WASHINGTON — U.S. forces in at least two cases have detained wives of suspected insurgents in Iraq in an attempt to pressure the men into surrendering, documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union confirm.
"This is not an acceptable tactic," ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh said Friday.
In one instance, members of a military task force seized a mother of three young children "in order to leverage" her husband's surrender, according to an account by a civilian Defense Intelligence Agency officer.
In the other, an e-mail exchange includes a U.S. military officer asking, "Have you tacked a note on the door and challenged him to come get his wife?"
Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said: "It's very hard, obviously, from some of these documents to determine what, if anything, actually happened....
"When you see an individual e-mail note, it's oftentimes very confusing to figure out how that particular case fits into an overall, larger puzzle."
In Baghdad, Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said that only Iraqis who pose an "imperative threat" are held in long-term U.S.-run detention facilities.
The documents are among hundreds the Pentagon has released periodically under court order to meet an ACLU request under the Freedom of Information Act.
A June 10, 2004, memo written by the DIA employee, labeled as "secret," referred to "violations of the Geneva Convention."
It described the actions of Task Force 6-26 and stated that on May 9, 2004, task force personnel detained the wife of "a suspected terrorist" in Tarmiya, north of Baghdad.
"The 28-year-old woman had three young children at the house.... Her husband was the primary target of the raid," the memo stated. "It was recommended ... that if the wife were present, she be detained and held in order to leverage the primary target's surrender."
The memo's author said he objected but the "raid team leader detained her anyway."
The memo said the wife was released two days later. It did not say whether her husband was eventually arrested.
In the other case, a U.S. lieutenant colonel e-mailed, "What are you guys doing to try to get the husband -- have you tacked a note on the door and challenged him to come get his wife?"
A later e-mail stated, "These ladies fought back extremely hard during the original detention. They have shown indications of deceipt [sic] and misinformation."