View Full Version : Officers testify interrogation guidelines were not clear in Iraq

01-21-06, 07:58 AM
Officers testify interrogation guidelines were not clear in Iraq
By: JON SARCHE - Associated Press

FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Three Army officers testified Friday in the trial of an interrogator accused of killing an Iraqi general that guidance on how to treat detainees was hard to come by in the first months of the war.

Capt. Jesse Falk, who supervised the defendant, Army Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jr., said he had never seen any documents outlining which interrogation techniques were approved and which were forbidden.

Retired intelligence officer James Reese, who also worked with Welshofer in Iraq, said he found guidelines only after searching for three months.

Welshofer could be sentenced to life in prison if convicted of killing Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush during a 2003 interrogation. A military medical examiner said Mowhoush suffocated after Welshofer placed him headfirst in a sleeping bag, bound him with electrical cord and sat on his chest.

Maj. Robert Short, who was in the same regiment as Welshofer, said Army commanders provided no guidance on interrogation techniques until December 2003 or later -- after Mowhoush died.

Defense attorney Frank Spinner has said Welshofer was using a technique approved by his commander and was under intense pressure to extract information to help stop an increasingly lethal Iraqi insurgency.

The defense rested Friday, the fifth day of the court-martial. Closing arguments were scheduled to begin Saturday.

Short and Lt. Col. Paul Calvert, who was operations officer for Welshofer's regiment in Iraq, said Mowhoush was believed to have crucial information about the Iraqi insurgency.

"We thought he was the guy everybody else kowtowed to," Short said. "I likened him to a mob boss from the '20s."

Calvert said intelligence about the insurgency was vital. "We lived and died off intelligence," he said.

When prosecutor Maj. Tiernan Dolan asked whether the need for intelligence could justify bad conduct, Calvert said: "Absolutely not. There is a standard."

Under cross-examination by prosecutors, Falk and Reese said they had not seen Welshofer interrogate anyone. Prosecutor Capt. Elana Matt said neither Falk nor Reese was an interrogator but instead assembled information gathered by others.

On Thursday, Welshofer testified that he received an e-mail from his unit's commanders saying there were no rules for interrogations because officials still had not determined how to classify detainees. He said the e-mail claimed officers were "tired of taking casualties and that the gloves were coming off."

A forensic pathologist testified Thursday that the technique Welshofer used was "inherently lethal."

Welshofer said his company commander approved his use of a sleeping bag, but he had not mentioned that he might straddle a detainee's chest, pour water over the detainee's face or cover the detainee's mouth while using the sleeping bag.