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Interrogators Say Abuse Doesn’t Yield Info

May 16, 2004

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Some military interrogators say they never used, or even witnessed, the type of violence and sexual humiliation captured in photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. Such tactics aren’t necessary or even effective, they say.

Sgt. Ken Weichert interrogated hundreds of Iraqis to gather wartime intelligence, but says only once did he raise his voice to extract information.

``They would just tell us everything,″ said Weichert, 37, a counterintelligence officer for the California National Guard who returned from Iraq earlier this year. ``I never, ever had a problem trying to get information from Iraqis, even the high-ranking enemy.″

Weichert was one of nearly 100 members of the California National Guard’s 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion who gathered in San Francisco for an awards ceremony Saturday afternoon. Friends and family joined the officers, all of whom dressed in tan camouflage and combat boots.

Members of the battalion interrogated detainees and cultivated sources to gather information on the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein, top Baath Party officials, insurgents and terrorists. No members of the battalion worked at Abu Ghraib prison.

Military interrogators say torture and other physical abuse are not only inhumane, they produce unreliable results. Prisoners may tell interrogators what they want to hear, rather than the truth, just to stop the abuse.

Military intelligence officers receive extensive training in proper interrogation methods, soldiers say, including an emphasis on the humane treatment of prisoners and prohibitions against torture.

``They stressed that you have to safeguard the prisoner, move them out of combat areas and protect them,″ said Sgt. Wendy Chang, 31, who spent 16 weeks training as a military interrogator at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., before leaving for Iraq, where she worked at detention facilities in Kirkuk.

Seven soldiers face military charges related to the abuse and humiliation of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Some of the soldiers and their lawyers say military intelligence officials told military police assigned as guards to abuse the prisoners to make interrogations easier.

``It looks like the actions of immature kids that were pressured by higher command to get results,″ said Weichert, who runs a business that teaches wilderness survival.

Capt. Vic Artiga, who led 56 counterintelligence officers in a city about 40 miles north of Baghdad, said his unit’s interrogation methods followed the law.

``What I saw in those images was disgusting,″ said Artiga, 35, who normally works as a police officer in Redwood City, south of San Francisco. ``It’s not indicative of our training. It’s not indicative of our intent in that country. And it’s not representative of what Americans stand for.″

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