Apr. 20, 2005 – A series of e-mail messages between Army interrogators and intelligence officers in Iraq during 2003 -- in which soldiers advocated the use of brutal interrogation techniques such as low voltage electric shock and beatings with phone books -- appears to have helped spawn the widespread torture and abuse of Iraqi detainees by US forces.
The Washington Post reports that an August 2003 e-mail sent to US interrogators by Captain William Ponce, an officer at Army headquarters in Baghdad, solicited "wish lists" of harsh interrogation techniques that soldiers hoped to use on Iraqi detainees. With regard to Iraqis being held by US forces, Ponce wrote, "the gloves are coming off." The e-mail was forwarded to interrogators throughout Iraq, including those stationed at Abu Ghraib prison, and reportedly played a part in the development of interrogation rules approved by Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, then commander of US troops in Iraq.
Reponses to Ponceâ€™s solicitation included messages advocating the use of open-hand strikes and closed-fist strikes, as well as several "coercive" techniques such as striking detainees with phone books, low-voltage electrical torture and the use of stress positions to induce muscle fatigue.
Army documents, along with court records and files, suggest that interrogators used some of the techniques from the "wish lists" on at least two detainees during the fall of 2003. Interrogators stuffed one of the detainees, an Iraqi general, in a sleeping bag and sat on his chest causing him to suffocate. Statements made by the other detainee indicate that interrogators made him lie across folding chairs and beat the soles of his feet with a police baton. The detainee reportedly said interrogators later struck him in the back and the buttocks with the baton while he was in a painful stress position. Army documents cite Captain Ponceâ€™s August 2003 e-mail as a potential catalyst in both incidents.