- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 1, 2004


Some U.S. commanders in Iraq may have been alerted in December 2003 — before the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse accusations surfaced — that Iraqis in detention were being abused, a senior official said yesterday.

Larry Di Rita, spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, confirmed that a confidential report to the Army’s command in Baghdad said a joint CIA-military team hunting for Saddam Hussein and other high-priority intelligence targets had mistreated and possibly physically abused some of its detainees. The findings were first reported in The Washington Post yesterday.

Mr. Di Rita said he did not know which U.S. commanders were made aware of the report’s findings when it was submitted last December to Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, the Army’s top intelligence officer in Iraq. The report was done by Stuart Herrington, a retired Army colonel.

The U.S. military has said it first became aware of the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in January. Those abuses occurred mainly in October and November 2003, subsequent probes have found. The Herrington report apparently focused on treatment at detention facilities other than Abu Ghraib.

Mr. Di Rita said some members of Congress may be briefed on the Herrington report this week. It was not clear whether or in what form the report would be made public, the spokesman said.

The Post reported that top commanders, including Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the senior commander in Iraq at the time, knew of the Herrington report and alerted officials at U.S. Central Command of the purported abuses.

The newspaper said the CIA-military team, known initially as Task Force 20 and later as Task Force 121, was investigated as a result of Col. Herrington’s findings. An official told The Post that he could not provide results of the probe.

Mr. Di Rita said the Herrington report “raises a lot of the same issues” as other official inquiries into detention practices in Iraq — organizational issues as well as purported physical abuse of detainees.

“It’s consistent with things we’ve learned subsequently,” Mr. Di Rita said, referring to several official investigations that examined detention operations at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq.

One of those, led by Brig. Gen. Richard Formica, focused on the detention practices of special operations forces, although it is not clear whether that probe included Task Force 20. The Formica report is likely to be finished in a few weeks, Mr. Di Rita said.

The Post, which said it recently obtained a copy of the Herrington report, said Col. Herrington found that some U.S. arrest and detention practices at the time “technically” could be illegal.

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