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U.S. Generals in Iraq Were Told of Abuse Early, Inquiry Finds

Nearly six months later, Defense Department officials were forced to acknowledge the practice because of the Abu Ghraib scandal. Soldiers who worked at the prison said several detainees were hidden, and a prison logbook showed a consistent stream of them from October 2003 to January 2004.

Herrington, who is considered an expert in human intelligence operations, ran programs during Operation Desert Storm and in Panama and was part of the controversial Phoenix Program, which targeted the roots of the Viet Cong insurgency in Vietnam. He compiled his report after a week-long trip to Iraq beginning Dec. 2, 2003, joined by a military intelligence officer and an Army intelligence official from the Pentagon.

Spec. Duwayne Moore works at Abu Ghraib prison, which became known for photographs depicting detainee abuse. A report warned Army generals early that an elite military and CIA task force was abusing detainees throughout Iraq. (Andrea Bruce Woodall -- The Washington Post)

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His ultimate conclusion was that much needed to be done to increase intelligence capabilities, which he called below average, though he praised Fast's determination.

"Given the fact that the United States and its coalition partners paid and continue to pay a steep price in losses and national treasure to lay our hands on these detainees, it is disappointing that the opportunity to thoroughly and professionally exploit this source pool has not been maximized, in spite of your best efforts and those of several hundred MI [military intelligence] soldiers," Herrington wrote to Fast in the Dec. 12 report. "Even one year ago, we would have salivated at the prospect of being able to talk to people like the hundreds who are now in our custody. Now that we have them, we have failed to devote the planning and resources to optimize this mission."

Herrington, contacted by telephone, declined to discuss the report. A Pentagon official said Fast personally requested Herrington's visit, and the report indicates Fast was interested in improving U.S. intelligence and detention operations, saying that "in spite of efforts to upgrade this effort, [she] remained concerned about its state of health."

In the 13-page report, Herrington wrote that overcrowding and a lack of resources caused the Army to use "primitive prison accommodations" for even the most important targets. He said that led to the loss of considerable significant intelligence and might have fueled the Iraqi insurgency.

He added that some detainees were arrested because targets were not at home when homes were raided. A family member was instead captured and then released when the target turned himself in -- a practice that, Herrington wrote, "has a 'hostage' feel to it."

A separate report by the Center for Army Lessons Learned, issued this past May and intended for internal use, gave the sense that some Army tactics served to "alienate common Iraqis who initially supported the coalition."

The 134-page CALL report singled out the practice of detaining female family members to force wanted Iraqi males to turn themselves in, similar to Herrington's findings.

"It is a practice in some U.S. units to detain family members of anti-coalition suspects in an effort to induce the suspects to turn themselves in, in exchange for the release of their family members," the report stated. The CALL report also was critical of the delays in notifying family members about the status of detainees held in U.S. custody, reminding family members of Hussein's tactics.

Herrington's report also noted that sweeps pulled in hundreds and even thousands of detainees who had no connection to the war. Abu Ghraib, for example, swelled to several thousand more detainees than it could handle. Herrington wrote that aggressive and indiscriminate tactics by the 4th Infantry Division, rounding up random scores of detainees and "dumping them at the door," was a glaring example.

As the United States recently has picked up its counterinsurgency efforts, the number of new detainees has again surged.

"Between the losers and dead end elements from the former regime and foreign fighters, there are enough people in Iraq who already don't like us," Herrington wrote. "Adding to these numbers by conducting sweep operations . . . is counterproductive to the Coalition's efforts to win the cooperation of the Iraqi citizenry. Similarly, mistreatment of captives as has been reported to me and our team is unacceptable, and bound to be known by the population."

Staff writer Thomas E. Ricks contributed to this report.

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