Col. Lawrence Wilkerson told a House panel he thought leadership failed "at the highest levels of the Pentagon, in the vice president's office and perhaps even in the Oval Office," The Washington Times reported Thursday.
Wilkerson's testimony followed a report by a human rights group that detainees in U.S. military facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba., Iraq and Afghanistan were subjected to beatings and other aggressive interrogation techniques.
The techniques apparently were authorized in a Feb. 7, 2002, order signed by President George Bush that said al-Qaida and Taliban detainees were not to be considered prisoners of war, meaning they would not be covered by the Geneva Convention's protection against torture, the Times said.
Douglas Feith, a government attorney thought to have offered legal advice on the interrogation techniques, notified the committee he would not be at the Wednesday hearing.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, said Feith's failure to appear showed a "fundamental disrespect for Congress and the American people," adding that Feith would be compelled to testify later.