New York Times
September 10, 2004
WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 - Army jailers in Iraq, acting at the Central Intelligence Agency's request, kept dozens of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison and other detention facilities off official rosters to hide them from Red Cross inspectors, two senior Army generals said Thursday. The total is far more than had been previously reported.
An Army inquiry completed last month found eight documented cases of so-called ghost detainees, but two of the investigating generals said in testimony before two Congressional committees and interviews Thursday that depositions from military personnel who served at the prison indicated that the real total was many times a higher.
"The number is in the dozens, to perhaps up to 100," Gen. Paul J. Kern, the senior officer who oversaw the Army inquiry, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. Another investigator, Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, put the figure at "two dozen or so," but both officers said they could not give a precise number because no records were kept on most of the C.I.A. detainees.
Under the Geneva Conventions, the temporary failure to disclose the identities of prisoners to the Red Cross is permitted under an exemption for military necessity. But the Army generals on Thursday said they were certain that the practice used by the C.I.A. in Iraq went far beyond that.
The disclosure added to questions about the C.I.A.'s practices in Iraq, including why the agency took custody of certain Iraqi prisoners, what interrogation techniques it used and what became of the ghost detainees, including whether they were ever returned to military custody. To date, two cases have been made public in which prisoners in C.I.A. custody were removed from Iraq for a period of several months and held in detention centers outside the country.
Another question left unanswered on Thursday was why Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the military intelligence officer who oversaw interrogations at the prison, agreed to let C.I.A. officers use the prison to hide ghost detainees. General Kern said that when Colonel Pappas raised questions about the practice, a top military intelligence officer in Baghdad at the time, Col. Steven Boltz, encouraged him to cooperate with the C.I.A. because "everyone was all one team."
Still, General Kern said Colonel Pappas should have challenged the practice. "If I was instructed to hold a C.I.A. detainee in a U.S. Army facility that I owned, I would make sure that he abided by our rules, not someone else's rules," General Kern told the House Armed Services Committee. "If that didn't happen, I would have asked for a very clear explanation."
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has acknowledged that in one case, acting at the request of George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, he ordered military officials in Iraq last November to hold a man suspected of being a senior Iraqi terrorist at Camp Cropper, a high-level detention center, but not register him. That prisoner, sometimes called Triple-X, had initially been held at a secret site outside Iraq by the C.I.A., intelligence officials said, but was returned to the country after government lawyers concluded that as an Iraqi, he should be held inside the country.
Triple-X was later left unaccounted for several months within the military detention system inside Iraq, the Pentagon has acknowledged. At least one other prisoner in Iraq, a Syrian, was initially removed from the country and held on a Navy ship before being returned to Abu Ghraib last fall, military official have said. Intelligence officials have not said whether all of the prisoners held in Iraq by the C.I.A. were later handed over to military custody.
In his testimony Thursday, General Fay said C.I.A. officials in Baghdad and at the agency's headquarters in Langley, Va., three times refused his request for information , eventually telling him they were doing their own inquiry into the matter.
A C.I.A. spokesman, Mark Mansfield, declined to comment on the number of unregistered detainees. He did not dispute General Fay's statement, but said the agency was cooperating with military criminal investigators.
Military officials have said the C.I.A.'s practice of using Army-run prisons in Iraq to hide prisoners held for questioning violated military regulations and international law, and led to "a loss of accountability at the prison." Although C.I.A. interrogators were obliged to honor Army rules at the prison, they did not permit soldiers to sit in on their questioning and did not share the results of their interrogations with the most senior commanders in Iraq. The inspectors general of the Defense Department and C.I.A. are investigating the matter.
The new disclosures about unregistered prisoners drew angry criticism from Democrats and Republicans, and a promise from Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia and the committee chairman, to hold a separate hearing.
Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said, "The situation with C.I.A. and ghost soldiers is beginning to look like a bad movie."
On a day when both the House and Senate Armed Services committees held hearings on the scandal and the findings of the Army inquiry and an independent panel, lawmakers directed the military investigators to review their results to determine whether senior officers, including Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the top commander in Iraq at the time, and his senior aides, should be punished not just singled out for criticism.
Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, singled out the top lawyer in General Sanchez's command, Col. Marc Warren, for knowing about prisoner abuses witnessed by Red Cross inspectors and failing to report them to his boss for more than a month because he did not believe them.
"Why would all these people not follow Army regulations, not report violations to the Geneva Convention, wait months to inform commanders of vital information?" Senator Reed asked.
In testimony before the House panel, two former defense secretaries said that failures on the part of two of Mr. Rumsfeld's top deputies to properly oversee the development of interrogation policies for Iraq had contributed to the abuses.
The former secretaries, James R. Schlesinger and Harold Brown, both offered praise for Mr. Rumsfeld himself, saying that he had conducted himself responsibly and strongly reiterating past statements that he should not resign over the affair.
But both were more specific than in the past in identifying two under secretaries of defense, Douglas J. Feith and David S. C. Chu, and the Pentagon's general counsel, William J. Haynes, as having fallen short.
Mr. Brown, who served under President Jimmy Carter, also pointed a finger of blame beyond Mr. Rumsfeld to the "very top" of the Bush administration what he called "the responsibility for failing to plan for what actually happened after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein" in Iraq.
And while not calling for resignations, in his testimony before the House committee, Mr. Brown said judgments about the administration's conduct in Iraq, on Abu Ghraib and other matters, were now up to voters to make. "When it comes to overall performance, there's another way of dealing with it, and that's called an election," Mr. Brown said.
The House hearing was its first in four months on Abu Ghraib, and it showed that partisan tensions were still running high on the issue.
For the most part, Republicans, including Representative Duncan Hunter of California, the panel chairman, sought to minimize the significance of the abuses, saying they reflected misconduct by a tiny minority of American soldiers.
By contrast, the Democrats, including Representative Ike Skelton of Missouri, the top Democrat on the panel, said that the Bush administration had been wrong, after the abuses became public in April, to portray them this way.
"We must not continue to call this the work of just a few bad apples," he said at the hearing.
But even some Republicans were scathing in their comments. "We had a gigantic failure of leadership - one that a year ago, I would have said was impossible to have in the United States Army," said Representative John Kline, Republican of Minnesota, who is a retired Marine colonel.