No Comment — May 23, 2007, 9:20 am

Pentagon Does a Poor Job Investigating Detainee Abuse

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.

Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

No Comment March 28, 2014, 12:32 pm

Scott Horton Debates John Rizzo on Democracy Now!

On CIA secrecy, torture, and war-making powers

No Comment November 4, 2013, 5:17 pm

The Torture Doctors

An expert panel concludes that the Pentagon and the CIA ordered physicians to violate the Hippocratic Oath

No Comment August 12, 2013, 7:55 am

Obama’s Snowden Dilemma

How will the Obama Administration handle Edward Snowden’s case in the long term?

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $34.99

United States Canada



May 2014

50,000 Life Coaches Can’t Be Wrong

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Quinoa Quarrel

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

You Had to Be There

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Study in Sherlock

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content


Editor's Note

Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.

Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”

50,000 Life Coaches Can’t Be Wrong·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I was warned that there would likely be a lot of emotions coming out in the room.”
Illustration by Katherine Streeter
Dan Halpern’s “Citizen Walmart” (2012)·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“He’s taking on a heap of debt to scale up for Walmart, a heap of debt.”
Photograph by Thomas Allen
The Quinoa Quarrel·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Bolivia’s gene banks contain far more quinoa varieties than any other country’s, yet the Bolivians are dead set against sharing them.”
Photograph by Lisa M. Hamilton
You Had to Be There·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“He explained how sober Doug structured the bits and worked out the material’s logic; drunk Doug found the funny.”
Illustration by Andrew Zbihlyj

Ratio of husbands who say they fell in love with their spouse at first sight to wives who say this:


Mathematicians announced the discovery of the perfect method of cutting a cake.

Indian prime-ministerial contender Narendra Modi, who advertises his bachelorhood as a mark of his incorruptibility, confessed to having a wife.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!