Abuses at Prison Tied to Officers in Intelligence

By ERIC SCHMITT

The New York Times

August 26, 2004

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 - A high-level Army investigation has found that military intelligence soldiers played a major role in directing and carrying out the abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. The report undercut earlier contentions by military officials and the Bush administration that a handful of renegade military police guards were largely to blame.

The report, released at the Pentagon on Wednesday, recommended that the Army punish the top two military intelligence officers at the prison, Col. Thomas M. Pappas and Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, and three other intelligence officers involved in the interrogations at the jail, near Baghdad, saying they bore responsibility for what happened even though they were not directly involved in abusing prisoners.

The inquiry, by Maj. Gen. George R. Fay and Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Jones, also implicated 29 other military intelligence soldiers in at least 44 cases of abuse between July 2003 and February 2004. These soldiers could face disciplinary action ranging from criminal charges to administrative punishments, like reductions in pay and rank. Even lesser penalties can effectively end a military career.

While the involvement of intelligence soldiers, as well as civilian contractors, was reportedly significantly greater than previously disclosed, many of the allegations had been described before, sometimes in less detail.

The 171-page report chronicled a gruesome range of abuses, including one death, an alleged rape, numerous beatings and instances where prisoners were stripped naked and left for hours in dark, poorly ventilated cells that were stifling hot or freezing cold. Gen. Paul J. Kern, who supervised the work of General Fay and General Jones, spoke with disgust of a "game" in which dog handlers terrorized adolescent prisoners. [Excerpts, Page A10.]

"There were a few instances when torture was being used," General Fay told reporters at Pentagon news conference, in perhaps the harshest characterization of the abuses so far by military authorities.

While investigators said the mistreatment captured in the horrific photographs that first brought the abuses to light did not in most cases involve interrogations, the panel said it had uncovered other abuses that did occur during questioning, or were carried out by military police on orders from interrogators with the aim of extracting information.

The report blamed the abuses on a combination of factors, including a small group of "morally corrupt" soldiers and civilian contractors, poor leadership by commanding officers and a failure by military headquarters in Baghdad to recognize the looming disaster.

Coupled with the findings released on Tuesday by a four-member independent panel headed by James R. Schlesinger, a former defense secretary, the Army report reaffirms the suspicion of many critics that culpability extended far beyond a handful of low-level military police personnel, to include military intelligence soldiers in Iraq and up the chain of command in the Persian Gulf to the highest levels in Washington.

"When you put these reports together, the clear message is that the system failed in a widespread manner," said Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican on the Armed Services Committee.

Moreover, the reports offer revealing new details on the military's failure to prepare adequately for the postwar environment in Iraq, in this case underestimating the ferocity of an Iraqi insurgency that led to violence at Abu Ghraib.

"One of the consequences of not addressing the postwar challenges is that there were not enough troops in Iraq, and many of those were untrained," said Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican. The reports have renewed calls by some senior Democrats, including Senator John Kerry, for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign. The Schlesinger panel implicitly blamed Mr. Rumsfeld for contributing to a confusing set of interrogation polices, but its members said he should not resign.

On Wednesday, Mr. Kerry called on Mr. Rumsfeld to step down and urged President Bush to appoint an independent investigation to provide reforms. "It's not just the little person at the bottom who ought to pay the price of responsibility," Mr. Kerry said at a campaign appearance in a Philadelphia union hall.

Representative Martin Meehan, a Massachusetts Democrat who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, said: "The Fay-Jones report has further widened the circle of accountability. What is still missing is any sort of accountability in Washington for the policies and incompetence that gave rise to the abuses."

But senior Republicans have rushed to defend Mr. Rumsfeld and said his resignation would hand a victory to America's enemies.

"I do not find any evidence that Secretary Rumsfeld had actual knowledge of these horrific incidents in the prison system that were the direct result of lack of training, lack of supervision by the immediate command," Senator John W. Warner, a Virginia Republican who heads the Armed Services Committee, told reporters on Wednesday.

The report also chastised the top commander in Iraq at the time, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, and his deputy, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, for not having provided adequate oversight for the detention and interrogation operations at the prison.

"We did not find General Sanchez culpable but we found him responsible for the things that did or did not happen," Gen. Paul J. Kern, the senior officer responsible for issuing the report, told reporters.

In addition to the 29 military intelligence soldiers who are alleged either to have committed abuses themselves, ordered military police officers to mistreat detainees or witnessed misconduct but failed to report it, the inquiry found six civilian contractors were involved in abuse or failed to report it.

The report also stated that 11 military police soldiers - seven of whom have already been charged - were involved in abuses, and that two Army medics in Iraq failed to report misconduct they had witnessed. The report also states that military intelligence soldiers conspired to keep at least eight Iraqis detained by American forces hidden from the International Committee of the Red Cross, a violation of Geneva Conventions.

The report goes beyond any of the other military inquiries into the Abu Ghraib scandal released so far by concluding that military intelligence officers at the prison had a significant involvement in abusing prisoners. Some of the seven military police soldiers who have been charged with abuse have said they were acting at the direction of military intelligence personnel.

"It is clear from the reports that abuse occurred at Abu Ghraib and that abuse, in some cases, was directed, condoned or solicited by members of the 205th M.I. Brigade," the report said.

What General Kern called one of the most egregious abuses involved two Army dog handlers who used unmuzzled dogs in a sadistic game to frighten detained Iraqi teenagers to force the youths to urinate or defecate on themselves.

The report said abuses largely fell into two categories: intentional abuses of a violent or sexual nature, and those that occurred through the misinterpretation or misapplication of shifting procedures. By mid-October last year, interrogation policy in Iraq had changed three times in less than 30 days, the report found.

"Some soldiers behaved improperly because they were confused by their experiences and direction," said General Kern, noting that many interrogators, overwhelmed by their workload, "were feeling a lot of pressure to produce intelligence."

The report, which relied on some 9,000 documents and 170 interviews, is divided into two parts. General Fay examined the role of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, which oversaw interrogations at the prison in Tier 1A and 1B, where the security detainees were held.

This portion of the report examined in detail the 44 cases of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib that investigators found. In 16 of the cases, the report found that military intelligence soldiers solicited military police to carry out abuses, while in 11 cases the military intelligence soldiers were directly involved in the misconduct. Some soldiers were involved in more than one more case.

In some instances the two groups colluded, General Fay said, with one interrogator threatening to turn a prisoner over to a military police officer infamous for his beatings if the prisoner did not cooperate.

In his section, General Jones examined the role of senior intelligence officers and commanders above the brigade level, including General Sanchez. Together, the investigators found that 54 military police officers, military intelligence soldiers, medics and civilian contractors bore some degree of responsibility.

The report found that there was a blurring of interrogation techniques used at Guantánamo Bay and in Afghanistan that were applied improperly in Iraq; confusion with Central Intelligence Agency interrogators using different procedures; poorly trained civilian contractors, and a dire shortages of military police, interrogators and linguists.

Abusing detainees with dogs started almost immediately after the animals arrived at Abu Ghraib on Nov. 20, 2003. By then, the report said, prisoner abuse was in full swing, and dogs became just another device, the report said. The dogs were brought to Iraq on recommendation of Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, then head of detention operations at Guantánamo, who said they could be helpful to maintain order. But interrogators at Abu Ghraib said Colonel Pappas approved the use of dogs to exploit prisoners' fears.

Many interrogators and their superiors were poorly trained, the investigation found. "Most interrogator training that occurred at Abu Ghraib was on-the-job training," the report said.