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WASHINGTON – The senior American commander in Iraq last year ordered interrogators to stop using humiliation techniques on Iraqi detainees without his permission, according to military intelligence officials who have seen the classified order.

Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez issued a memo late last year banning harsh interviewing tactics such as “Mutt-n-Jeff” approaches or any “pride-and-ego down” approaches.

“Mutt-n-Jeff” refers to a good-cop, bad-cop routine to pry information out of a detainee. And “ego down” involves deflating a defiant detainee whose pride is his armor against questioning.

“We’ve got humiliation tactics as interrogators, and to some extent you can use nudity to start breaking people down,” said one intelligence official who asked not to be identified.

“However, Gen. Sanchez had banned those types of approaches last year,” he added, “so those were never officially sanctioned for any interrogator in theater.”

Several military police are under criminal investigation for abusing detainees at the Abu Ghraib Confinement Facility near Baghdad. Alleged abuses include: arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them; forcing groups of naked male detainees to masturbate themselves while being photographed and videotaped; and sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick.

MPs are typically not trained to conduct interrogations. Their main job at such facilities is to escort prisoners and guard interrogators.

However, a separate investigation dealing with the role of military intelligence officials at the prisons was opened April 23.

The Sanchez memo suggests that U.S. military brass may have known about abuses at U.S. prisons long before an unidentified soldier came forward on Jan. 13 with charges of prisoner abuse, which led to a formal investigation which began on Jan. 31. The findings of the investigation were released in a classified report on March 3 by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba. The New Yorker magazine, which obtained a copy of the report, first revealed excerpts.

In the 53-page report, Taguba summarized: “Between October and December 2003, at the Abu Ghraib Confinement Facility, numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees.”

Months before Taguba’s probe, the Pentagon did a “top-level review” of its detention operations in Iraq. The review was done at the request of Sanchez, a top spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters Monday. The official, Larry Di Rita, did not disclose the earlier review’s findings.

Phone calls left with Di Rita seeking comment about the Sanchez memo were not immediately returned.

Sanchez assumed command last June. Around that time, an after-action review of army operations in Iraq had found that as much as 80 percent of Iraqi detainees held in some U.S. prisons around Baghdad were not enemy suspects but victims of circumstance. The internal army report, a copy of which was obtained by WorldNetDaily, also found many of the facilities to be overcrowded.

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