- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 20, 2004

The CIA’s Office of Inspector General has asked the Justice Department to investigate the deaths of three prisoners during interrogations by CIA operatives in Afghanistan and Iraq, including one at Abu Ghraib prison, U.S. authorities said yesterday.

One high-ranking U.S. official said yesterday the Justice Department had not yet determined whether it has jurisdiction in the cases or what laws, if any, had been broken. The official described existing law regarding the death of prisoners in foreign lands as “murky.”

The official also said jurisdiction might lie with local authorities in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the deaths occurred.

The CIA, which lacks prosecutorial powers, requested the Justice probe in criminal referrals to the Nov. 4 death of Manadel al-Jamadi at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the Nov. 26 death at an undisclosed Iraqi location of Abed Hamed Mowhoush, an army major general who commanded Saddam Hussein’s air defenses.

A third referral also was filed in the death of a man identified as a suspected al Qaeda leader, who died last year after interrogations in Afghanistan. His body was shipped out of the country in a plywood coffin to Egypt.

One U.S. intelligence official said he was captured in June 2003 and held at a U.S. holding facility near Asadabad, where he was interrogated by CIA operatives.

The CIA inquiry had focused on two CIA officers and one CIA contract employee, all of whom were involved in the interrogations, U.S. authorities said.

CIA operatives took over the lead role in the interrogation of Iraqi and Afghan prisoners two years ago, replacing FBI agents who previously conducted the sessions. One key U.S. law-enforcement official said the FBI had pulled its agents out of several CIA interrogations, concerned that they were abusive.

Yesterday, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told a Senate committee his agents did not participate in abusive prisoner interrogations, saying FBI guidelines prohibit agents from taking part in questioning that involves force, threat of force, or coercion.

“The FBI has directed its agents to conform to its policies with regard to the handling of the interviews, whether it be here in the United States or overseas, and to the extent that an agent believes that interviews were not being conducted according to the standards of the FBI, that agent was not to participate in those interviews,” he told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

His comments came in response to questions by the committee’s ranking Democrat, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, who asked if the FBI witnessed abusive conduct during the questioning of prisoners in Iraq or Afghanistan. Mr. Mueller said no, but added there were occasions when agents raised objections about the way some interrogations were handled.

“In cases where we have been handling interviews, particularly in Iraq, it has been done according to our standards and there has been no waiver of that,” he said.

On Wednesday, ABC News said it had obtained new photographs showing Abu Ghraib prison guards posing over the body of a detainee it said had been “beaten to death by CIA or civilian interrogators” in the prison’s showers.

U.S. officials told The Washington Times that Army Spc. Jason Kenner advised military investigators that Mr. al-Jamadi was in good health when he was brought to Abu Ghraib on Nov. 4 by members of a U.S. Navy SEAL team, but later saw the man’s corpse and noticed extensive bruising.

The officials said Spc. Kenner reported that Mr. al-Jamadi’s body was packed in ice. Pictures later were taken showing Sgt. Charles A. Graner Jr. and Spc. Sabrina Harman, both of whom have been charged in the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal, posing with the body.

The Los Angeles Times reported this week that Mr. al-Jamadi was brought to Abu Ghraib with his head covered by an empty sandbag and died during questioning. The newspaper, citing intelligence sources, said after the man collapsed, interrogators removed the bag and observed severe head wounds that had not been treated.

Mr. Mowhoush, captured Oct. 5, was believed to be involved in raising funds for the Iraqi resistance against U.S. forces.

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