C.I.A. Order on Detainees Shows Its Role Was Curbed

By DOUGLAS JEHL

New York Times

December 15, 2004

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 - Concerns about harsh techniques used by Special Operations forces prompted the Central Intelligence Agency last year to bar its officers in Iraq from taking part in military interrogations where prisoners were subjected to duress, intelligence officials said.

A classified directive issued by the agency's headquarters on Aug. 8, 2003, to all its personnel in Iraq advised that "if the military employed any type of techniques beyond questions and answers, we should not participate and should not be present," according to an account provided by a senior intelligence official.

In telling C.I.A. personnel to keep away from interrogations where military personnel were using harsh techniques, the directive was more restrictive than was previously known. Officials first disclosed the agency's order last September, saying that it had barred C.I.A. officers from interviewing the military's prisoners unless military officials were present.

The new disclosure is the latest sign of longstanding unease in intelligence circles about the military's interrogation techniques in Iraq. Complaints by the Defense Intelligence Agency about the rough treatment of prisoners by the same Special Operations units were made public last week in a document disclosed by the American Civil Liberties Union.

But the C.I.A. guidelines imposed for Iraq did not affect interrogations of prisoners in C.I.A. custody, including leaders of Al Qaeda being detained in secret locations around the world, officials said. Legal rulings by the Bush administration have granted the C.I.A. greater flexibility in conducting interrogations of suspected terrorists, including the use of harsh methods. The C.I.A. issued its directive on the military's prisoners in Iraq shortly after the agency's station in Baghdad complained in a July 16, 2003, cable about the use of noise, bright light and other techniques by Special Operations forces who were working in joint teams with C.I.A. personnel.

The agency also barred its employees last year from entering a secret interrogation facility in Baghdad used by Special Operations forces. The restrictive C.I.A. guidelines remain in effect, intelligence officials have said.

Army documents first obtained by The Denver Post show that an Iraqi prisoner was found dead in June 2003 at the classified interrogation facility used by Special Operations forces in Baghdad after being restrained in a chair for questioning and subjected to physical and psychological stress. An autopsy determined that the prisoner died of a "hard, fast blow" to the head, the newspaper reported last spring.

In recent interviews, intelligence officials have declined to say whether the C.I.A. complaints were related to that incident. But one intelligence official did say that the agency had become aware early in the campaign in Iraq, in June 2003, about "a significant incident of abuse involving military personnel of a detainee."

The joint military-intelligence teams have operated under various names in Afghanistan and Iraq, including Task Force 121 and Task Force 6-26. Their main focus has been to track down and capture leaders of Al Qaeda and members of Saddam Hussein's inner circle.

The Aug. 8, 2003, cable from the C.I.A.'s headquarters noted that all prisoners in Iraq were the responsibility of the military, and that while the C.I.A. might have an interest in questioning them, it should recognize that "we do not own, control or have custody of them," one intelligence official said.

Abu Ghraib near Baghdad, the site of the worst known prisoner abuses in Iraq, is run by American military forces.

The cable said that the C.I.A. should not suggest, condone or concur in any interrogation techniques beyond questions and answers with prisoners in military custody in Iraq, the intelligence official said.

It is not clear how the C.I.A. directive and the complaint a year later by the Defense Intelligence Agency have affected relations between those intelligence services and the Special Operations forces. The C.I.A. continues to take part in the joint military-intelligence task forces in Iraq, but it is unclear if it is taking part in interrogations, one senior government official said.