Some Abu Ghraib Abuses Are Traced to Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 – Some of the aggressive tactics used by American military interrogators at Abu Ghraib prison now appear to have had their origins in shadowy corners of the campaign against terrorism, following interrogation techniques developed by Special Operations forces and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Both of the Pentagon investigations made public this week found that the practices of elite secretive forces contributed to the abuses at Abu Ghraib. The belief that “other governmental agencies were conducting interrogations using harsher techniques than allowed” under Army rules fostered “the belief that such methods were condoned,” according to the report released on Tuesday by the panel headed by James R. Schlesinger.

The report released on Wednesday by Maj. Gen. George R. Fay said a flouting of military procedures by C.I.A. officers who had conducted interrogations inside the prison had “eroded the necessity in the minds of soldiers and civilians for them to follow Army rules.”

The suggestion that the agency’s practices were in part responsible for what went wrong at Abu Ghraib has reinforced a clash of cultures between the by-the-books Army and the C.I.A, which is known to operate by its own rules. A C.I.A. spokesman, Mark Mansfield, complained Wednesday that the “broad allegations” against the agency were “not supported” by the material in the Fay Report.

General Fay and other senior officers said the C.I.A. had not shared all of the information they had requested as part of their investigation, but Mr. Mansfield said the C.I.A. was conducting its own “thorough” inquiry into the conduct of the agency’s employees at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq.

More broadly, the Fay and Schlesinger reports have provided the clearest assertion to date that the origins of some of the harsh interrogation procedures used at Abu Ghraib rested in those drawn up for use in Afghanistan, most specifically in a document prepared by Special Operations forces in February 2003 that allowed interrogators much more latitude than the rules later put into effect in Iraq.

That document became the template, the reports said, for the unauthorized practices of interrogators at Abu Ghraib from a unit of 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, which had worked closely with paramilitary forces in Afghanistan and was assigned to the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade in Iraq.

But the reports provided no indication of exactly what was contained in that document, and sections of the Fay Report that appeared to describe those practices in further detail were deleted from the version made public on Wednesday.

America vs. Human Rights

“The United States has long regarded itself as a beacon of human rights, as evidenced by an enlightened constitution, judicial independence, and a civil society grounded in strong traditions of free speech and press freedom. But the reality is more complex; for decades, civil rights and civil liberties groups have exposed constitutional violations and challenged abusive policies and practices. In recent years, as well, international human rights monitors have documented serious gaps in U.S. protections of the human rights of vulnerable groups. Both federal and state governments have nonetheless resisted applying to the U.S. the standards that, rightly, the U.S. applies elsewhere.”
Human Rights Watch

The details of C.I.A. interrogation practices at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere also remain secret, and were not spelled out in either of the Pentagon reports this week. But government officials have acknowledged that those the agency has used at times in the past on a small number of Qaeda prisoners held at secret detention centers around the world are harsher than those permitted by the military, and have in some cases included techniques like “water boarding,” in which a prisoner is made to believe that he will drown.

But the Fay Report does describe a case in which a C.I.A. officer working at Abu Ghraib brandished a loaded weapon in an interrogation room, in violation of military rules.

It says Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, the head of the military interrogation center at the prison, became “fascinated with the ‘other government agencies,’ a term used mostly to mean the Central Intelligence Agency, who were operating at the prison,” and waived a rule that should have required military officers to monitor C.I.A. interrogations there.

In the future, the report urged, all government agencies operating in Iraq should have to follow a uniform set of interrogation practices.

The report also describes sharp tensions between the military and the C.I.A. at Abu Ghraib, particularly over the agency’s use of the prison to hide so-called ghost detainees, in violation of military rules.

Among the episodes described in the report were eight cases in which C.I.A. officers persuaded military personnel to house Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib without accounting for them, including a case in which it took appeals from Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and the Saudi government to track down three Saudis whom the C.I.A. had installed at the prison under assumed names. The Saudis were later released.

Intelligence officials have said they suspended that practice last January, but defended it as sometimes appropriate temporarily, to prevent news from circulating about the capture of individuals with particular intelligence value.

Mr. Mansfield of the C.I.A said: “We don’t take issue with the report’s conclusion that military personnel were confused regarding the role and authorities of different government entities. Better prior consultations, including memorandums of understanding and clearer guidance, would have provided a better guide to the military personnel on duty.”

Intelligence officials said the C.I.A.’s inspector general was already carrying out a series of investigations of the agency’s involvement in alleged abuses in Iraq, including the handling of the “ghost detainees.”

Among the cases under investigation is a previously disclosed episode in November 2003 involving the death of an Iraqi detainee who was taken to Abu Ghraib by C.I.A. officers and whose body was wrapped in plastic and packed in ice before being removed. The prisoner, identified in the report only as Detainee-28, had been captured by a Navy Seal team and had been injured when struck on the head with the butt of the rifle by a Seal, the Fay Report said.

Intelligence officials have long said they believed that members of the military, not the C.I.A. employees, bore responsibility for the prisoner’s death, and the Fay Report said an autopsy conducted later had concluded that the prisoner had “died of a blood clot in the head, likely as a result of injuries he sustained during apprehension.”

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The New York Times, USA
Aug. 26, 2004
Douglas Jehl

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