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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ

Report on Iraq Abuse Will Widen the Blame

Intelligence soldiers and civilian contractors at Abu Ghraib are implicated, but military brass outside the prison are not, officials say.

August 19, 2004|John Hendren | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — A long-awaited report on the Abu Ghraib prison scandal will implicate about two dozen military intelligence soldiers and civilian contractors in the intimidation and sexual humiliation of Iraq war prisoners, but will not suggest wrongdoing by military brass outside the prison, senior Defense officials said Wednesday.

The report will recommend disciplinary action against two senior prison officers: the colonel in charge of the military intelligence brigade that oversaw interrogations at the compound near Baghdad and a general in charge of a reserve military police brigade in charge of the prison.

It also will recommend that the intelligence soldiers face criminal abuse charges similar to those lodged earlier against seven reserve military police soldiers, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

But in the end, Defense officials said, the report implicates no one outside the prison.

"The report is going to say responsibility for Abu Ghraib stops at the brigade level," a senior official said.

The scandal has drawn international condemnation and questions about U.S. interrogation and detention policies. It also has cast a legal cloud over U.S. moves to begin trials for detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Defense attorneys in those cases, which begin next week, may submit evidence of abuse to question the legitimacy of confessions and other government claims.

But one senior Defense official said the new report, by Army Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, will make clear when it is released next week that "no one in Washington said, 'Stack people on top of each other, naked.' " That image was supplied by one of the graphic photographs that helped fuel the scandal.

In his report, one of 11 ongoing internal military inquiries into prison abuse, Fay was given the authority to recommend action against senior military brass up to Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who was the top ground commander in Iraq at the time. The results were delayed while a supervisor to Fay -- Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Jones, the Army's deputy training commander -- was brought in to facilitate questioning of the most senior officers.

Some on Capitol Hill said they were dismayed that the investigation failed to implicate more senior military officers or Bush administration officials. The administration has portrayed the abuses as isolated incidents committed in disregard of established procedures. But critics have questioned whether administration policies favoring more aggressive interrogations contributed to a climate in which abuses occurred and whether Fay's findings might be part of a lax Pentagon response.

"I'm a little shocked, I guess, that it doesn't go higher than that," a senior congressional aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said when told of the initial news reports, adding that the findings weren't dramatic. "It's not big stuff."

However, others said the prison scandal was fueled in part by the political season.

"It's an election year. This is going to go on and on until November," said Dana Dillon, a military analyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.

"Unless there is demonstrable evidence that somebody ordered these things carried out -- and that seems pretty incredible -- I don't think it will go beyond" the military police brigade general, Dillon said.

Another military investigation into prison problems drew criticism when it was released last month.

The investigation, a review of the detention system by the Army's inspector general, concluded that instances of misconduct were "aberrations," a finding that was widely denounced as a whitewash.

The Fay report recommendations would significantly expand prosecutions for abuses at Abu Ghraib, going beyond the seven members of the 372nd Military Police Company charged with committing abuses to military intelligence officers and contract interrogators for the CIA and possibly other agencies. One of the military police soldiers has pleaded guilty, drawing a one-year prison sentence.

The recommendations for the additional prosecutions were first reported last week by the Baltimore Sun.

Fay's report also will recommend disciplinary action against Army Col. Thomas M. Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade. Members of the brigade were implicated this month during a preliminary hearing in the court-martial of Pfc. Lynndie R. England, one of the seven MPs charged with abuse.

According to testimony, the intelligence officers participated in some of the abuses and instructed MPs to help collect intelligence.

The Fay report also is expected to recommend discipline for Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, a reserve unit in charge of U.S.-run prisons in Iraq, for her alleged lax oversight of the compound, the officials said.

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