Friday, January 13, 2006

Documents tie shadowy US unit to inmate abuse case

Documents tie shadowy US unit to inmate abuse case

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Newly released military documents show U.S. Army investigators closed a probe into allegations an Iraqi detainee had been abused by a shadowy military task force after its members used fake names and asserted that key computer files had been lost.

The documents shed light on Task Force 6-26, a special operations unit, and confirmed the existence of a secret military "Special Access Program" associated with it, ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh said on Thursday.

The documents were released by the Army to the American Civil Liberties Union under court order through the Freedom of Information Act. They were the latest files to provide details of the numerous investigations carried out by the Army into allegations of detainee abuse in Iraq.

A June 2005 document by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command in Iraq described its investigation into suspected abuse of a detainee captured in January 2004 by Task Force 6-26 in Tikrit, deposed President Saddam Hussein's hometown. His name was redacted, but he was mentioned as the son of a Saddam bodyguard.

The man was taken to Baghdad international airport, documents stated. The United States maintains a prison there for "high-value" detainees.

He told Army investigators that U.S. personnel forced him one night to remove his clothes, walk into walls with a box over his head connected to a rope around his neck, punched him in the spinal area until he fainted, placed him in front of an air conditioner while cold water was poured on him, and kicked him in the stomach until he vomited, the documents stated.


Investigators could not find the personnel involved or the man's medical files, and the case was closed, the files stated. A memo listed the suspected offenses as "aggravated assault, cruelty and maltreatment."

"The only names identified by this investigation were determined to be fake names utilized by the capturing soldiers," the memo stated. "6-26 also had a major computer malfunction which resulted in them losing 70 percent of their files; therefore they can't find the cases we need to review."

The memo said the investigation should not be reopened. "Hell, even if we reopened it we wouldn't get anymore information than we already have," the memo stated.

Singh said previous documents indicated Task Force 6-26 was linked to other instances of detainee abuse in Iraq.

"This document suggests that Task Force 6-26 was part of a larger, clandestine program that we think may have links with high-ranking officials, because obviously someone high up had the authority to put this program in place," Singh said in a telephone interview.

Army spokesman Paul Boyce said the Army had taken allegations of detainee abuse "extremely seriously."

"The Army has gone to great extent in travel, interviews, documentation and concern to make sure that each and every allegation was thoroughly reviewed, thoroughly examined and, when appropriate, acted upon either through nonjudicial or judicial punishment," Boyce said.

A document stated Army investigators were not able to fully investigate suspects and witnesses because they were involved in the Special Access Program and due to the classified nature of their work.

The task force is stationed out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the document said. The base houses the Army Special Operations Command.