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.

    The
    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
    Hussein.

    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
    arm.

    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
    request.

    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.

    A
    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.

    The
    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.

    Even
    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.”

    Four
    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
    glitch.

    “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:

    _Military
    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.

    _Solicitor
    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
    commission.

    ___

    On the Net:

    Army records on ACLU Web site: http://action.aclu.org/torturefoia/released/011206

    © 2006 The Associated Press