Army whitewashed probe of prison abuse

The Army closed a criminal investigation of abuse allegations by an
Iraqi detainee last year, finding no reason to believe his claims, even
though no Americans involved in the case were questioned, according to
Pentagon records made public Thursday.

Internal Army documents
about the Iraqi’s capture on Jan. 4, 2004, and his subsequent
interrogation at an unspecified facility at or near Baghdad
International Airport were not reviewed, the records show, because
investigators were told they had been lost in a computer malfunction.

Iraqi, whose full name was blacked out in the documents by U.S.
censors, is described as a relative of a former bodyguard for Saddam

The detainee alleged that he was kicked in the stomach
once and punched in the spine once by his interrogators. He said he was
placed in front of a window air conditioner after being stripped naked
and having a bag placed over his head. Cold water was poured over the
bag every few minutes, he said, and he was dragged around a room by his

The investigation records were among thousands of pages of
records released by the American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained
them from the Defense Department as part of a Freedom of Information

Army spokesman Paul Boyce said more than 500
investigations have been conducted on allegations of detainee abuse and
that so far at least 251 military members have been court-martialed or
given other forms of punishment.

“This effort by the U.S. Army
Criminal Investigation Command demonstrates the Army’s continuing and
tireless commitment to investigate any allegation of detainee abuse by
any unit or soldier, and to locate possible witnesses to allegations of
detainee abuse,” he said.

The documents include numerous
references to investigators being blocked from a thorough
investigation, yet the matter was closed a final time on June 17, 2005,
by the Army Criminal Investigation Command.

An April 8, 2005,
report, for example, said an Army investigation unit had been unable to
fully investigate 23 criminal cases “due to the suspects and witnesses
involvement in Special Access Programs and/or the security
classification of the unit they were assigned to during the offense.”
Special Access Programs are highly classified activities such as Task
Force 6-26, which was hunting high-value targets like insurgent leaders.

Feb. 26, 2005, report said that even though the Iraqi who made the
abuse allegations had given a detailed description of the interpreter
who was present, as well as others, “no effort was made to identify and
interview the interrogators and screening personnel who were working”
at the screening facility.

A report two weeks earlier said, “The
only names identified by this investigation were determined to be fake
names utilized by the capturing soldiers,” yet it added that “necessary
requirements” of the probe had been met.

“Hell, even if we reopened it we wouldn’t get any more information than we already have,” it concluded.

records indicate that the Iraqi was captured in a house in Tikrit,
Saddam’s home town, and screened by members of Task Force 6-26. They
also indicated that the probe was impeded in part by the fact that Task
Force members involved in captures of detainees had been authorized to
use fake names.

The case was initially closed Oct. 27, 2004,
about three months after it was opened. A memo explaining the decision
said records to refute or substantiate the alleged abuses “could not be
located,” adding that this result “did not diminish the integrity or
credibility of (the) allegation” by the unidentified detainee.

so, the memo said, investigators said continuing the investigation
“would be of little or no value and leads remaining to be developed
would not impact on the investigative findings of this investigation.”

months later the probe was reopened after a review concluded that the
investigation was flawed. Commenting on the absence of documentation,
the review said the “`lost records’ explanation is unacceptable” _
referring to the assertion that records had been lost in a computer

“The bottom line is this detainee’s circumstances were
rather unique, due to his relationship to another high-value detainee,”
the review said. “Because of this relationship, the interrogators would
have prepared and submitted a report to higher echelons.”

In an
indication that superiors were kept informed, one of the investigation
documents released Thursday noted that investigators had been
instructed to provide an update “concerning the conduct of our
investigation” to Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who was in charge of
detainee operations in Iraq from March-December 2004.

Also Thursday:

officials said Miller had declined to answer questions in two
courts-martial cases involving the use of dogs during interrogations at
the detention center at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Miller commanded that facility from November 2002 to March 2004.

General Paul Clement asked the Supreme Court to dismiss an appeal by
Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a terror suspect held at Guantanamo Bay. Hamdan is
challenging the administration’s plan to try him and others by military


On the Net:

Army records on ACLU Web site:

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