WASHINGTON (CNN) - An exhaustive Justice Department investigation has concluded the FBI did not participate in harsh interrogations of suspected terrorists detained in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, or Iraq, and generally reported such potentially illegal actions by the CIA and Defense Department.
In "only a few instances" did FBI agents use techniques that were not approved by FBI policies, according to the long-awaited report by the Justice Department's inspector general.
But the Inspector General Glenn Fine criticized the FBI for being slow in developing and distributing its interrogation policy to deployed FBI interrogators. Although the decision to avoid use of harsh techniques was made by the FBI in August 2002, it was not put in writing until 2004, along with the requirement that the harsh techniques used by other agencies should be reported to the FBI chain of command.
That 2002 decision by FBI Director Robert Mueller was that the FBI would adhere to the restrictions used in interrogations of detainees within the United States. Those techniques prohibit coercion, abuse or threats.
The FBI policy is based on the belief that building rapport with the prisoners is the best way to gain intelligence information, the report says.
The FBI issued a statement saying it is "gratified" by the report's findings, and Mueller promised the FBI will continue to use "rapport-building techniques in interviews" of detainees.
The inspector general's investigators interviewed virtually all of the more than 1,000 FBI employees who were deployed to one or more of the military zones between 2001 and 2004, the report says.
The vast majority of those agents continued to adhere to FBI policies and separated themselves from other agencies' interrogators who were using non-FBI-approved techniques, the report says.
However, the report lists "a few incidents" that "clearly would not be permissible for FBI agents to use in the United States," including isolating one prisoner from human contact and participating in an interrogation in which detainees were "given a 'drink of water' in a forceful and inappropriate manner."
It also lists incidents that, while not "clear violations of FBI policy," should have raised questions.
"A few FBI agents," it says, participated in a program of subjecting detainees to frequent cell relocations. In another case, two agents had joined in an interview in which a detainee was "short-chained" with hands and feet close together for several hours, during which the prisoner urinated on himself.
FBI agents reported non-FBI interrogators engaged primarily in sleep deprivation or sleep disruption techniques. That included use of bright lights, loud music and extreme temperatures "to keep detainees awake or otherwise wear down their resistance."
No FBI agents witnessed the abuses at Abu Ghraib that were photographed and became public. However, the report says, one FBI agent said he witnessed a single naked Abu Ghraib prisoner forced to roll between rows of cells. He did not report the incident because he did not know if it was an acceptable technique.
The report said FBI personnel did not witness the controversial waterboarding technique, which the CIA has confirmed was used on three prisoners.
The FBI disputed techniques used by the military and the CIA in questioning top terror suspects Abu Zubaydah and Yousef al-Qarani, he report says. In one instance, an agent objected to use of a snarling dog in the interrogation of al-Qarani.
Despite the criticism, at the conclusion of his three-year investigation, the inspector general offered the FBI modest praise.
"We believe that while the FBI could have provided clearer guidance earlier, and while the FBI could have pressed harder for resolution of concerns about detainee treatment by other agencies, the FBI should be credited for its conduct and professionalism in detainee interrogations in the military zones in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and in generally avoiding participation in detainee abuse," the report concludes.
The inspector general's investigation did nothing to quiet the FBI's chief critics. The American Civil Liberties Union said the FBI leaders had failed their obligation to "bring an end to the abuse and application of illegal interrogation methods."
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-New York, chairman of a subcommittee that oversees the FBI, criticized then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and his deputy, Larry Thompson. Nadler said FBI agents' objections to certain interrogation methods "fell on deaf ears."
"The admirable actions taken by those brave FBI agents willing to speak out were undermined by those who led them," he said.