The new guidelines, issued Thursday by Gen Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, will also apply to Afghanistan.
The interrogation rules posted on the wall of Abu Ghraib prison had a list of techniques such as stress positions (being made to stand or squat in an uncomfortable stance for up to 45 minutes) and sensory deprivation (being hooded for up to three days), which could only be used with the personal approval of the commanding general.
Under the new rules, all those techniques, except isolation for longer than 30 days, are prohibited under any circumstances.
The new rules amount to a tacit admission that the approved interrogation techniques might have gone too far in permitting inhumane treatment prohibited by the Geneva Conventions.
None of the abuses seen in the notorious pictures from Abu Ghraib were ever on the list of approved procedures and according to the Pentagon were the work of a handful of low-ranking soldiers.
But Scott Horton, an expert in international human rights law, believes there is a connection. "Clearly these violations are linked directly to policies that came from the highest echelons of the Pentagon," Horton said.
In other developments in the prisoner abuse scandal:
In its most comprehensive outline to date of the methods approved for interrogators questioning Iraqis detained by the Americans, the Pentagon said Sanchez had approved 25 requests to isolate prisoners for interrogation since mid-October.
But he turned down requests to put prisoners into uncomfortable positions to get them to talk, officials said.
Senior military officials also insisted that all interrogation techniques that have been approved have been allowable under international law.
Techniques such as direct questioning without any physical contact still remain allowable without approval from high-level officers, said the officials, who are involved in the process of drafting and approving such rules in Iraq.
On Thursday, Sanchez told military intelligence officers that he would not approve any stressful techniques other than putting prisoners alone in cells or in segregated units with only a small number of other detainees.
Some Democrats in Congress and other critics have said the interrogation rules — first laid out in September after a visit to Iraq by the then-commander of the prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — amounted to a green light for abuse. Pentagon officials heatedly denied that, saying prisoners are always treated under the guidelines of the Geneva Conventions.
"That standard is being followed in Guantanamo and in Iraq," said Lawrence DiRita, the chief spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.
But some members of Congress and legal experts say some of the techniques discussed Friday are violations of the conventions, which are the core of the international law of war.
They cite language in the section of the Geneva Conventions that Pentagon officials agree applies to all detainees in Iraq. That language prohibits "physical or moral coercion" against prisoners, "in particular to obtain information from them or from third parties."
"It's obvious that some of the things we're talking about are coercion: putting people in stressful conditions, sleep deprivation for substantial periods of time, hooding," said lawyer and human rights expert Sidney S. Rosdeitcher. "Those things are plainly coercion."
The two military officials who briefed reporters anonymously included one who is a military lawyer. Both refused to answer questions about how the approved techniques comply with the Geneva Conventions.
The approved techniques generally involve interrogators trying to psychologically manipulate prisoners. They include approaches familiar to television police dramas: