Thu 26 August, 2004 04:27
By Will Dunham
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An Army general has acknowledged for the first time that U.S. forces tortured Iraqis at the Abu Ghraib jail and his report said a colonel who headed the military intelligence unit at the prison could face criminal charges.
"It's a harsh word, and in some instances, unfortunately, I think it was appropriate here. There were a few instances where torture was being used," Army Major General George Fay told a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday on his investigation with Lt. Gen. Anthony Jones into the role of military intelligence personnel in the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, on the outskirts of Baghdad.
Pentagon leaders and Bush administration officials had previously steered clear of describing the physical abuse and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners as torture. Fay did not specify the actions he considered torture.
The investigators referred Col. Thomas Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade at Abu Ghraib, to Army authorities for possible disciplinary action, which could prompt criminal charges.
Four other Army officers, another 29 military intelligence soldiers, four military police soldiers and two medical personnel were also referred by investigators for possible charges. In addition, the names of six private contractors were sent to the Justice Department for possible legal action.
To date, only seven military police reservists who served at Abu Ghraib have been charged.
Photographs that surfaced in April showed U.S. soldiers posing, smiling and giving the thumbs-up sign as naked, male Iraqi prisoners were stacked in a pyramid or positioned to simulate sex acts with one another.
A prisoner in one photo was directed to stand on a box with his head hooded, and wires attached to his hands, and was told that if he fell off the box he would be electrocuted.
The 143-page Fay-Jones report describes an incident in which U.S. soldiers held a contest to scare teen-age detainees with guard dogs "in order to see who could make the detainees urinate and defecate first."
The report depicts the involvement of U.S. military intelligence officers and civilian contractors working with them in the abuse at Abu Ghraib, a former torture center under toppled President Saddam Hussein, as much greater than had been previously disclosed.
Earlier investigations have found a deeply antagonistic relationship between the military police, led by Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, and military intelligence soldiers, led by Pappas, at Abu Ghraib, where numerous prisoners were subjected to physical abuse and sexual humiliation.
The report said Pappas improperly authorized the use of guard dogs during interrogations, failed to take aggressive action against soldiers who violated U.S. rules and the Geneva Conventions, showed poor judgment and failed to put in place a system to detect and prevent abuses.
Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Jordan, Major David Price, Major Michael Thompson and Captain Carolyn Wood also could face criminal charges. Jordan directed the Abu Ghraib interrogation debriefing center. The report cited him for dereliction of duty during a chaotic night of prisoner abuse in November 2003.
The report described "misconduct ranging from inhumane to sadistic by a small group of morally corrupt soldiers and civilians," a lack of discipline by Pappas' military intelligence unit and "a failure or lack of leadership" by the military leadership in Iraq, then headed by Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez.
The report said 23 U.S. military intelligence soldiers, as well as four contractors working with them, were directly involved in 44 instances of prisoner abuse. These Americans either directly abused prisoners or "requested, encouraged, condoned or solicited military police personnel to abuse detainees," or violated rules on interrogations, it said.
The report also found U.S. forces improperly hid at least eight detainees from observers of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and investigators asked the Pentagon inspector general 's office and the CIA to look further into the issue of so-called ghost detainees.
The report came a day after a high-level panel headed by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger found that top civilian and military officials at the Pentagon bore indirect responsibility for the abuse.