Friday, August 27, 2004

Army's Report Faults General in Prison Abuse

NY Times
August 27, 2004
Army's Report Faults General in Prison Abuse

WASHINGTON, Aug. 26 - Classified parts of the report by three Army generals on the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison say Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the former top commander in Iraq, approved the use in Iraq of some severe interrogation practices intended to be limited to captives held in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and Afghanistan.

Moreover, the report contends, by issuing and revising the rules for interrogations in Iraq three times in 30 days, General Sanchez and his legal staff sowed such confusion that interrogators acted in ways that violated the Geneva Conventions, which they understood poorly anyway.

Military officials and others in the Bush administration have repeatedly said the Geneva Conventions applied to all prisoners in Iraq, even though members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban held in Afghanistan and Guantánamo did not, in their estimation, fall under the conventions.

But classified passages of the Army report say the procedures approved by General Sanchez on Sept. 14, 2003, and the revisions made when the Central Command found fault with the initial policy, exceeded the Geneva guidelines as well as standard Army doctrines.

General Sanchez and his aides have previously described the series of orders he issued, although not in as much detail as the latest report, which was released Wednesday with a few classified sections omitted. They have described his order of Oct. 12 as rescinding his order of Sept. 14.

But the Army's latest review instead finds that the later order "confused doctrine and policy even further,'' a classified part of the report says. It says the memorandum, while not authorizing abuse, effectively opened the way at Abu Ghraib last fall for interrogation techniques that Pentagon investigators have characterized as abusive, in dozens of cases involving dozens of soldiers at the prison in Iraq.

The techniques approved by General Sanchez exceeded those advocated in a standard Army field manual that provided the basic guidelines for interrogation procedures. But they were among those previously approved by the Pentagon for use in Afghanistan and Cuba, and were recommended to General Sanchez and his staff in the summer of 2003 in memorandums sent by a team headed by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, a commander at Guantánamo who had been sent to Iraq by senior Pentagon officials, and by a military intelligence unit that had served in Afghanistan and was taking charge of interrogations at Abu Ghraib.

The report says the abusive techniques not sufficiently prohibited by General Sanchez included isolation and the use of dogs in interrogation. It says military police and military intelligence soldiers who used those practices believed they had been authorized by senior commanders.

"At Abu Ghraib, isolation conditions sometimes included being kept naked in very hot or very cold, small rooms, and/or completely darkened rooms, clearly in violation of the Geneva Conventions,'' a classified part of the report said.

The passages involving General Sanchez's orders were among several deleted from the version of the report by Maj. Gen. George R. Fay that was made public by the Pentagon on Wednesday.

Classified parts of the 171-page report were provided to The New York Times by a senior Defense Department official who said fuller disclosure of the findings would help public understanding of the causes of the prisoner abuse scandal.

Army officials said Thursday that some sections of the report had been marked secret because they referred to policy memorandums that were still classified.

But the report's discussion of the September and October orders, while critical of General Sanchez and his staff, do not disclose many new details of the orders and do not appear to contain sensitive material about interrogations or other intelligence-gathering methods.

They do show in much clearer detail than ever before how interrogation practices from Afghanistan and Guantánamo were brought to Abu Ghraib, and how poorly the nuances of what was acceptable in Iraq were understood by military intelligence officials in Iraq.

The classified sections of the Fay report reinforce criticisms made in another report, by the independent panel headed by James R. Schlesinger, the former defense secretary.

That panel argued that General Sanchez's actions effectively amounted to an unauthorized suspension of the Geneva Conventions in Iraq by categorizing prisoners there as unlawful combatants.

The Schlesinger panel described that reasoning as "understandable,'' but said General Sanchez and his staff should have recognized that they were "lacking specific authorization to operate beyond the confines of the Geneva Convention.''

In an interview on Thursday with reporters and editors of The Times, Gen. Paul J. Kern, the senior officer who supervised General Fay's work, said the Fay inquiry had not addressed whether General Sanchez was authorized to designate detainees in Iraq as unlawful combatants, as the administration has treated prisoners in Afghanistan.

A secret passage in the report, though, says that with General Sanchez's first order, on Sept. 14, national policies and those of his command "collided, introducing ambiguities and inconsistencies in policy and practice,'' adding, "Policies and practices developed and approved for use on Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees who were not afforded the protection of the Geneva Conventions now applied to detainees who did fall under the Geneva Conventions' protections." It goes on to cite several further problems with the order.

Asked whether General Sanchez's actions opened the door to use of interrogation techniques from Afghanistan, General Kern said, "He didn't close the door, and he should have."

Together, the Schlesinger and Fay reports spell out the sharpest criticism of missteps by American commanders in Iraq involving what they described as a crucial question of making clear to soldiers what was permitted and what was not in interrogation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

General Sanchez and his deputies have always maintained that the only approaches they authorized for use in Iraq were consistent with the Geneva Conventions, which spell out rules for the treatment of prisoners of war and other combatants. They have said the directive issued by General Sanchez in October had made it clear that the use of dogs and isolation could be used in interrogations only with the general's approval.

"Interrogators at Abu Ghraib used both dogs and isolation as interrogation practices," a classified part of the report said. "The manner in which they were used on some occasions clearly violated the Geneva Conventions."

The classified section of the Fay report also sheds new light on the role played by a secretive Special Operations Forces/Central Intelligence Agency task force that operated in Iraq and Afghanistan as a source of interrogation procedures that were put into effect at Abu Ghraib. It says that a July 15, 2003, "Battlefield Interrogation Team and Facility Policy,'' drafted by use by Joint Task Force 121, which was given the task of locating former government members in Iraq, was adopted "almost verbatim'' by the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, which played a leading role in interrogations at Abu Ghraib.

That task force policy endorsed the use of stress positions during harsh interrogation procedures, the use of dogs, yelling, loud music, light control, isolation and other procedures used previously in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Those measures were initially authorized by General Sanchez for use in Iraq in his September memorandum, then revoked in the policy he issued a month later, but not in a way understood by interrogators at Abu Ghraib to have banned those practices, the classified version of the Fay report said.

Among those who believed, incorrectly, that the use of dogs in interrogations could be approved without General Sanchez's approval was Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, the report said.

"Dogs as an interrogation tool should have been specifically excluded,'' a classified section of the report said. It criticized General Sanchez for not having fully considered "the implications for interrogation policy,'' and said the manner in which interrogators at Abu Ghraib used both dogs and isolations as interrogation practices "on some occasions clearly violated the Geneva Conventions.''

The role played by members of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, from Fort Bragg, N.C., some of whom were identified as having taken part in the abuses, is given particular attention in the classified parts of the report.

Members of the unit had earlier served in Afghanistan, where some were implicated in the deaths of two detainees that are still under investigation, and the report says commanders should have heeded more carefully the danger that members of the unit might again be involved in abusive behavior.

The unit had worked closely with Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan, and "at same point'' it "came to possess the JTF-121 interrogation policy'' used by the joint Special Operations/C.I.A. teams, the classified section of the report says.