- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 9, 2004

A U.S. Army general who headed one of the investigations into the Abu Ghraib scandal said yesterday that as many as 100 “ghost detainees” may have been kept concealed from Red Cross observers in Iraq, a far higher number than previously reported.

The Pentagon last month released two reports on the Abu Ghraib scandal, one from an independent panel headed by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger and another Army intelligence probe led by Army Gen. Paul J. Kern.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, Gen. Kern, who is commander of the U.S. Army Materiel Command, said he lacked documentation to give a precise figure of “ghost detainees.”

“We believe,” he said, “the number is in the dozens … perhaps up to 100.”

Maj. Gen. George Fay, the deputy commander at the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command, said officials who conducted the Abu Ghraib investigations “were not able to get documentation from the Central Intelligence Agency to answer those types of questions.”

“We really don’t know the volume,” Gen. Fay said.

Senators responded with frustration. Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said the issue “needs to be cleared up really badly,” and Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, called it “totally unacceptable” that documents requested from the CIA have not been forthcoming.

Holding “ghost detainees” violates the Geneva Conventions, which require that at least some information about prisoners of war be turned over to impartial observers monitoring their treatment such as the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In another development yesterday, Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, who months ago headed the first probe into prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib, acknowledged that a shortage of troops posted at the prison when the abuses occurred resulted from a lack of planning.

The acknowledgement came after Sen. Mark Dayton, Minnesota Democrat, asked about discrepancies between the Schlesinger and Kern reports regarding the number of prisoners who were housed at Abu Ghraib at the time of the abuses.

“The prisoner-to-guard ratio, by this count [in the Kern report] would be about 20-to-1. In the Schlesinger report it would be 78-to-1,” Mr. Dayton said. “I checked with the U.S. Department of Corrections, and nationwide, of all the prisons in the United States, state and federal, all levels of security, the average prisoner-to-guard ratio is 5.5-to-1.”

Gen. Taguba said there were multiple reasons for the shortfall. “One was an inability to adjust their planning factors when they assumed the mission at Abu Ghraib,” he said. “Secondly was the matter of requesting for additional forces within the command.”

The Pentagon’s reports on Abu Ghraib have identified both military police and military-intelligence personnel, who were involved in the Abu Ghraib abuses ranging from beatings, to sexual abuse, to what one report called “sadistic” behavior by some enlisted personnel. They also have pointed blame at higher-level commanders outside the prison who failed to supervise detention operations under their command at the prison, about 30 miles west of Baghdad.

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