Thursday, August 26, 2004

The release of two Pentagon reports this week on prisoner abuses in Iraq is part of ongoing inquiries into the activities of soldiers at Abu Ghraib who mistreated Iraqi prisoners.

The reports identified a small group of soldiers — both military police and military intelligence personnel — who were involved in abuses ranging from beatings, to sexual abuse, to what one report called “sadistic” behavior by some enlisted personnel.

Investigations by an independent panel headed by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger and an Army intelligence probe led by Army Gen. Paul J. Kern revealed new details of abuses. They also pointed blame at higher level commanders outside the prison who failed to supervise detention operations under their command at the Baghdad prison.

“We did not find General [Ricardo] Sanchez [commander of U.S. forces in Iraq at the time of the abuses] culpable, but we found him responsible for the things that did or did not happen,” Gen. Kern told reporters in what is expected to be the finding for at least four other senior military officers.

The reports bolster earlier Pentagon statements that the abuses were mainly misconduct by one group of military police working the night shift at Abu Ghraib’s Tier 1 section. The soldiers were recorded in photographs overseeing piles of naked Iraqis and using dogs to intimidate prisoners.

Additional abuses uncovered by the inquiries were related to interrogations of prisoners and techniques that were “imported” from Afghanistan and from the prison at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Both reports also disclosed improprieties or rules violations by civilian contractors used as interrogators and CIA personnel who used Abu Ghraib to question prisoners outside the U.S. military’s control.

The next major report, expected to be released Sept. 20, is a “big picture” study of the problems by Vice Adm. Albert Church, a Pentagon spokesman said yesterday.

“The Church inquiry is a review of policy and doctrine for detention operations,” said Air Force Lt. Col. John Skinner, who noted that the admiral will focus on any “gaps and seams” in dealing with prisoners.

Additional inquires are under way by Army Brig. Gen. Charles Jacoby, who is examining prisoner operations in Afghanistan, and Army Lt. Gen. Ron Helmly, the chief of the U.S. Army Reserve, who is looking at the issue of training for reserve military police and intelligence personnel.

Other ongoing investigations include numerous criminal investigations by the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division. One defense official said as many as 150 investigations are under way.

So far the reports and investigations have not disclosed that senior military officers or Pentagon civilians are directly linked to the scandal.

However, military commanders who were in Iraq and at the U.S. Central Command have been identified as being “responsible” for the abuses because they were committed by soldiers under their command.

It is not known whether any senior military commanders will be disciplined.

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