Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Top Pentagon officials criticized in Abu Ghraib probe

USA Today
August 24, 2004
Top Pentagon officials criticized in Abu Ghraib probe
From staff and wire reports

NEW YORK — Leadership failures of top Pentagon officials are at least partially responsible for abuses by U.S. soldiers at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, and detainees as young as 15 were specifically targeted for abuse, according to two newspaper reports Tuesday.

The New York Times cited a soon-to-be-released report stating that top defense officials and military leaders are at least partly responsible for the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib and other prisons because of leadership deficiencies and a failure to address worsening conditions at the facilities. The Washington Post cited a separate investigation about Abu Ghraib abuses, stating that militiary police dogs were used to frighten the young teens for sport.

Both investigations name Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, then the top U.S. commander in Iraq, saying he inadequately supervised policies at the prisons. The Post report states that Sanchez will not be reprimanded.

One of the investigations, commissioned by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, also blamed Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski — commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade at Abu Ghraib who was suspended in May — for faulty leadership, the Times reported today, citing unnamed defense officials who had been briefed on the matter.

The report, which was to be released Tuesday and did not name Rumsfeld, was conducted by a four-member panel and headed by former defense secretary James Schlesinger. It also blames the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff and Sanchez for inadequately supervising interrogation techniques and other policies at several prisons in Cuba, Afghanistan and Iraq, the Times said.

The Times quoted a Senate Republican aide as saying the Schlesinger panel "has the power to look up the civilian chain of command, and is not limited."

A separate Army investigation, scheduled for release sometime this week, was conducted by Maj. Gen. George R. Fay and focuses on the role of military intelligence soldiers in the prison abuse.

The Fay report will expand the circle of people considered responsible for abuse beyond the seven military police soldiers already facing charges, the Post reported in Tuesday editions, citing Army officers briefed on the findings.

The list will grow to include more than a dozen others, including low-ranking soldiers, civilian contractors and medics, the Post reported. The newspaper also said the Fay report criticizes military leadership, from the prison and up through the highest levels of the U.S. chain of command in Iraq at the time.

The Schlesinger report would be the first to link the abuse at Abu Ghraib to policies set by top officials in Washington. By contrast, the Fay report instead assigns most of the blame to military intelligence and military police who worked at Abu Ghraib.

The sources spoke to the newspapers on condition of anonymity because the reports had not been released.

Fay's investigation shows that Sanchez failed to deal with rising problems at the prison as he tried to manage 150,000 troops countering an unexpected insurgency. But Sanchez will not be recommended for any punitive action or even a letter of reprimand, a Pentagon official told the Post.

Handlers have told investigators that the use of unmuzzled military police dogs was sanctioned by top military intelligence officers. But the new report will show that MPs were using their animals to threaten detainees as part of an unusual competition among themselves — not in accordance with intelligence officers — the Post reported, citing a Pentagon source.

"There were two MP dog handlers who did use dogs to threaten kids detained at Abu Ghraib," an Army officer familiar with the report told the Post. "It has nothing to do with interrogation. it was just them on their own being weird."

Abu Ghraib prison became the focus of an international scandal after photographs surfaced last spring showing U.S. soldiers abusing and sexually humiliating prisoners.

Both reports will be reviewed by the Senate Armed Services Committee in hearings scheduled for Sept. 9.