Levin: Punishment Question Next In Torture Probe Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is calling for an independent panel to determine whether top officials who authorized the use of harsh interrogation tactics should be punished for doing so.

Levin: Punishment Question Next In Torture Probe

Levin: Punishment Question Next In Torture Probe

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Donald Rumsfeld Responds

Statement on the Levin Report on Detainees

Statement by Keith Urbahn, Special Assistant

Office of Donald Rumsfeld

"It's regrettable that Senator Levin has decided to use the committee's time and the taxpayer's dollars to make unfounded allegations against those who have served our nation. The twelve non-partisan investigations that have been conducted in recent years do not support his partisan point of view. The false narrative he has been pursuing for some years is well known and inconsistent with the preponderance of the facts."

"Because of the irresponsible charges by a few individuals in positions of responsibility, millions of people around the world have been led to believe that the Department of Defense condoned torture and abuse. Those false allegations have made the task of the hundreds of thousands of men and women serving in the United States military all the more difficult."

Some key facts:

In 2001, both President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld directed that DoD detainees were to be given "humane treatment."

At no time did Secretary Rumsfeld approve any techniques that were not reviewed and approved by the proper legal authorities.

After the United States was attacked on September 11th, 2001, it was important to interrogate detainees to gain intelligence from key detainees to try to prevent further attacks and save American lives.

With the recommendation of the DoD General Counsel, Secretary Rumsfeld approved some techniques requested by the U.S. SOUTHCOM Combatant Commander in December 2002 for one "high value detainee that ultimately provided extremely valuable intelligence." (Schmidt Report)

In January 2003, when Secretary Rumsfeld first heard of some concerns about techniques used in the interrogation of one suspected terrorist at Guantanamo, he immediately withdrew the authorization for the interrogation and ordered a broad legal review by relevant individuals across the Department.

The result of that legal review ended up proposing 35 interrogation techniques, of which Secretary Rumsfeld authorized 24 in April 2003.

Any known abuse that took place by individuals in the Department of Defense was unauthorized. All allegations of abuse were investigated and properly prosecuted.

The Levin investigation has been going on for two years. His committee has access to over 200,000 pages of documents released by the Department of Defense.

To date there have been 12 major nonpartisan reports on detention operations. None of those reports concluded that there was any DoD policy or DoD officials that condoned or tolerated abuse.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Carl Levin (D-MI) on Wednesday called for an independent panel to determine whether top officials who authorized the use of harsh interrogation tactics should be punished for doing so.

"There's been no accountability at the higher levels" for those who enabled U.S. forces to use abusive tactics on prisoners in Guantanamo, Afghanistan and Iraq, Levin told NPR's Robert Siegel. "I really think it's important that the Justice Department make the decision as to who, if anybody, is prosecuted here, and we ought to keep that out of politics."

But, Levin added: "I can express my opinion that the legal opinions here were abominations."

Levin said he recommended to Attorney General Eric Holder that he appoint two or three independent people to make recommendations on whether to prosecute those responsible for the memos.

Levin's pronouncement comes after his committee released a 232-page report on Tuesday showing that top Bush administration officials approved abusive interrogation tactics developed by the military — a claim those officials have denied. The Obama administration recently released the 2002 memos approving the use of those tactics.

Levin said the use of harsh interrogation methods has hurt the military in a number of ways, by producing unreliable information and increasing the resistance of detainees to talk. He added that the infamous photos of torture used in Abu Ghraib prison have helped terrorist recruitment against U.S. forces.

Asked whether it is realistic to have expected opposition to the use of abusive interrogation in the days following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Levin said even at the time, there were many military legal authorities who spoke out against the use of such techniques.

"We had some very significant experts at the time who were arguing against this," he said.