SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
Need to create a login? Want to change your email address or password? Forgot your password?
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
As a result of Congressional demands, the Pentagon’s inspector general took a look at the way the Pentagon investigated mistreatment of detainees in its custody. The study was completed on August 25, 2006 and was classified “secret.” It has now been declassified and is available online.
This document is revealing on a number of points, but little about it is quite so revealing as how national security classifications have been wielded. There is a consistent pattern, namely passages have been classified either to avoid political embarrassment or to avoid documentation of official sanctioning of torture. Indeed, the major rationale for security classification is apparent enough: to insure that the document would not become public during the last weeks of a highly charged national election campaign.
Here are some key conclusions:
“Allegations of detainee abuse were not consistently reported,
investigated, or managed in an effective, systematic, and timely
“Reports of detainee abuse by special mission unit task force personnel
dated back to June 2003, but we believe it took the publicized abuse at
Abu Ghraib [in spring 2004]… to elevate the issue to the Flag Officer
“There are many well-documented reasons why detention and interrogation
operations were overwhelmed [including] … inconsistent training; a
critical shortage of skilled interrogators, translators, and guard
force personnel; and the external influence of special operations
forces and OGAs ["other government agencies," namely, the CIA].”
As is usually the case with Pentagon reports, the most interesting thing about this is what has not been considered. That would, of course, be the relationship between Donald Rumsfeld and his coterie to the process of abusing detainees. By commissioning not one, but more than a dozen separate inquiries, and by narrowly delimiting each investigation, Rumsfeld used his consummate diplomatic skills to avoid a comprehensive study of the problem and to avoid attracting any attention to himself. The other major tool he wielded was the security classification process, as investigators were repeatedly told that materials they sought were classified and were unavailable to them–particularly when the materials related to torture. Finally, as we see in this report, the Office of Secretary of Defense repeatedly intervened in the editorial process of the reports, pushing to neuter the executive summaries and conclusions.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm
Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
Number of mine-detecting monkeys erroneously reported to have been given to the United States by Morocco in March:
The Pacific trade winds are weakening as a result of global warming.
In the United States, legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act was advanced by the House Ways and Means Committee after 18 hours of deliberation, during which time the Republican members of Congress passed around candy.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."