More documents have come to light showing the systematic use of brutality and torture is approved and encouraged by the US chain of command. Those being held and subjected to this brutality are innocent civilians, arrested to put pressure on relatives suspected of being involved with the resistance to turn themselves in. This is in breach of international law.

Other documents released Monday by the Department of Defense in response to a Freedom of Information Act request suggest that senior Army commanders encouraged interrogators to torture Iraqi detainees who had not yet been “broken” during questioning.

An Army investigation into the beating of the detainee found that an American officer had solicited “wish lists” of permissible interrogation tactics from US troops working at Abu Ghraib. The ACLU also obtained and released to the public the results of that investigation. In August 2003 — one month before the beating described by the sergeant — a Baghdad headquarters officer, Captain William Ponce, sent an email to interrogators in Iraq. In that message, he asked interrogation staff what techniques they thought would be more effective at “breaking” Iraqi detainees. “The gloves are coming off,” Ponce wrote, “we want these individuals broken.”

The email was forwarded to interrogators throughout Iraq, including those at the Staff Sergeant’s facility and others stationed at Abu Ghraib prison. Reponses to Ponce’s solicitation included a message arguing that, unlike America’s enemies during the Cold War, “today’s enemy” only understands “force, not psychological mind games or incentives.”

Another response included a document titled, “Alternative Interrogation Techniques,” which listed the use of open-hand strikes to the face and midsection and pressure point manipulation to cause “acute temporary pain.” The list also included several “coercive” techniques such as “closed-fist strikes,” hitting detainees with phone books, low-voltage electrical torture and the use of stress positions to induce muscle fatigue.

ACLU and Human Rights First have filed a lawsuit seeking to hold Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others senior officials accountable for the abuse of detainees.