Archive for Thursday, August 26, 2004

Prison abuse scope widens

Report cites larger role of military intelligence

August 26, 2004


— A long-awaited U.S. Army report on the abuse of Iraqi prisoners has concluded that military intelligence and police soldiers in Iraq were chiefly responsible for 44 instances in which detainees were physically and sexually abused, including 16 in which mistreatment was carried out at the request of military intelligence personnel.

A large portion of the investigation was made public Wednesday, and a senior investigator acknowledged for the first time that acts of torture were used several times to extract information from Iraqi prisoners.

"This was clearly a deviation from everything that we have taught people on how to behave," said Gen. Paul Kern, who directed the investigation. "There were failures of leadership, of people seeing these things and not correcting them. There were failures of discipline."

The evidence that military intelligence personnel were involved in the Abu Ghraib prison abuses contradicts earlier assurances by military and top Pentagon officials that the mistreatment, much of it captured on photographs taken by guards, was limited to a small band of military police officers.

The report offers a detailed description of each act of abuse and those involved, depicting a much larger role played by 23 military intelligence personnel at the prison than has been previously disclosed. It also says that four private contractors who assisted the military and Central Intelligence Agency in prisoner interrogations also took part in the abusive behavior.

On at least 11 occasions, the report found, military intelligence personnel were directly involved in abuses.

One intelligence colonel has been referred for charges, and as many as four intelligence officers may also face charges, a Pentagon official said.

An additional six intelligence soldiers and two contractors failed to report acts of abuse, the report states. Two Army medical officers also were cited for failing to report known abuses.

Pentagon officials have never before described the actions at Abu Ghraib as torture. But Gen. George Fay, who also led the investigation, said, "There were a few instances when torture was being used."

The new report, which has been dubbed the "Kern Report," focused on the intelligence abuses at Abu Ghraib in general and the role of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade in particular. It is the latest in a series of reviews examining prisoner abuses in Iraq, Afghanistan and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where terrorism suspects are held.

Last spring, an investigation directed by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba examined the role of the military police who served as guards at Abu Ghraib. On Tuesday, a four-member panel appointed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued its findings on policy failures.

Headed by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, that study put the blame for abuse on a group of soldiers within Abu Ghraib, but also faulted the Pentagon and Rumsfeld's office for failing to set clear rules for prisoner interrogations in Iraq.

Last month, an Army inspector general's report likewise set the blame for prisoner mistreatment on guards within Abu Ghraib.

Yet another report on detention operations conducted by the U.S. Navy inspector general is expected next month.

Seven military police soldiers so far have been charged in the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Lawyers for several of them have claimed their clients were ordered by military intelligence officers to carry out the assaults, a claim apparently now bolstered by the Army report.

While focusing extensively on the acts and conditions inside Abu Ghraib, the Kern report also found that the commanders of the intelligence brigade working inside the prison bore responsibility for failing to address the mistreatment of detainees.

Kern said Col. Thomas Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade at the time, has been referred for charges by a military court. He declined to name the four other intelligence officers who also may face charges.

Kern said the investigation found no evidence that Pappas had ordered prisoner abuse, but that he should be held accountable as the brigade's top officer.

"He is a commander," Kern said. "And with a commander he is tasked with the responsibility for his people to conduct things in accordance with the laws and regulations."

The report also found fault with higher-level officers in Iraq for neglecting clear signs of troubles at Abu Ghraib, though none are likely to face charges.

In the case of Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the former commander of coalition forces in Iraq, and his deputy, Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, the investigators said they "failed to ensure proper staff oversight of detention and interrogation operations."

Sanchez issued confusing directives on the interrogation of prisoners, the report states, and he failed to put a single officer in charge of detainee operations, hindering the earlier detection of abuse.

But the report also offers explanations for why senior commanders sometimes ignored conditions at Abu Ghraib.

Sanchez, it notes, was busy transforming an invasion force into an occupying one in the summer and fall of 2003; his chief duties were rebuilding Iraq and combating a growing anti-American insurgency.

Kern, Fay and Gen. Anthony Jones, the third leader of the Army investigation, said they found no evidence that Sanchez or others up the chain of command ordered the abusive treatment of detainees.

"We did not find General Sanchez culpable, but we found him responsible for the things that did or did not happen," Kern said.

The Kern report shed new light on the CIA's use of Abu Ghraib, and the arrival of "Ghost detainees" -- prisoners brought to the prison but never counted as inmates, by the CIA or other U.S. intelligence units.

Those detainees, the report found, "were accepted from other agencies and services without proper in-processing, accountability and documentation." The report also notes that "the number of ghost detainees temporarily held at Abu Ghraib and the audit trail for personnel responsible for capturing, medically screening, safeguarding and properly interrogating the 'ghost detainees' cannot be determined."

One CIA detainee died while at Abu Ghraib, though the Kern report cites a military autopsy that found the man, whose body was placed on ice and photographed, died from injuries sustained during his arrest by Navy Seals and CIA operatives.

According to the Army investigation, the prisoner abuses began on Sept. 15, 2003, and lasted until Jan. 8, though the dates of several abuse incidents are unclear. The investigation involved 170 interviews -- including some with Iraqi detainees -- and the analysis of about 9,000 documents.

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