Senate Hears Pentagon Report on Prisoner Abuse by U.S. Forces
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KWAME HOLMAN: The Navy’s inspector general delivered his report to the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning. It constituted the Pentagon’s broadest review to date of prisoner abuse at U.S. detention facilities abroad.
Vice Adm. Albert Church said his 10-month review found there was no single overarching explanation for the abuses cataloged in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And he said top Pentagon officials and their policies on detainees were not to blame for the cases of abuse.
VICE ADM. ALBERT CHURCH: My key findings, that clearly there was no policy, written or otherwise, at any level that directed or condoned torture or abuse. There was no link between the authorized interrogation techniques and the abuses that, in fact, occurred.
KWAME HOLMAN: The report also concluded the “vast majority of detainees held by U.S. Forces, have been treated humanely” but noted, “there was a failure to react to early warning signs of abuse.”
The report said there were 71 cases of abuse involving 121 detainees. Some 130 cases still are under investigation. Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner asked about the range of abuses, beyond the now-infamous photos of detainees abused at Abu Ghraib Prison outside Baghdad.
SEN. JOHN WARNER: The pictures captured certainly what went on in that prison. But there are other incidents, for instance, at the point of detention in the heat of battle. And often there’s extenuating circumstances in the heat of battle for those who are making that apprehension.
But in other words, I want it here in the record as best we can a description of other things that were the basis for these trials that we have not seen by virtue of those pictures.
VICE ADM. ALBERT CHURCH: It’s the full range, senator. We have six deaths of those who were detainees. There were a number of detainee deaths. Most of them were by natural causes. We looked at every single detainee death. That was the far end.
To the low end, you’d probably go to Guantanamo where there were incidents of slapping, or were what we call minor abuse cases. There were a couple of sexual assaults that were in that 70 at the high end, and there was the range all the way in between.
KWAME HOLMAN: Democrat Joseph Lieberman put a context on the number of abuse cases.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN: Seventy cases out of more than 50,000 detainees is about one-tenth of 1 percent of the detainees, and it justifies your conclusion that in the overwhelming majority of cases, detainees to the best of our knowledge now have been treated within the standards that we in America would want detainees to be treated.
KWAME HOLMAN: Republican John McCain questioned President Bush’s decision to deny some of those detainees prisoner-of-war rights. McCain was a POW in Vietnam for five years.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN: If we decide that a certain country’s military personnel are not eligible for treatment under a convention that we signed, then wouldn’t it be logical to expect that they would declare, as the north Vietnamese did, that American prisoners are not eligible under the Geneva Conventions.
VICE ADM. ALBERT CHURCH: My opinion is that the president made the right call.
KWAME HOLMAN: Democrat Jack Reed said Admiral Church’s report was not the no-holds-barred review he wanted.
SEN. JACK REED: Admiral, this to me is a very disappointing report. You’ve drawn some conclusions, and it seems to me the conclusion is this is this all just one big misunderstanding, this policy here, falling through the cracks, et cetera, which I don’t think is an adequate response to the problems we’ve seen.
There is an ancient Roman that posed the question, “who will guard the guardians?” It’s a question we face today. Who will look after those that we’ve entrusted with our national security and defense and make sure that they follow laws? And I think the jury is still out.
VICE ADM. ALBERT CHURCH: I’d like to challenge the premise that this was all one big misunderstanding. We spent nine months, as I said initially, over 800 interviews, reviewed thousands and thousands of pages of documents, leveraged all the other reports.
Clearly some things were done wrong. Clearly some things, in hindsight, senator, would be done differently. And I think I’ve captured those. I’ve laid out all the abuse cases. And had the chips fallen differently, I would have made that call. They didn’t, and the facts are the facts. And I understand that some people won’t like the facts or, in some cases, the conclusions. But it’s not all one big misunderstanding, sir.
KWAME HOLMAN: The American Civil Liberties Union, a critic of the administration’s interrogation policies, said in a statement today: “It seems the military can only look down the chain of command not up, when it comes to holding people accountable.”
Armed Services Chairman Warner said at least one more hearing would be held to examine the potential accountability of top Pentagon officials.