- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2005

From combined dispatches

A comprehensive U.S. military review of prisoner interrogation policies and techniques for the global war on terrorism concluded that no civilian or uniformed leaders directed or encouraged the abuse of prisoners, officials familiar with the review said yesterday.

However, the review concluded that, in hindsight, the failure to provide commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan with specific and early guidance on interrogation techniques was a “missed opportunity.”

It also found, in the cases of detainee operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, that dissemination of approved interrogation policy to commanders in the field was generally poor. And in Iraq in particular, the review found that compliance with approved policy was generally poor.

The classified report has 368 pages. Officials cited a roughly 25-page unclassified executive summary.

The summary said it found “no evidence to support the notion that the office of the Secretary of Defense, the National Security staff, Centcom [U.S. Central Command] or any other organization applied explicit pressure for intelligence or gave ‘back-channel’ permission to forces in the field to use more aggressive interrogation techniques” than authorized in the Army’s manual or by the command interrogation policy.

The review was done in the summer by Navy Vice Adm. Albert T. Church, and the unclassified portions are to be made public at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today.

Officials familiar with Adm. Church’s findings agreed to discuss his report on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release it.

The Church probe was among several triggered by disclosures in the spring of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison complex in Iraq. Adm. Church was directed to look at how interrogation policies were developed and implemented from the start of the terror war in the fall of 2001.

Adm. Church did not directly investigate the Abu Ghraib matter, which has been probed by others.

A Democratic congressional aide who read the report said it links the abuse of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to a lack of communication of interrogation policy to troops on the field and poor “unit cohesion.”

The aide, who discussed the matter on the condition of anonymity, said the report does not blame senior defense officials for the mistreatment of detainees in U.S. military facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

Human Rights First, a liberal advocacy group, said people familiar with the Church report indicated that it “fails to fill in the gaps” left by seven other investigations.

“The deficiencies in the various reports, the failure to punish or prosecute anyone involved in setting interrogation policy, and the steady stream of reports about continuing abuses underscores the need for a bipartisan independent commission to fully examine these issues,” said Elisa Massimino, director of the Washington office of Human Rights First.

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