March 16th, 2010
08:53 PM ET

Update: U.S. changing rule for holding detainees

[Update: 9:27 p.m.] Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said, “This is a new authority that was requested by General Petraeus and approved by Secretary Gates but we don't anticipate it becoming our new standard operating procedure.

"Most combatants we pick up on the battlefield will still be turned over to Afghan authorities within 96 hours; however, there may be some who require more time in our custody (up to 2 weeks) in order to determine precisely who they are, what they're up to and how much of a danger they pose.”

[Posted: 4:33 p.m.] WASHINGTON - A controversial policy that gives U.S. forces in Afghanistan four days to question detainees is being changed to give soldiers more time to interrogate the captives, Gen. David Petraeus said Tuesday.

Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee that American troops will now be able to hold detainees for up to 14 days before either releasing them or turning them over to the Afghan government. In some cases, longer detention will be an option, he said.

Currently, U.S. troops have 96 hours to question people picked up in the field before they must either release them or hand them over to Afghan authorities. The rule is designed to give the Afghan government control over detainees and avoid abuses.

A CNN investigation in February found that one out of every four detainees has been released since NATO began keeping statistics, and soldiers complained the policy could put them in danger.

Petraeus said in January the 96-hour rule was a "big concern." He said the change has been approved by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a critic of the policy, said he believes troops in the field "will appreciate that."

"I'm glad you've been given some relief, because the old rule just didn't make a lot of sense," said Graham, R-South Carolina. "And I think the new way forward does make sense."

The 96-hour policy has been in effect since December 2005. NATO does not track what happens to the detainees once they are let go.

Nearly half of all U.S. troops in Afghanistan operate under NATO rules and fight as the International Security Assistance Force. CNN confirmed Tuesday that the remainder are also being put under NATO, meaning the new 14-day policy will apply to everyone.

The decision to place the troops under NATO, which is led by an American supreme commander, "is for the purpose of unity of effort," NATO spokesman James Appathurai said. "That decision has been taken in principle, but the mechanics of it need to be worked out."

Asked about the United States changing the 96-hour rule, Appathurai said, "We don't have concerns about it. We understand the operational imperative behind it, but of course, it's also true we have to invest more as a group of nations in ensuring the Afghans handle detainees in an appropriate way."

U.S. Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, an International Security Assistance Force spokesman, confirmed about 30,000 troops are being transitioned to the assistance force and all will operate under the new rule.

Petraeus said in January that particularly when it comes to high-value targets, "96 hours is not enough if you are going to ensure that they stay behind bars."

"There has to be a process by which the individuals that need to be detained are detained, or that if they're handed off to Afghan officials, that there's confidence in the system working," he said.

Graham, an Air Force reserve colonel who visited Afghanistan last year, said in December the rule puts soldiers in danger.

"The one story I hear told over and over and over again, 'Sen. Graham, this policy makes no sense. It is putting our folks at risk for no higher purpose. It needs to change,'" Graham said. "So the level of frustration is now turning to anger, and quite frankly, here's what's going to start happening - we're going to take less prisoners. They're going to start shooting these folks."

CNN began examining the 96-hour rule with the case of Roger Hill, a former Army captain, who received a general discharge for his role in the questioning of 12 detainees. Those men, including one who was his trusted interpreter, had worked on his base in Afghanistan.

Hill was the U.S. commander in Wardak Province, in eastern Afghanistan, for much of 2008, and said he feared the enemy was tracking his every move. He suspected an inside threat.

"Out of a 90-man company, we had 30 wounded, to include two killed in action," he said. He said his headquarters sent a team to the base to detect possible spies. The team screened cell phone activity to find out which Afghan civilians working on the base were really working for the Taliban - and his
interpreter was one of them.

Angry and frustrated that the interpreter might be the one sabotaging missions, Hill detained all 12 men in a small building on the base. That's when the 96-hour rule went into effect.

Hill said the rule does not work, and many times dangerous suspects are released because there's not enough time to gather evidence. As the clock ticked toward the 96-hour NATO deadline, Hill made a decision that would cost him his military career.

"I decided that I needed to break protocol and interrogate them myself," he said. "I took three gentlemen outside, sat them down, walked away, and fired my weapon into the ground three times, hoping that the men inside, left to their own imagination, would think that they really needed to talk."

Hill walked back inside. "And sure enough, some of the detainees started to talk," he said.

What the detainees told him was enough to persuade the Afghans to take all 12 men into custody, including Hill's interpreter. Hill said he felt he had made the correct decision to protect his soldiers, but the Army charged him with detainee abuse, leading to his discharge from the military.

The 12 men were released, despite the confession, according to Army investigators. No one knows where they are now and what's they're doing.

soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Martin

    Sid's funny comment made my morning. Starts out: "In my oipinion, anyone who is willing to take arms against the US troops and determined to inflict harm or kill our boys, should be shot and killed on the spot."

    Then ends with "We are not fighting an army, we are fighting a gang of thugs and murderers and merciless cowards who do not value life like we Americans do"

    BELIEVE THAT I RESPECT ALL LIFE, OR I WILL KILL YOU!

    lol :)

    March 23, 2010 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
  2. JC

    You can do a decent job of water-boarding in three days, but it all seems a bit rushed. Likewise, the problem with four days is that it really just kind of establishes a pattern, wherein the subjects can look forward to their water-boarding at a certain time; say, perhaps, right after lunch. With only four days, you can really only do what is expedient; there's no time for imagination or creativity. Individual initiative is wasted with only four days. It's a lot easier when you can vary the periods of darkness and light, change prisoner's mealtimes randomly, and isolate them from all sound or input from the outside world. Mix it up a bit, you know: pull out all the stops and really do it right. Come to think of it, thirty days sounds a lot better than fourteen.

    March 22, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. woods999

    I support what Army captain Roger Hill did. I do not support some more extreme physical torture, but to me this not Torture. I wonder what is the current situation of Roger Hill. If he is struggling in this economy I would be willing to show my support of his actions by sending him a donation.

    March 22, 2010 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Dave Chism

    As a 20+yr/military member, I concur with Capts efforts for information gathering. Sorry to say but we must start using brutal force against these bin-laden killers, Because our efforts will be fugal losing good lifes in a peaceful no win situation. My 02/Sgt

    March 22, 2010 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
  5. gk

    coward

    March 22, 2010 at 6:49 am | Report abuse |
  6. Insan Mukmin

    Long periods of detention without trial is also used in Burma, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Sudan to frighten their people into submission.

    March 21, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Insan Mukmin

    The longer a person is detained, the more likely torture will be used in interrogation because the long detention will allow torture wounds to heal.

    March 21, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Sternberg

    The Geneva Convention says they will be "held for the duration".
    Why are we ever letting them go to re-target our soldiers?

    March 21, 2010 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  9. DaveC

    A waste of time, money, and lives. We have played right into Bin Laden's hands. He wants us to expend our money so as to weaken us.

    I bet old Bin Laden chuckles to himself we he thinks about our response to 911. 100 years from now our wrong response will be cited as the beginning of the end for US domination.

    March 21, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  10. Robert Tindell

    It just goes to show you how weak liberals are. They always make the perpetator the victim. Those poor terrorists who infiltrated the Army base and gave Top Secret information to the enemy. That probably got some soldiers killed. Should they have received counselling? Should they have been given a government grant to open up a business to get them to do something productive after they conspired to murder our troops? What exactly do Liberals believe besides late term abortions where you can hear the baby crying as it is cut up? Liberals have no idea how to fight besides sueing. I llke to see the professors at the liberal colleges go over to Afghanistan and risk there lives implementing their plans with nothing but other weak liberals to defend them. Of course they won't go over there, because they are just cowards hiding in a university. Afraid to do anything, but spew their flawed philosophies to students and fail any student who can actually think for themselves. Bulliets stop terrorists and fear of the unknown makes them talk. If terrorizing a terrorist saves one life. All I can say is Red is Positive and Black is negative, and don't forget to wet his balls. I hope one day the victims will be the victims instead of the terrorists, but now it is only in the Red States as in the Blue States child molesters get probaton and counselling and register as transients so they can be free to moleste kids. Maybe this will work in Afghanistan?

    March 21, 2010 at 3:09 am | Report abuse |
  11. Bill

    Well i certainly have no clue about interrogating possible criminals, but Hill knew the policy. Whether it was brave or malicious in the end they were freed so technically it wasn't the right call. I guess we'll see if the 4 day rule really was the problem now.

    March 20, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. R W Gould USAF Retired

    Number 2 above
    Dr. Randall Norris PHD. " I'm ashamed to be an American."
    As well you should be, What Military did you serve in? You shouldn't be living or working in this country, your talking thorugh your rectum.

    March 20, 2010 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. E.Q.

    I have a son in the army stationed at Wardark, Province and he needs a good leader to follow. If Capt. Hill's thought that was the best way to protect his soldiers, then he did the right thing. As a mother, I want my son safe and home soon. I love USA, but as much as I love it, we have to understand with what we are dealing with and how the Americans are feeling about this war. These Afghanistan don't care about life, but we do. So thank you Capt. Hill's for doing what you thought was right. God Bless You and I hope they will review your case and return you to your military career.

    March 20, 2010 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jimmy

    Whether right or wrong, Captain Hill went down the road that guaranteed that his men were protected. It is not as if he deliberately intended on this being the climax of his service to his company. He did not foresee his chain of command abandoning him and his men in exchange for a petty opportunity to save and improve their careers. Where are the officers that looked over Captain Hill and his Company? How come we are not reading about their personal and professional plights? Could it be, because like most of the poorly bred field grade officers in the Army today, that they threw Captain Hill under the bus? This is what happens when an undermanned Army promotes officers to their highest levels of incompetence. I believe that I read somewhere that Captain Hill's Battalion Commander, while receiving calls and messages about the detainees, was sleeping with one of his Company Commander's. That while Captain Hill's Company was trying to sleep through the indirect fire attacks, that some of the other officers in the Battalion were watching Superbad and smoking cigars. I cannot wait to read about this in the Army Times or something better. What is the statute of limitations on charging officers with dereliction of duty? Does anyone know?

    March 20, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Richard

    It takes time to develop intelligence, and some information can be learned only after several days, only post if you actually KNOW what you are talking about

    March 19, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  16. dj

    Hill did the right thing. He didn't physically harm anyone, gets valueable information out of it which could have saved the lives of his men....and yet....it ends his career and they let the bad guys go anyway. Yeah. That system rocks.

    March 19, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  17. bally

    The US is supposedly in Afghanistan to defeat Al Queda. Credible reports indicate there are very few Al Queda there, that they have fled to the four corners of the Earth. The taliban, while a very unsavory, fanatical bunch, and a group armed by the US when they fought the Soviets, are interested in developing and maintaining an Islamic state not in attacking the US. The Kabul government is corrupt to the core with relatives of top government officials running the opium business and taking US government money and paying tribute to the Taliban to not attack US convoys carrying supplies and troops to outposts. This is not a sustainable situation. American foreign policy should be, in my view, to make secure or impotent Pakistani nuclear weapons and get out of this corrupt hellhole of Afghanistan as soon as the safety of American troops can be practically guarnteed. There should not be one more American life lost or injured in this quaqmire. This effort has little or nothing to do with providing security for the United States.

    March 19, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Joe

    Frances,
    Please don't put Roger Hill and Mike Behenna into the same category. One planned out and murdered a detainee without solid evidence linking them to insurgents, tried to cover it up, and lied about it. The other scared a few by shooting into the ground.

    March 19, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  19. TuTone

    "Ashamed to be an American", we do not force you to be an American, other countries do allow people to apply for citizenship, and relocate there. Our General, our Military try to do the best job as possible with the laws created by people we elect. If the General has crappy laws to do his job, then it means YOU AND I FAILED FIRST, not them, they never fail, they are heroes that are just signing up to do a job so we dont have to, and nothing more.

    March 19, 2010 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  20. Chuck

    While it's all good to "play by the rules"" and take the moral high-ground, I don't care how good your army is, how advanced your technology and intel is, or how many people you put on the ground; you are NOT going to beat an enemy that does not play by the same rules. Have we forgotten Vietnam so quickly?

    March 19, 2010 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
  21. Kenneth

    What would you know about interrigation Asher? Its not the person your interogating that spills the beans, its the person who knows he is next. You do not take even that person at his word, you cross reference stories, check for innaccuracies, look for elements you can confirm, etc. Terror, interogate.....fight fire with fire. If they want to use terror on us why can we not use interogation techniques? We should be using stress positions, sleep deprivation, tempratue extremes, isolation, casual conversation, manipulation of the preception of reality, phobias, waterboardikng, etc. We are not talking about law abiding uniformed soldiers of an opposing army in some other nation. We are not talking about American citizens. We are talking about criminals. People who murder not only our troops but their own people. These techniques should only be used on people who have both been found guilty in a trial. Nothing long an drawn out, intelligence still needs to be actionable but their still needs to be a process. Someone needs to sign off on it and take responsibility. Have you people seen what it is these people do to Americans they capture? They are proud of it, the are proud of Sep 11th, they would do it agin if they could, they laugh at you. Thank you Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale for having the courage to stand up for your men and risk your honor and military career. He should be punished, he didn't follow rules. It makes his sacrifice have meaning. It it was easy everyone would do it.

    March 18, 2010 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Asher

    Torture is illegitimate for the same reason Capt Hill's technique is illegitimate. They're unreliable at gathering information. The moment those captives (reasonably) believed that they were being led out one at a time for execution, each began saying whatever he thought would keep himself alive a little longer, regardless of its truth.

    It's good the rules are being improved, but bad rules don't excuse sloppy interrogation techniques.

    March 18, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
  23. Eric

    As a former US Army soldier, its good to see that there are still good leaders in our military who put the soldiers they lead above their own well being. If I was in the same position I would have done the same thing! Interogation does not mean torture, the media has done a great job of making it sound like it is.

    Stop following the fold of media, think outside the box.

    March 18, 2010 at 11:28 am | Report abuse |
  24. nick

    torture is a perfectly legitimate tactic to extract information from the enemy. If you disagree then perhaps we shouldnt even shoot them in battle and ask them politely to stop.

    March 18, 2010 at 10:14 am | Report abuse |
  25. R.H.Saar

    Unconscionable is the word that comes to mind.

    I'm tired of being the "Good Guy" having to live up to standards that only we do.

    I don't think what the Captain did was beyond the pale. Only the ACLU might take issue with his actions.

    Myself I would commend him for his wisdom.

    March 18, 2010 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  26. Monte

    Dr. Norris .. we are ashamed of Americans like you also. There is a REAL world outside of that cocoon of liberalism you are wrapped up in.

    March 18, 2010 at 5:01 am | Report abuse |
  27. Tony

    Dr. Randall Norris, PhD,

    If you are ashamed to be an American, Please be kind enough to provide your services in Afghanistan and Iraq. I know, then, you will be proud of the American Soldiers, Sailors, Airman, and Marines that would be protecting you on a 24 hour basis, because the people that would be providing medical services during the day would gladly kill you later that night. You probably have a fine income that the US system of capatilism enables, but are unwilling to walk away from all that money "because you are so ashamed". Hypocratic oath... ... INDEED!.

    March 18, 2010 at 3:00 am | Report abuse |
  28. Don

    "Hill was the U.S. commander in Wardak Province, in eastern Afghanistan, for much of 2008, and said he feared the enemy was tracking his every move. He suspected an inside threat.

    "Out of a 90-man company, we had 30 wounded, to include two killed in action," he said. He said his headquarters sent a team to the base to detect possible spies.

    I'm sure that despite Dr. Randall Norris, Ph.D.callous comments towards a 33% casualty rate resulting from spies that Hill identfied the Marines will still protect his America. If he is so ashamed there are plenty of other opportunities around the world where he could take himself to, the sooner the better.

    March 18, 2010 at 12:49 am | Report abuse |
  29. Bill

    "The 12 men were released, despite the confession, according to Army investigators. No one knows where they are now and what's they're doing."

    Let me enlighten those of you who don't know where they are...they are plotting, planning and killing American military personnel.

    CAPT Hill, thank you for your sacrifice before this incident and thank you for the sacrifice of your career. There is no statistic for it but I am sure countless numbers of our boys are still living because you chose life over career. As an old ground grunt I would of been honored to serve under an officer of such high caliber. To me your actions were of the highest example as to how an officer should look after his men.

    March 17, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Dan Lafayette,IN

    I don't understand this rule at all. If we want to win this war why are we letting those who have been captured go? It seems that those that are let go will be back to fight us again. What happened to prisoners of war being held in prison until the war is over. I know that this is not a conventional war but to let prisoners of war go does not make any sense!

    March 17, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
  31. Tim Sumner

    CPT Hill did not "fear" that the enemy was tracking their every move; he had electronic proof that they were tracking them and his troops were getting killed or wounded because of it.

    March 17, 2010 at 4:32 am | Report abuse |
  32. Sid

    sorry I meant "opinion"

    March 17, 2010 at 2:20 am | Report abuse |
  33. Sid

    In my oipinion, anyone who is willing to take arms against the US troops and determined to inflict harm or kill our boys, should be shot and killed on the spot. This will keep our troops safer by not having these criminals back on the street after 14 days of detention, if released (not to mention it will save the tax payers money spent on these interrogations) We are not fighting an army, we are fighting a gang of thugs and murderers and merciless cowards who do not value life like we Americans do.

    Gathering info about our hidden enemy is good but to a point. We should not let these thugs take advantage of our civilised rules of engagement and they need to know that they cannot get away that easy and Americans are not naive.

    March 17, 2010 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |
  34. Sharon M.

    Hill was discharged from the military because he broke protocol, and by doing so, very cleverly got 12 enemy prisoners to confess. I APPLAUD his actions. Then, the mililtary releases all of those prisoners, so they could go back to trying to kill our soldiers. It's just flat out stupid to imagine being able to win a war, when one side is adhering to strict rules, and the other side isn't.

    The extension to 14 days of detention in NATO custody was definitely a positive move. But, can Afghanistan officials be trusted to keep them detained? I don't know the answer to that question. But, if the government of Afghanistan was highly capable, the Taliban would never have been able to take over in the first place.

    March 17, 2010 at 1:00 am | Report abuse |
  35. David

    The guy fired 3 shots into the ground, got the detainees to talk and then he got discharged from the Army? Sounds like he should have been given a full time assignment as an interrogator unless this article is missing key details.

    March 17, 2010 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
  36. Chuck D

    This happens with the Afgan government collusion? And we are allies? Who the hell made that decision? WHY would we allow this? Is this a video game for them? Don't GET killed while you are killing. Get captured. Rest for 4 days, get some decent chow and go back to work after a long week-end? How could we prop up a government who doesn't penalize women & children killers?

    Again, I ask, WHO agreed to this?

    March 17, 2010 at 12:04 am | Report abuse |
  37. Frances

    It's great to hear that they are changing the law, but however, it needs to be changed for every situation not just some. Military Heros like that of Roger Hill and Michael BeHenna, need to be treated fairly, not treated like a criminal. Let them do their jobs. Mr. Hill didn't put the enemy at risk by shooting into the ground. He just merely scared the truth out of them. Does our government truly believe, if the shoe was on the other foot, the enemy would have treated them without hostility? We're at war! Maybe someone should remind our government of that fact. Our men and women of the U.S. Armed Services are over there as well as worldwide, protecting our country from the enemy. If they think they can do a better job, then send them over and bring our Hero's home! From the bottom of my heart, i send out out my thoughts and prayers to all our Military Hero's. An extra special prayer goes out to those in harms way. That includes my own Hero... My Son... not a day goes by that I think about just how this could be him or one of his Brothers in Arms. And it scares the daylights out of me.

    March 16, 2010 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  38. Dan

    Good for CAPT Hill. It is nice to see officers who are willing to risk their careers to protect their soldiers instead of risking their soldiers to protect their careers. The CAPT made the best choice in a bad situation and should be commended for his actions and integrity in protecting his troops. It is too bad that he was discharged for this, but I am sure a man of his apparent character and integrity will have no problems finding a job.

    March 16, 2010 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
  39. joseph

    universal id system is required for all the citizen, id w/c will id them where is the origin, nature of business trtades and skills, they can move around accodinf to thiier skill business skill and nature of life but it shoulkd justifialbel and verifialble, fr its origin and by a certified leader at thier origin, and it should be a notable one leader.

    March 16, 2010 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  40. Every sane human

    A man/woman should never lose his/her job for doing the right thing.

    March 16, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  41. b6542

    This war is LOST. Cannot win when you allow SPIES in your own ranks and are powerless to prevent it. Where is the deterrent. Great job libs...........

    March 16, 2010 at 10:34 pm | Report abuse |
  42. Brad from Kentucky

    I'm not entirely sure how that qualifies as abuse as he didn't actually shoot anyone. Was acting like he shot the three men considered mental abuse against the nine still inside? This seems a little screwy.

    March 16, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Report abuse |
  43. Dr. Randall Norris, Ph.D.

    I suppose it takes more than four days to do a really good job of water boarding, chocking, beating, attaching batteries to gonads and hang people up one pipes from their elbows. I'm ashamed to be an American.

    March 16, 2010 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
  44. Bob Kitchen

    More time to "Question" Detainess or more time to "Interrogate" them?

    March 16, 2010 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |