Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was personally involved in the late 2002 interrogation of a high-value al-Qaida detainee known in intelligence circles as “the 20th hijacker.” He also communicated weekly with the man in charge of the interrogation, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the controversial commander of the Guantánamo Bay detention center.
During the same period, detainee Mohammed al-Kahtani suffered from what Army investigators have called “degrading and abusive” treatment by soldiers who were following the interrogation plan Rumsfeld had approved. Kahtani was forced to stand naked in front of a female interrogator, was accused of being a homosexual, and was forced to wear women’s underwear and to perform “dog tricks” on a leash. He received 18-to-20-hour interrogations during 48 of 54 days.
Little more than two years later, during an investigation into the mistreatment of prisoners at Guantánamo, Rumsfeld expressed puzzlement at the notion that his policies had caused the abuse. “He was going, ‘My God, you know, did I authorize putting a bra and underwear on this guy’s head?'” recalled Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt, an investigator who interviewed Rumsfeld twice in early 2005.
These disclosures are contained in a Dec. 20, 2005, Army inspector general’s report on Miller’s conduct, which was obtained this week by Salon through the Freedom of Information Act. The 391-page document — which has long passages blacked out by the government — concludes that Miller should not be punished for his oversight role in detainee operations, a fact that was reported last month by Time magazine. But the never-before-released full report also includes the transcripts of interviews with high-ranking military officials that shed new light on the role that Rumsfeld and Miller played in the harsh treatment of Kahtani, who had met with Osama bin Laden on several occasions and received terrorist training in al-Qaida camps.
President Bush strongly defended Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today, despite calls from retired generals that he step down, and said Mr. Rumsfeld’s leadership is vital for the United States.
Mr. Bush said the defense secretary had helped to transform the United States military into a force “fully prepared to confront the dangerous threats of the 21st century” and had, along with the leaders of the services, taken the fight to terrorists on many fronts.
One of those fronts apparently included the lingerie counter at Macy’s.