duties at Guantanamo and also as an officer in the Rhode Island National Guard. With regard to the latter position, his commanding officer in the Rhode Island National Guard, Maj. Gen. Reginald Centracchio, says he has fired him for reasons that “culminated in my losing trust and confidence in him.” One of those reasons, a National Guard spokesman says, is failing to keep headquarters up to date with reports on the well-being of troops. Baccus denies the allegation and expresses surprise. “I’m a little amazed that after being deployed for seven months, separated from my wife, family, and my job and being called to active duty, this is the kind of reception I’m getting.” [Guardian, 10/16/2002] In response to the allegation that his treatment of prisoners made it more difficult for the interrogators, Baccus states that “in no instance did I interfere with interrogations.” [Guardian, 10/16/2002] Paradoxically, this is exactly what the Pentagon is planning to change. Baccus’s sacking coincides with the merger of his Joint Task Force (JTF) 160 with military intelligence unit JTF-170 into a new JTF-GTMO. By doing this Rumsfeld will give military intelligence control of all aspects of the camp, including the MPs. [Newsweek, 5/24/2004] Military police, now called the Joint Detention Operations Group (JDOG), and the Joint Intelligence Group report directly to the commander of JTF-GTMO. The MPs are fully incorporated into a joint effort of extracting information from prisoners. Vice Admiral Albert T. Church III, naval inspector general, will later describe the arrangement during a press briefing in May 2004: “They monitor the detainees, they monitor their behavior, they monitor who the leaders are, who the followers are, they monitor what is said and they ask for an interpreter if there’s a lot of conversation going on. They’ll know eating habits, and they’ll record this in a management information system, which could be useful to the intelligence group, during the interrogations.” [US Department of Defense, 5/12/2004]
Two days after General Rick Baccus has been relieved from duty as the guard commander at Guantanamo (see October 9, 2002), and almost one and a half months since the writing of the Office of Legal Counsel’s (OLC) August memo on torture (see August 1, 2002), military intelligence at Guantanamo begin suggesting new rules of interrogation. Lieutenant Colonel Jerald Phifer, Director J2, sends a memo, to Major General Michael E. Dunlavey, Commander of Joint Task Force (JTF) 170, requesting approval for more severe interrogation techniques. [US Department of Defense, 10/11/2002 ; New Yorker, 2/27/2008] In 2009, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) will write (see April 21, 2009) that Dunlavey’s request is sparked by recent reports on the use of SERE training techniques for interrogation purposes (see January 2002 and After and April 16, 2002). [Huffington Post, 4/21/2009]
Three Categories of Techniques - The memo states, “The current guidelines for interrogation procedures at GTMO [Guantanamo] limit the ability of interrogators to counter advanced resistance.” Phifer proposes three categories of techniques. The mildest, which includes yelling and weak forms of deception, are included in category one. Category two techniques are more severe and require approval by an “interrogator group director.” They include the use of stress positions for up to four hours; use of falsified documents; isolation for up to 30 days; sensory deprivation and hooding; 20-hour interrogations; removal of comfort and religious items; replacing hot food with cold military rations; removal of clothing; forced grooming, including the shaving of beards; and playing on detainees’ phobias to induce stress, such as a fear of dogs. The harshest techniques, listed in category three, are to be reserved for a “very small percentage of the most uncooperative detainees” and only used with permission from the commander of the prison. These methods include using non-injurious physical contact like poking or grabbing; threatening a detainee with death or severe pain or threatening that a family member would be subjected to such harm; exposing him to cold weather or water; using a wet towel to “induce the misperception of suffocation.” [US Department of Defense, 10/11/2002 ; New Yorker, 2/27/2008]
Desire to Extract More Information from Detainee - The request is prompted in part by military intelligence’s belief that Guantanamo detainee Mohamed al-Khatani has more information than the FBI has managed to extract from him. “Al-Khatani is a person in… whom we have considerable interest,” Dell’Orto will explain during a 2004 press briefing at the White House. “He has resisted our techniques. And so it is concluded at Guantanamo that it may be time to inquire as to whether there may be more flexibility in the type of techniques we use on him.” [Washington File, 6/23/2004]
JAG Officer Concludes Tactics are Legal - The same day, a staff judge advocate, Lieutenant Colonel Diane E. Beaver, reviews Phifer’s proposed techniques for legality and, while making qualifications and recommending further review, concludes in a memo to Dunlavey that they are legal. Also the same day, Dunlavey sends the list of techniques to his superior, General James T. Hill, commander of the Southern Command, requesting approval for their use. Dunlavey writes: “Although [the techniques currently employed] have resulted in significant exploitable intelligence the same methods have become less effective over time. I believe the methods and techniques delineated in the accompanying J-2 memorandum will enhance our efforts to extract additional information.” [US Department of Defense, 10/11/2002 ] Beaver concludes that since President Bush had decided that all the detainees “are not protected by the Geneva Conventions” (see January 18-25, 2002, February 7, 2002), all of the desired techniques are allowable because “no international body of law directly applies.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 178]
Administration of Torture book cover. [Source: Public domain]American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyers Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh publish the book Administration of Torture: A Documentary Record from Washington to Abu Ghraib and Beyond. In their book, Jaffer and Singh use over 100,000 pages of government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act to detail the sometimes-horrific conditions under which suspected terrorists are detained by the US government. The book spans detention facilities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay. The book’s central thesis is, according to the ACLU’s press release for the book, “that the torture and abuse of prisoners was systemic and resulted from decisions made by senior US officials, both military and civilian,” including President Bush himself. [American Civil Liberties Union, 10/22/2007] “[T]he documents show unambiguously that the administration has adopted some of the methods of the most tyrannical regimes,” write Jaffer and Singh. Some of the prisoners “abused, tortured, and killed” were not even terror suspects, the authors show. [Raw Story, 10/22/2007] The book grew out of a long, difficult battle by the ACLU and several other such organizations to secure records pertaining to detainees held by the US in other countries (see October 7, 2003). The book shows a starkly different reality than the picture painted by the Bush administration’s repeated disavowals of torture, a reality established by the government’s own documentation. The administration has repeatedly claimed, for instance, that the torture and abuse so well documented at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison was an isolated, unusual set of incidents that was not repeated at other US detention facilities. The documentation compiled by Jaffer and Singh prove that claim to be a lie: “This claim was completely false, and senior officials almost certainly knew it to be so.” Beatings, kickings, and all manner of abuses have routinely occurred at other detention facilities in Afghanistan and Iraq, the book states. Autopsy reports show that numerous prisoners in US custody have died due to strangulation, suffocation, or blunt-force trauma. Documents from Guantanamo, a facility where Bush officials have repeatedly claimed that the “excesses” of Abu Ghraib were never implemented, show that Guantanamo detainees were regularly “shackled in excruciating ‘stress positions,’ held in freezing-cold cells, forcibly stripped, hooded, terrorized with military dogs, and deprived of human contact for months.” And, perhaps most damningly for the administration, government documents show that top White House and Pentagon officials were not only well aware of the scope of the abuse months before the first pictures from Abu Ghraib were broadcast to the public, but that torture and abuse are part of the administration’s policy towards detainees. “[T]he maltreatment of prisoners resulted in large part from decisions made by senior officials, both military and civilian,” Jaffer and Singh write. “These decisions… were reaffirmed repeatedly, even in the face of complaints from law enforcement and military personnel that the policies were illegal and ineffective, and even after countless prisoners… were abused, tortured, or killed in custody.… The documents show that senior officials endorsed the abuse of prisoners as a matter of policy—sometimes by tolerating it, sometimes by encouraging it, and sometimes by expressly authorizing it.”
The book presents a number of damning claims, all backed by extensive documentation, including the following: [American Civil Liberties Union, 10/22/2007]
General Michael Dunlavey, who oversaw prisoner interrogations at Guantanamo and considered former camp commander Brigadier General Rick Baccus too soft on the detainees [BBC, 10/16/2002] , and who asked the Pentagon to approve more aggressive interrogation methods for the camp, claimed that he received his “marching orders” from Bush.
Then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was “personally involved” in overseeing the interrogation of a Guantanamo prisoner named Mohammed al-Khatani, the alleged would-be 20th 9/11 hijacker (see July 2002). Al-Khatani was “stripped naked, paraded in front of female interrogators, made to wear women’s underwear on his head, led around on a leash, and forced to perform dog tricks.” It is not clear just what being “personally involved” entails. Rumsfeld did not himself authorize such methods, but according to the investigator who documented the al-Khatani abuse session, Rumsfeld “failed to place a ‘throttle’ over abusive ‘applications’ of the ‘broad techniques’ that he did authorize….”
Interrogators who used abusive ‘SERE’ (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) methods at Guantanamo did so because the Pentagon had endorsed those methods and required interrogators to be trained in the use of those methods (see December 2001).
FBI personnel complained of abuses at Guantanamo; these instances of abuse were authorized by the chain of command within the Defense Department.
Some of the most disturbing interrogation methodologies displayed in photos from Abu Ghraib were used at Guantanamo, with the endorsement of Rumsfeld, and that Major General Geoffrey Miller’s aggressive plan to “Gitmoize” Abu Ghraib was endorsed by senior Defense officials.
Bush and his senior officials have always insisted that abuse and torture was limited to a few unauthorized soldiers at Abu Ghraib. Yet a Defense Department “Information Paper” shows that, three weeks before the Abu Ghraib photos appeared in the press, the US Army knew of at least 62 allegations of prisoner abuse in Afghanistan and Iraq, most of which had no relation to Abu Ghraib.
The Defense Department held prisoners as young as 12 years old.
The Defense Department approved holding prisoners in cells as small as 3 feet wide, 4 feet long, and 18 inches high. Special Forces units held prisoners in cells only slightly larger than that. [American Civil Liberties Union, 10/22/2007]
Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Rick Baccus, Mohamed al-Khatani, Michael E. Dunlavey, Geoffrey D. Miller, George W. Bush, American Civil Liberties Union, Jameel Jaffer, Amrit Singh, Donald Rumsfeld, Bush administration (43), Federal Bureau of Investigation
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Civil Liberties
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