Action Memo

DOD Memo

TO:            Secretary of Defense

FROM:       Commander, CENTCOM

SUBJECT:   Military Interrogation



Whether to suspend military interrogation.


The subject of interrogation has been widely debated, and continues to be debated throughout all levels of government and within the military.  While the situation at Abu Ghraib was the most widely publicized, there have been questions of irregularities at Camp Bucca, Camp Ashraf, and Camp Cropper (High Value Detainee (HVD) Complex).  The public debate over appropriate use of force and tactics has been active since 9/11, and the particular debate regarding interrogation has been vociferous since the April 2004 release of the Abu Ghraib photographs.  The United States is no closer to consensus on this issue, and the troops have still not been provided with sufficient guidance to both act honorably, and ensure their own protection from prosecution.

The damage done to America’s image on the world stage due to Abu Ghraib was significant, and well-documented.  Furthermore, the facts of this particular case have led to obvious questions about the treatment condoned in the U.S. prison system.  In the past, the military has targeted reservists whose civilian jobs closely mirrored their military duties.  However, in this case, it is clear the quality of leadership provided in the civilian world did not match the levels of professionalism demanded by the military, and significant training would have been required to make up the difference.

What has been less debated is the disparities in rights and responsibilities which led to the prosecution of selected enlisted personnel, while others involved in the case were not held accountable.  The presence of civilian contract interrogators, and military intelligence personnel has been confirmed, and unconfirmed reports place CIA personnel at the facility.  The debate about how far up the chain-of-command responsibility should lie is open to debate.  The question of equal punishment for equal participation has not been addressed.

Until the U.S. government decides on what methods are appropriate for use in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT), the lowest ranks of our military are being punished for this systematic lack of leadership.  This is morally unacceptable, and only exasperates the crisis in morale, recruitment, and retention.



World Stage The GWOT is an ongoing conflict on many fronts.  While the conditions which lead to terrorist recruitment promise to provide a perpetual stream of converts regardless of U.S. actions, America did itself no favors with Abu Ghraib.  Suspending interrogation would stop further incidents from hurting the battle for “hearts and minds”.

Reallocation of resources The efficiency of various types of interrogation to intelligence gathering is unlikely to be resolved.  Some of the most effective instances of interrogation have relied entirely on manipulation, rather than the use of force.  Interrogation almost always involves situations that make a cost-benefit analysis impractical.  The military has many missions where success is well-defined, and its resources might be better spent, allowing other agencies to assume this task.

Force the Debate The GWOT will continue for the foreseeable future, and provide the United States with uncomfortable questions which must be dealt with.  While the inefficiencies of democracy are a necessity for our way of life, the sacrifices due to those inefficiencies are, in this case, unacceptable.  With less than 8/10th of 1% of the American population serving in uniform, the self-interest and personal understanding which often drive democracy is not present.  The U.S. can not persecute its soldiers for issues it refuses to confront.  If the military suspends interrogation, the ramifications (both positive and negative) of not utilizing this information source may become more apparent.


Loss of intelligence Operational success often depends on timely intelligence.  The GWOT does not lend itself to the technological advances for which the U.S. intelligence community is famous.  While interrogation often does not provide actionable intelligence, significantly high payoffs, such as the capture of Saddam Hussein, have been credited to interrogation.

Loss of military control Discontinuing military interrogation is likely to simply shift interrogation to other agencies which lack sufficient resources, and ensure a significant time gap between collection and dissemination.  Filtering information to the troops already has several layers.  Adding more could result in casualties and mission failures.       


That you suspend military interrogations until such time as the U.S. government can provide clear direction and legal distinctions for American military personnel involved in these operations.



Approve                               Disapprove