Pentagon Cites Widespread Involvement in Prison Abuses

Among the dozens of participants at Abu Ghraib were CIA agents and contractors. Acts including 'torture' could lead to criminal charges.

August 26, 2004|Richard A. Serrano | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The abuse of detainees at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison last year was widespread and went well beyond a small group of low-ranking U.S. military police, involving more than three dozen military intelligence officers, their commanders, CIA agents and private contractors, a Pentagon investigation concluded Wednesday.

The Defense Department inquiry, which examined the role of military interrogators at the prison, identified 44 separate cases of abuse, some of which were even more brutal than many of the incidents documented in the now-infamous photographs taken on Tier 1A at the compound outside Baghdad. Gen. Paul Kern, who supervised the investigation, said at a news conference Wednesday that some of the practices amounted to "torture."

The report was the second from the Pentagon in two days on the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal -- and together they debunk the idea of a rogue operation by the prison's night shift and instead paint a picture of widespread abuses by many more individuals and institutions, with responsibility going all the way up the ladder to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

The report released Wednesday cited 41 intelligence officers, CIA officials, contractors, medics and military police officers who either participated in the abuses or knew of them and did nothing to stop them. Seven other military police officers have been charged in the scandal.

Several of the incidents, according to the study, occurred during interrogations, but most involved sadistic acts and game playing in the cellblock.

Newly revealed abuses include cases in which a detainee was struck with a chair until it broke and was then choked until he passed out, a female prisoner was sexually assaulted and another inmate was forced to eat his meals out of a toilet.

In one incident, soldiers used Army dogs to play a bizarre game in which they scared teenage detainees into defecating and urinating on themselves.

The panel's senior investigators, Army Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Jones and Army Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, said the findings were being forwarded to Army investigators for possible criminal charges and other disciplinary actions, a result that could significantly widen the Abu Ghraib scandal past the courts-martial for the initial seven Army reservist prison guards implicated in January.

On Tuesday, a blue-ribbon panel reviewing Pentagon procedures and responses placed the ultimate blame for the abuse at Abu Ghraib on Rumsfeld and other top civilian and military leaders for failing to develop proper interrogation techniques and allowing a confusing command structure to fester. The panel did not call for Rumsfeld's resignation but did say it backed disciplinary action against military intelligence personnel.

The Jones-Fay report, in spreading blame, appears to support the claims of the seven prison guards now facing charges: that they abused detainees only at the urging of their counterparts in the prison's military intelligence brigade.

Kern, the head of the Jones-Fay investigation, said it was apparent that a larger number of soldiers working last fall inside the chaotic prison shared responsibility for "serious misconduct and a loss of moral values."

He added: "This was clearly a deviation from everything we've taught people on how to behave. There were failures of leadership, of people seeing things and not correcting them. There were failures of discipline."

Most incidents involved abusive behavior by investigators, Kern said, but he added that some acts of misbehavior were worse, amounting to torture of the Iraqi detainees.

"It's a harsh word, and in some instances, unfortunately, I think it was appropriate here," Kern told reporters. "There were a few instances when torture was being used."

The Jones-Fay report did not name those intelligence officers, CIA officials and contractors who, along with two medics and three other military police officers, either participated in the abuses or knew of them and did nothing to stop them. It said they should face either criminal or civil action. The full report with appendices is estimated to be several thousand pages long. The Pentagon released 177 pages Wednesday.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to take up both new reports in hearings beginning in two weeks. However, Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the panel, said at a Capitol Hill news conference that the reports issued this week show that the military "can investigate itself, in an objective and pragmatic and fair way."

From the earliest stages of the prison scandal, top Bush administration officials have sought to portray the abuse as the work of a renegade band of night-shift MPs.

Los Angeles Times Articles