WASHINGTON -- Thrown on the defensive by abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, the Pentagon has issued a broad new directive mandating that detainees be treated humanely and has banned the use of dogs to intimidate or harass suspects.
The directive pulls together for the first time all of the Defense Department's existing policies and memos covering the interrogation of detainees captured in the war against terrorism. It comes as Congress is considering a ban on inhumane treatment of US prisoners and Democrats have launched an effort to create a commission to investigate abuse.
While the policy maps out broad requirements for humane treatment and for reporting violations, it is just the first step in the development of a new Army manual that would detail more precisely which interrogation techniques are acceptable.
The directive says that ''acts of physical or mental torture are prohibited" and directs that any violations be reported, investigated, and punished when appropriate.
But the only specific prohibition in the directive says that dogs used by any government agency ''shall not be used as part of an interrogation approach or to harass, intimidate threaten or coerce a detainee for interrogation purposes."
Investigations into detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib facility in Iraq found that unmuzzled dogs were used to intimidate inmates.
The new policy, a product of about 11 months of work, governs the interrogation of any detainee under Defense Department control. It leaves open the possibility that prisoners in department facilities, such as Guantanamo Bay or Abu Ghraib, could at times be considered under the control of another agency -- such as the Central Intelligence Agency -- and therefore would not be subject to the directive's policies.
The Pentagon also expects to release another policy soon on the broader treatment of detainees, including requirements for holding, transferring and releasing them.
That would address an aspect of Arizona Republican Senator John McCain's proposed amendment, which would ban degrading and inhuman treatment of prisoners.
The Army manual is expected to be released soon, but it is likely to speak in somewhat general terms. The most specific guidelines on interrogation techniques will be included in a classified document.