Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The NYTimes > Intelligence: General Says Less Coercion of Captives Yields Better Data

The New York Times > International > Middle East > Intelligence: General Says Less Coercion of Captives Yields Better Data:
"American interrogators working in Iraq have obtained as much as 50 percent more high-value intelligence since a series of coercive practices like hooding, stripping and sleep deprivation were banned, a senior American official said Monday.

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the American commander in charge of detentions and interrogations, said that the number of 'high-value' intelligence reports drawn from interrogations of Iraqi prisoners had increased by more than half on a monthly basis since January. That was when American officials first disclosed that they were investigating abuses of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of American military police and intelligence officers at Abu Ghraib."

But the successes listed by General Miller were tempered by the release this week of figures showing that the guerrilla insurgency in Iraq appears to be reaching a new level of intensity, raising questions about the value of the intelligence. An American military official said Monday that American soldiers and their allies were attacked an average of 87 times each day in August, the highest such figure since American and British forces deposed Saddam Hussein and his government 17 months ago.

General Miller, the former commandant of the American detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, attributed the greater success at intelligence gathering to a system that encourages the establishment of a "rapport" between interrogator and detainee and bestows "respect and dignity" on the person being interrogated.

In May, a number of physically and psychologically coercive practices used by interrogators to break down suspected Iraqi insurgents were prohibited, following reports of widespread abuse at Abu Ghraib. Among those techniques banned by American commanders were sleep deprivation, hooding, stripping and the use of dogs to frighten detainees.

"In my opinion, a rapport-based interrogation that recognizes respect and dignity, and having very well-trained interrogators, is the basis by which you develop intelligence rapidly and increase the validity of that intelligence," General Miller said in a briefing for reporters. "It is very similar to what you would see civilian law enforcement authorities use."

The system described by General Miller appears to mark a change in the chaotic and often coercive environment that prevailed at Abu Ghraib prison in late 2003 and early 2004, when a number of American soldiers assaulted and humiliated Iraqi prisoners. In testimony and photographs that have since been made public, Iraqis were shown to have been severely and regularly abused at the prison, often for the stated purpose of persuading them to provide more information on the insurgency.

Those abuses, still being investigated by the military and other public agencies, have so far resulted in criminal charges against seven American soldiers. One of those charged has pleaded guilty.

con·cept: The NYTimes > Intelligence: General Says Less Coercion of Captives Yields Better Data