- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 26, 2004

A pending Army inspector general’s report has found that doctrines guiding the detention and interrogation of prisoners in the war on terror are Cold War relics that must be updated.

A Pentagon official, who asked not to be named, said Lt. Gen. Paul T. Mikolashek is in the final stages of writing his report, which is an investigation of detainee operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The official said one finding is that Army doctrines guiding military police and intelligence officers on how to treat and interrogate prisoners have not been updated for the war on terror.

The doctrines are basically leftovers from the Cold War, when scenarios anticipated holding enemy military personnel deemed prisoners of war who were specifically covered by the Geneva Conventions.

In this global war, the Army is holding different types of prisoners who receive different types of treatment and may not specifically be covered by the Geneva Conventions, or carry POW status.

The mix of prisoners includes terror suspects captured in Afghanistan, whom President Bush deemed “illegal enemy combatants.” And in Iraq, they include foreign fighters and Iraqi insurgents, as well as common criminals who do not fit the classic definition of a prisoner of war.

“Everybody is learning from this,” said the Pentagon official, referring to the prisoner-abuse scandal at the Abu Ghraib facility in Iraq that has the Army reviewing the way it houses detainees.

“It is not totally broken,” the official said of current doctrine, “but it has to be revised.”

The official said new doctrine will be written by U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Monroe, Va., and by U.S. Army Intelligence Center, Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

The Army has accused six military police soldiers of physically and emotionally abusing Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib. The Army says the soldiers failed to abide by Geneva Conventions that call for humane treatment of wartime detainees.

The new doctrine is likely to spell out what type of interrogation techniques are permissible for illegal combatants, as opposed to prisoners of war.

The Bush administration, in practice, has made distinctions between the two. In some cases, detainees have been put under stress to try to acquire intelligence information that could save lives by pre-empting attacks. Administration lawyers have ruled that some stress-inducing techniques, such as sleep deprivation, may be used without violating the Geneva Conventions.

Gen. John Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Persian Gulf, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week that the Army inspector general has not found systematic abuses of war detainees.

“I specifically asked the IG of the Army, did he believe that there was a pattern of abuse of prisoners in the Central Command area of operation, and he looked at both Afghanistan and Iraq, and he said no,” Gen. Abizaid testified.

The Pentagon contends that the abuse at Abu Ghraib in the fall was inflicted by a small group of military police in two cell blocks holding some of the worst offenders, including some who had killed U.S. soldiers. Some MPs say they were ordered to make detainees strip and simulate sexual acts on orders from Army military intelligence officers.

Pentagon officials say all of this conduct is illegal and is likely to be specifically ruled out in new doctrine.

“They need new definitions of what to do,” said a second defense official, noting that since the September 11 terror attacks, the military has had to adjust many tactics to fit the terrorist enemy and the times.

Larry Di Rita, spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said yesterday that foreign fighters such as ones held in Afghanistan and Iraq could be determined “not in fact subject to the Geneva protections.”

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