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the investigations

The Pentagon says it has conducted at least 12 official investigations into prisoner abuse at DoD facilities in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Defense Department officials maintain the abuse is the result of a few bad apples, but critics argue that so far, the investigations, which have been limited in scope, are only an exercise in damage control. Because military investigators can only look down the chain of command, these critics are calling for an independent, bipartisan inquiry to examine the abuse allegations as a whole.

What have we learned so far? Here is a roundup of the investigations that have gained the most attention due to their shocking findings.


The Taguba Report

In January 2004, prompted by the notorious abuse photos, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez asked Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba to conduct a secret investigation into allegations of detainee abuse and escapes at Abu Ghraib and lapses in accountability among the 800th Military Police (MP) Brigade. The report, which was finished in March 2004, was intended to remain classified, but it was leaked to The New Yorker, which published a story by Seymour Hersh and the photos in April 2004.

Taguba confirmed that "systemic and illegal" abuse occurred under the watch of the 372nd Military Police Company in Tier 1-A of Abu Ghraib. He cited the photographs, additional video, and detainee and witness testimony. Beyond the abuses depicted in the photos, Taguba described other reported incidents he deemed credible, including:

  • "A male MP guard having sex with a female detainee";

  • "Arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them";

  • "Breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees";

  • "Beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair";

  • "Threatening male detainees with rape";

  • "Allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell";

  • "Sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick"; and

  • "Using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee."

Taguba found that the prison was overcrowded, short-staffed and that the MPs did not have proper training in detention operations. He faulted Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, for poor leadership and recommended that she be relieved from command and given a letter of reprimand. He also recommended Col. Thomas Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, be given a reprimand for failing to ensure his soldiers were trained and following the interrogation rules of engagement.


Final Report of the Independent Panel to Review DoD Detention Operations

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld asked former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger (1972-1976) to chair an independent panel to review allegations of detainee abuse and determine the root causes. The committee's report, commonly known as the "Schlesinger Report" was released in August 2004.

"[Abu Ghraib] was a kind of animal house on the night shift," Schlesinger told the press in his remarks following the report's release. The report said MI and MP personnel at Abu Ghraib were "directly responsible" for the abuse. However, the panel criticized the civilian leadership at the Pentagon, including the secretary of defense, as well as Gen. Sanchez and his superiors at CENTCOM for issuing multiple ambiguous interrogation policies instead of a one specific clear policy. It suggested an atmosphere was created in which "the existence of confusing and inconsistent interrogation technique policies contributed to the belief that additional interrogation techniques were condoned." And the panel said Rumsfeld could have avoided the confusion if he had a wider range of legal advice.

Among the panel's recommendations: clarifying the roles of MP and MI personnel, devoting more military resources to detention operations, and developing an ethics program for detention personnel.


Fay-Jones Report

Three Army generals conducted this investigation into the activities of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade at Abu Ghraib. Their findings were released in August 2004.

The generals found that 23 members of the brigade and 4 private contractors attached to the brigade participated in abuse, solicited military police to commit abuse, or used unauthorized interrogation methods. The offenses included:

… use of isolation with sensory deprivation ("the Hole"), removal of clothing and humiliation, the use of dogs to "fear up" detainees and on one occasion, the condoned twisting of a detainee's cuffed wrists and the smothering of this detainee with a cupped hand in MI's presence.

The report cited confusion about Army interrogation doctrine and failed leadership as contributors to the behavior of the unit, which they described as undermanned and under-trained. The investigation found that the practice by other government agencies (including the CIA) of "ghost"-ing a detainee, or removing him from official prison logs, led to a sense that these agencies operated under different rules, and contributed to a general atmosphere that lacked a sense of accountability.


The Church Report

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld asked Vice Admiral Albert T. Church to review DoD detention and interrogation techniques. His report drew upon over 800 interviews and covers interrogation policy and practices in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

Although the full report remains classified, the executive summary was released in March 2005. It outlined the confusion over interrogation policies and found that abuse was "perpetrated by a variety of active duty, reserve and national guard personnel from three services on different dates and in different locations throughout Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as a small number of cases at GTMO." Church's report faulted the chain of command for not reacting to early warning signs of abuse.


Review by Department of the Army Inspector General Stanley Green

In April 2005, unnamed Army officials leaked to the press the results of a classified investigation by the office of the Army Inspector General that cleared top officers in connection to the Iraq prison abuse scandal. According to a May 5, 2005 Army news release, the investigation looked at all the officers singled out for criticism in the Schlesinger, Fay-Jones and Taguba reports, as well as other unnamed investigations. According to the press release, the review cleared Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, Maj. Gen. Barbara G. Fast and Col. Marc Warren of dereliction of duty. Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski received a letter of reprimand and was demoted to colonel after she was found guilty of dereliction of duty and because of an unrelated personal matter.


The Schmidt Report

As a result of allegations of abuse witnessed by FBI agents at Guantanamo Bay, Gen. Bantz Craddock, commander at U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) appointed Brig. Gen. John Furlow and Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt to conduct an investigation to determine the validity of the allegations by both the FBI and later by two detainees who were interrogated at the base. The report was finished in April 2005 and an unclassified version was made public that July.

The investigators did an independent review of the development of Gitmo's interrogation policy and addressed each allegation of abuse, analyzing whether the technique was authorized according to the Army Field Manual 34-52 or the additional methods approved by the secretary of defense for use at Gitmo. Although interrogators used some techniques, such as use of temperature extremes and sleep deprivation, prior to their approval by Secretary Rumsfeld on Apr. 16, 2003, the report did not recommend further disciplinary action for those involved and instead suggested obtaining approval from senior command or a clarification in policy in selected instances.

The report detailed one incident in which eight techniques were used on a high-value detainee, including the forced wearing of women's underwear, being led on a leash and forced to perform dog tricks, and being forced to stand naked in the presence of a female interrogator. Although it determined that these were authorized techniques in the Army Field Manual ("ego down" and "futility,") the investigation said the techniques collectively amounted to "degrading and abusive treatment." The report found the commander of Joint Task Force GTMO, Gen. Geoffrey Miller responsible for failing to supervise the interrogation of this detainee, who is believed to be Mohammed al-Qahtani, aka "the 20th highjacker." Despite the Schmidt report's recommendation to discipline Gen. Miller, Gen. Craddock declined to do so. Testifying before the Senate, Craddock said, one of his reasons was that the interrogation of Qahtani, though "creative, aggressive and persistant," did not violate U.S. policy.

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posted oct. 18, 2005

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