Thursday, July 06, 2006

Panel orders Abu Ghraib documents from Pentagon

Panel orders Abu Ghraib documents from Pentagon
By Kristin Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. congressional panel has ordered Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to turn over documents on the probe into abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison after the Pentagon failed to respond to an earlier request.

The House Government Reform Committee issued a subpoena to Rumsfeld last week and said the Pentagon must produce a raft of documents, including all drafts of the report on the Abu Ghraib investigation, by the end of business on July 14.

The subpoena follows Rumsfeld's failure to respond to a March 7 letter from the congressional panel requesting the same documents.

The Pentagon said it had already provided many of the requested documents to its oversight committee -- the House Armed Services Committee -- and has now also delivered documents to the Government Reform Committee.

"We have delivered to the House Government Reform Committee many documents previously provided to the House Armed Services Committee ... in the matter under discussion," said Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros, a Pentagon spokesman.

Images of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, including naked detainees stacked in a pyramid and others cowering before snarling dogs, first became public in April 2004, triggering international condemnation of the United States.

The country's image has been further tarnished by a string of accusations that U.S. servicemen have murdered Iraqi civilians, including the massacre of 24 civilians in Haditha.

"When the Committee requests information from executive branch departments and agencies, we try to be reasonable and accommodate their legitimate concerns about the volume and the sensitivity of what we're asking for," said Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican and chairman of the committee.

"But if the department won't even return a call, after three months, and begin that dialogue, we really have no choice but to subpoena the material and compel their attention to our request."

The subpoena comes as a subcommittee of the Government Reform Committee investigates allegations by Army Spc. Samuel Provance that his attempts to give investigators information about abuse at Abu Ghraib were "rebuffed" and he was retaliated against for providing unclassified information to the media.

Provance testified before the subcommittee in February.

The panel called for all drafts of the investigation report on the prisoner abuse and all communications related to information provided by Provance about Abu Ghraib.

It also requested all communications related to cases in which detainees' family members were involved in interrogations after Provance said children of detainees were used to "break" the prisoners and force them to cooperate with investigators.