Published January 13, 2015
Military lawyers on Thursday elaborated for a Senate panel how they arrived at the decision that "aggressive" tactics on terror detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were humiliating and degrading, but not illegal.
Top military legal advisers told the Senate Armed Services Committee (search) that they argued against the use of some interrogation techniques but were overruled.
Click in the box to the right to watch a report by FOX News' Major Garrett.
"We did express oppositon to certain things that were being proposed. Other things we did not, and I believe that our opposition was accepted in some cases and maybe not all in all cases," said Maj. Gen. Jack Rives, a lawyer for the U.S. Air Force (search).
The military lawyers said detainees at Guantanamo Bay were not covered by rights accorded prisoners under the Geneva Conventions, because they fought for the Taliban or Al Qaeda, neither of which accepted or applied Geneva Conventions, or fell under the definition of regular military forces.
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (search), defended practices at Guantanamo, arguing that detainees are dangerous and have provided valuable intelligence in the War on Terror.
"You've got folks that are very, very bad — crimes against civilization, crimes against humanity, would kill your sister or brother or grandchild in a heartbeat, they don't care," Myers said.
Even so, senators rejected the idea that Guantanamo detainees aren't covered by the Geneva Conventions.
"I find that enormously troublesome myself, why we have a dual standard," said Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.
Kennedy was referring to Geneva Convention standards that applied at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, but not at Guantanamo Bay. Similar tactics such as sleep deprivation, menacing detainees with dogs and tormenting them in sexually suggestive ways were used in limited cases in both facilities, but were not authorized at Abu Ghraib.
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain (search), who was subjected to torture for five and a half years while in captivity in a North Vietnamese prison, said these techniques endanger U.S. fighting forces.
"What happens next time when a conflict with an American not in a uniform on some kind of clandestine operation — such as our people who were in Afhganistan in civilian clothes — is captured? What kind of protections do you think that that American service man or woman is going to get?" McCain asked.
Several lawmakers have recently visited the Camp Delta prison at Guantanamo and have expressed support for keeping the facility open, but lawmakers on Thursday said Congress must accept some of the blame for failing to draft a new law on processing enemy combatants
"The Congress has been AWOL here. We've criticized and we've appaulded but we've been absent when it comes to designing policies," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who also is a lawyer for the Reserves.
"It seems to me Congress has been derelict, derelict in not meeting it's responsibilites," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.
The military's top lawyers said they doubted whether Congress could write a law covering the handling of military detainees that would satisfy federal courts now reviewing various detainee appeals.
"Regardless of what happens, we're going to stay in litigation. I don't know that that's a panacea," said Daniel J. Dell’Orto, principal deputy general counsel for the Department of Defense.
Kennedy has been one of Congress' most aggressive critics of Guantanamo Bay (search). Late Thursday, the senator's office announced Kennedy will visit Guantanamo on Friday, returning in the evening.