Detainee Questioning Was Faked, Book Says

Detainee Questioning Was Faked, Book Says (WaPo, A21)

The U.S. military staged the interrogations of terrorism suspects for members of Congress and other officials visiting the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to make it appear the government was obtaining valuable intelligence, a former Army translator who worked there claims in a new book scheduled for release Monday. Former Army Sgt. Erik Saar said the military chose detainees for the mock interrogations who previously had been cooperative and instructed them to repeat what they had told interrogators in earlier sessions, according to an interview with the CBS television program “60 Minutes,” which is slated to air Sunday night. “They would find a detainee that they knew to have been cooperative,” Saar told CBS. “They would ask the interrogator to go back over the same information,” he said, calling it “a fictitious world” created for the visitors.

Saar worked as a translator at Guantanamo from December 2002 to June 2003. During that time, several members of Congress reported visiting the base, but military officials said they do not know precisely how many toured it. Saar also told CBS, and claims in his upcoming book, “Inside the Wire,” that a few dozen of the more than 750 men who have been held at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay were terrorists, and that little valuable information has been obtained from them.

A spokesman for the U.S. military’s Southern Command, which oversees Guantanamo Bay operations, dismissed the allegation of mock interrogations. “I can say that we do not stage interrogations for VIP visits at Guantanamo,” said Col. David McWilliams. “I don’t want to characterize or comment on what Sergeant Saar believes. He’s written his book.” A Defense Department official familiar with interrogations said Saar would not be privy to interview strategies. He noted that interrogators often ask the same questions in separate sessions to check a detainee’s account.

While putting on a dog and pony show for visiting dignitaries is hardly unusual, these allegations are well beyond that. Given that WaPo placed this on page 21, I take it they don’t put much credence into the account.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Anderson says:

    Well, the media shrugged off Saar’s account of female interrogators’ using sexual tactics at Gitmo, until they were independently confirmed. So I am keeping an open mind about his other allegations.

    Quite frankly (and sadly), given the FUBAR nature of our detention policy, it’s hard to know what *not* to believe.