CIA hid many Iraq prisoners, generals say

USA TODAY
September 10, 2004, Friday, FINAL EDITION
BYLINE: Tom Squitieri
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 10A
LENGTH: 434 words
DATELINE: WASHINGTON
WASHINGTON — The CIA hid “dozens” and perhaps as many as 100 prisoners from Red Cross inspectors at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison and other detention centers, Army officials told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.

The new numbers, offered by Gen. Paul Kern and Maj. Gen. George Fay, dwarf previous reports that the CIA hid only eight prisoners, known as “ghost detainees,” from humanitarian representatives. Kern and Fay also said the CIA continues to refuse to provide documents for any of the investigations conducted by the military into allegations of prisoner abuse.

“The situation with the CIA and ghost detainees is beginning to look like a bad movie,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

“Ghost detainees” are prisoners held incommunicado and kept off the prison’s books, a controversial practice that can violate international law. Reasons might include not wanting to tip off a prisoner’s associates that he or she is in custody or a desire to use tough interrogation methods that would trigger Red Cross condemnation.

“The CIA has been conducting a comprehensive review of the agency’s detention and interrogation policies, and this is one of the aspects of the review,” CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said. “We are determined to examine thoroughly any allegation of abuse.” He would not comment on the number of ghost detainees, and he added that the “CIA’s inspector general will continue to cooperate with the criminal military investigators and appropriate authorities.”

Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner, R-Va., said he would hold a hearing on allegations the CIA hid prisoners and is refusing to cooperate with investigators.

An investigation headed by Fay and Kern concentrated on the role of military intelligence officers in the abuse of Abu Ghraib prisoners.

Kern said permission was granted to the CIA to bring detainees to Abu Ghraib and operate freely in the facility by Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, head of Army intelligence in Iraq.

“She said ‘yes,’ but her expectation was they would abide by our rules,” Kern said.

“But somehow that didn’t happen?” McCain asked. “That’s correct, senator,” Kern responded.

Senators from both parties pushed for more details about who in the civilian command or upper military ranks should be held accountable for the abuses. So far, seven low-ranking Army personnel have been charged in the prisoner-abuse scandal.

“If at the end of the day, the only people who are court-martialed are (sergeants and privates), you are going to have a very dispirited military,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.