SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Videotapes capturing the actions of a U.S. squad assigned to subdue disobedient prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (search), could play a role as American lawmakers look into complaints of abuse.
A number of tapes were being held at the Pentagon on Friday while the military considered what will become of them, defense officials said.
Some 600 men, many captured on the battlefields of Afghanistan, are being held on suspicion of links to the Al Qaeda (search) terror network or Afghanistan's ousted Taliban rulers. Officials said some have provided useful intelligence while others have not.
A spokesman at the base, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Robert Mulac, said Friday that "there are no beatings on the tapes" and that the squad actually was known as the "Initial Response Force."
It remains unclear what the tapes show, but Mulac said the squad was dispatched in rare circumstances to deal with misbehaving inmates. For instance, he said, the team could be ordered to move a detainee to another cellblock if he threw a cup of urine at guards.
Last week two released British detainees, Shafiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal, complained in a letter to U.S. officials that interrogators forced prisoners to strip and used loud music, strobe lights and dogs to extract confessions.
Mulac called their claims "blatant lies," saying squad members were trained to settle confrontations without force and use only "minimal force" if necessary.
Another released British prisoner, 26-year-old Terek Dergoul, told The Observer newspaper of London last week that he was "pepper-sprayed" by a squad that "forced my head into the toilet pan and flushed."
The U.S. military has denied any major instances of abuse at Guantanamo.
Responding to the outcry over photos showing abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld sent the Navy's inspector general, Vice Adm. Albert T. Church, to Guantanamo earlier this month for a review.
Church said he found no major problems, though there were eight instances of "minor infractions involving contact." In one case, he said a prison guard punched a detainee who had bitten him.
Following complaints of abuse, two guards have been demoted in rank and a third was acquitted in a court martial, officials have said.
Church watched some tapes during his visit and took examples back with him, Mulac said.
The videotapes are "going to be the best evidence on whether Guantanamo was another Abu Ghraib," said Michael Ratner, a lawyer who represents some detainees and heads the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights.