Army manual combats torture methods

WASHINGTON – A new Army manual bans torture and degrading treatment of prisoners, for the first time specifically mentioning forced nakedness, hooding and other infamous procedures used during the five-year-old fight against terrorism.

Delayed more than a year amid criticism of the Defense Department’s treatment of prisoners, the revised Army Field Manual released yesterday updates a 1992 version.

It also explicitly bans beating prisoners, sexually humiliating them, threatening them with dogs, depriving them of food or water, performing mock executions, shocking them with electricity, burning them, causing other pain and a technique called “water boarding” that simulates drowning, said Lt. Gen. John Kimmons, Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence .

Officials said the revisions are based on lessons learned since the U.S. began taking prisoners after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Release of the manual came amid a flurry of announcements about U.S. handling of prisoners, which has drawn criticism from Bush administration critics as well as domestic and international allies.

The Pentagon also announced an overall policy statement on prisoner operations. President Bush acknowledged the existence of previously secret CIA prisons around the world where terrorist suspects have been held and interrogated. He said 14 such al-Qaida leaders had been transferred to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay and will be brought to trial.

Human rights groups and some nations have urged the Bush administration to close that prison almost since it opened in 2002 with prisoners from the campaign against al-Qaida in Afghanistan. Scrutiny of U.S. treatment of prisoners reached to a new level in 2004 with the release of photos showing U.S. troops beating, intimidating and sexually abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq – and then again with news of the secret facilities.

Though defense officials earlier this year debated writing a classified section of the manual to keep some interrogation procedures a secret from potential enemies, Kimmons said yesterday that there is no secret section.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has said from the start of the fight against terrorism that prisoners are treated humanely and in a manner “consistent with Geneva Conventions.”

But Bush decided shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks that since it was not a conventional war, “unlawful enemy combatants” captured in the fight against al-Qaida would not be considered POWs and thus would not be afforded the protections of the convention.