claims to the contrary, the US has let its interrogation standards slide since September 11, 2001 terror attacks as it is hard to get information from religious extremists and insurgents, the Time magazine said today.
Apart from the brutality documented at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Time quoted American officials and former prisoners as saying that detainees under US supervision in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at undisclosed other locations have been stripped naked, covered with hoods, deprived of sleep and light, and made to stand or sit in painful positions for extended periods.
Some have been drugged. "Sexual humiliation" is "not unheard" of and even the Federal Bureau of Prisons has lent a hand in this enterprise, it said.
It quoted a Justice Department Inspector General's report to say that Muslim detainees at the Brooklyn, New York's Metropolitan Detention Centre after 9/11 were physically and verbally abused by some staff members.
Meanwhile, there have been at least 32 suicide attempts by Guantanamo detainees and one of those who tried to commit suicide ended up in a coma. In three cases in Iraq and Afghanistan currently under investigation by the Justice Department, detainees died during or after questioning by CIA. (more)
In an interview with Time, a US Army official defended the use of sexual humiliation. While he agrees the Abu Ghraib soldiers were undertrained and undersupervised, he insists that similar tactics - used more carefully - are effective.
None of those techniques are legal under strict readings of international law, Time pointed out.
Last spring the Department of Defence, it said, finalised a secret "stress matrix" detailing dozens of tactics that could and could not be used at Guantanamo. The document, described to Time by a lawyer close to the process, permits sleep and sensory deprivation, among other things, under certain conditions.
Depending on the personality of suspects, these strategies can be effective, experts say.
The idea is to disorient prisoners to the point at which they lose all sense of time, normality and control. The CIA, it said, isolates key al-Qaeda operatives so that the interrogator becomes the only human they see each day.
In Abu Ghraib, Time said soldiers claim they were told by military intelligence officers to "soften up" the detainees for questioning. Certainly, putting hoods over prisoners' heads and stripping them naked would conform to common, if primitive, interrogation-prep tactics, it added.