Report on Iraq abuse cites interrogators, clears leaders

USA TODAY
August 19, 2004, Thursday, FINAL EDITION

BYLINE: Dave Moniz and Tom Squitieri
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 8A
LENGTH: 461 words
DATELINE: WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON — A new Army report on prisoner abuse by intelligence personnel at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison cites misconduct by military interrogators but exonerates high-ranking Pentagon officials and senior U.S. military commanders, a Pentagon official said Wednesday.

The report by Maj. Gen. George Fay, which could be made public as early as Friday, found improper conduct among soldiers of the Army’s 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, which was responsible for interrogating detainees at the prison. The report does not implicate any soldier above the rank of colonel or senior Pentagon civilians in the abuses, said the official, who has knowledge of the report’s contents. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation.

The official did not say whether the report finds misconduct among civilian contract interrogators who operated at Abu Ghraib. But the report does cite the role of Justice Department officials and recommends further investigation of their actions, the Pentagon source said. It was unclear where those officials were or what they did.

So far, only low-ranking Army Reserve military police have faced criminal charges related to a string of abuses of Iraqi detainees that occurred at Abu Ghraib last fall. An earlier prison abuse report by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba found widespread abuse by MPs, and seven were charged. One, Spc. Jeremy Sivits, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in prison.

Congressional members of both parties have criticized the Pentagon’s investigations, arguing that some of the torture methods used by guards were unlikely to have been thought up solely by low-ranking soldiers.

The latest investigation was launched by Fay in April and looked at the role that military intelligence played in the scandal. MPs charged with beating detainees told investigators they were acting at the direction of military intelligence officers at the prison, who wanted detainees “softened up” for interrogation.

The Fay report is one of at least seven inquiries that are underway or have been completed related to the abuse or deaths of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Four of the inquiries are ongoing, including one chaired by former secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, which is expected to examine whether high-ranking Pentagon officials set clear interrogation rules for Iraq.

The Schlesinger panel report could be made public as early as this week. Another investigation led by the Navy Inspector General will look at the handling of prisoners and interrogations throughout the military.

Separate from the broader inquiries, dozens of individual criminal investigations of prisoner deaths and mistreatment have yet to be resolved.