Army screwed the pooch on Iraqi prisoner abuse probe

The unidentified Florida National Guardsman called it “Ramadi Madness” – a compilation of videos depicting his unit’s time in Iraq. But some of the images were investigated as possible detainee abuse, including one recording of a soldier kicking a wounded, moaning Iraqi.

But investigators found no cause to charge anyone in connection with the videos, according to documents released by the Army on Friday.

The description of the video was among 1,200 pages of documents released in response to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, which is seeking information on prisoner abuse in Iraq.

Army officials said the documents summarized 13 investigations, none of which resulted in abuse charges. Some were closed because of insufficient evidence. The Army, which says it is committed to finding and correcting problems in prison operations, has so far released the results of 129 investigations to the ACLU.

In total, the Army said, it has opened 341 investigations into alleged abuse. Of the 226 that are complete, 69 resulted in some kind of action against a soldier. At least 109 soldiers have been punished, including 32 tried by court-martial.

Jameel Jaffer, an attorney with the ACLU, called the latest Army documents “further evidence that abuse of detainees was widespread in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The ACLU, along with the group Human Rights First, sued Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld this week in connection with some alleged abuses of prisoners.

Previously, the Army had been providing the documents to the ACLU, which in turn made them public. On Friday, the Army provided copies of its latest releases to the news media as well.

The “Ramadi Madness” video was a compilation of recordings taken of the actions of B Company, 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, a unit of the Florida National Guard that was in Iraq in 2003 and early 2004, according to the investigation documents. The company is based in West Palm Beach.

“The video is definitely inappropriate,” the company’s commander, Maj. Joseph Lyon, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “… However, we were still in a very tight situation, a stressful situation … Until you’ve lived that, it’s very difficult for anyone to play armchair quarterback.”

Lyon said the video led to disciplinary action against a soldier or soldiers. He would not specify whom, what or how many.

The investigation began after a civilian public affairs officer in Florida saw some of the video while other soldiers were watching it.

The video itself was not released. Investigation documents describe efforts to prevent it from being leaked to the news media.

The investigation found that “Ramadi Madness” contained footage of “inappropriate rather than criminal behavior,” according to a summary of the investigation, dated Dec. 28, 2004. Ramadi is a restive city in Iraq’s Sunni Triangle.

According to investigators, one part of the video showed an Iraqi lying on the ground, handcuffed and moaning, when a soldier kicked him. The prisoner had been shot through the abdomen because he raised a gun toward American soldiers during a raid, investigators said.

Investigators found one soldier, whose name was blacked out in the documents, who acknowledged he looked like the one in the video, although his face was obscured. The soldier said he didn’t remember kicking the Iraqi. The fate of the detainee is unclear; several officers said they didn’t believe the kick constituted an assault.

Another section of the video appeared to show a soldier hitting a cuffed Iraqi in the head with a rifle butt during an interrogation, according to the civilian who first reported it. However, one soldier told interrogators that this was a staged image, and the Iraqi was not actually hit with the rifle. The soldier said the Iraqi, a juvenile, had been detained for throwing rocks at a U.S. military convoy and was later released.

A third section showed one soldier manipulating a dead Iraqi, shot while trying to run a checkpoint in a truck, to make it appear the man waved to the camera. The soldier said he only positioned the body so other U.S. personnel could remove it. He also said there was a missile in the truck.

Other investigations included in the Army documents involve other units in Iraq. They include an investigation that did not validate allegations of rape and other abuses in Iraq by soldiers in the 3rd Infantry Division, which were recounted in an article in Playboy magazine.

In another case, a former soldier was charged with making a false official statement after alleging some of his comrades stole from Iraqis at vehicle checkpoints in Iraq.

In still another, a civilian with the organization searching for weapons of mass destruction alleged a U.S. military prison guard at Baghdad International Airport forced a detainee to drink his own urine. The investigation could not prove this happened.

© 2005 The Associated Press