Story 4 - Australian military lawyer's advice on interrogation techniques at Abu Ghraib

Australian soldier arm badge

4. Did Major O’Kane have clearance to provide the advice?

Major O’Kane sought clearance from his Australian superiors to provide the advice on interrogation. He was required to do this by an Australian Command and Control Directive.

Major O’Kane sought this clearance from Air Commodore Bentley, the Commander of the Australian Joint Task Force 633, and an unnamed individual. Major O’Kane received verbal approval on the condition that he limited his advice to the matter of interrogation of the nominated individual, not interrogation techniques more generally.

Contrary to this condition, Major O’Kane prepared advice that was broad reaching in nature because he reviewed the US Interrogation Manual. In addition, Major O’Kane’s memorandum is entitled: ‘ABU GHURAYB, Saddam Fedayeen Interrogation Facility (SFIF) Detainee Interrogation Policy’.

In later conversations, Mr Pezzullo disagreed with Major O’Kane’s view that the advice he provided was limited to one person. Mr Pezzullo said ‘Well sorry mate, not on my reading of it. It might be associated with your visit the day before about one person.’ However, IDFFT Report stated that the advice ‘related only to this one detainee’.

Did Major O’Kane exceed the parameters set by his superiors?