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Abuse Report Widens Scope of Culpability

Generals Point to Contractors, Military Intelligence Soldiers

By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, August 26, 2004; Page A01

Three Army generals said yesterday that an array of sometimes shocking detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison came in part at the hands of more than two dozen military intelligence soldiers and civilian contractors, widening the scope of the international scandal as one Army general conceded that some of the acts qualified as torture.

In releasing an investigative report yesterday about the actions of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, the generals acknowledged that chaos and confusion absorbed Abu Ghraib. Interrogators did not know the rules and thus flagrantly broke them. Detainees were questioned while naked, the CIA hid prisoners from international human rights groups, and detainees were left hooded and handcuffed in painful positions.

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In sometimes agonizing detail, the generals detailed acts of sodomy, beatings, nudity, lengthy isolation, and the use of unmuzzled dogs in a sadistic game of making detainees urinate and defecate in fear.

"The abuses spanned from direct physical assault, such as delivering head blows rendering detainees unconscious, to sexual posing and forced participation in group masturbation," the Army report says. "At the extremes were the death of a detainee . . . an alleged rape committed by a US translator and observed by a female Soldier, and the alleged sexual assault of an unknown female."

Coupled with an independent investigative report issued Tuesday, the findings released yesterday outline dramatic problems at the prison and highlight significant management failures up and down the chain of command that the generals believe ultimately led to and exacerbated serious abuse. Neither of the investigations assigns direct blame for the abuse to top military commanders or civilian leaders in Washington, but both reports conclude that a lack of planning for postwar Iraq and fundamental breakdowns in leadership fostered the environment in which the abuse occurred.

Gen. Paul J. Kern, Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Jones and Maj. Gen. George R. Fay flatly reported that they had found "serious misconduct and a loss of moral values" in the ranks at Abu Ghraib and explained that abuse occurred both in the chaos of the military police-run nightshift and also during official interrogations by military intelligence soldiers. Tactics employed by military intelligence set the stage for a subsequent escalation of maltreatment.

"What started as undressing and humiliation, stress and physical training, carried over into sexual and physical assaults by a small group of morally corrupt and unsupervised soldiers and civilians," the report says.

In response to questions about whether the abuse amounted to torture, Fay said the term was subjective, but said he thought some of the abuse qualified.

"Torture sometimes is used to define something in order to get information," he said. "There were very few instances where in fact you could say that was torture. It's a harsh word, and in some instances, unfortunately, I think it was appropriate here. There were a few instances when torture was being used."

The generals also describe confusing and contradictory interrogation policies that led some military intelligence personnel to abuse detainees because they thought they were following accepted practices. CIA officials were hiding "ghost detainees" from human rights groups, a violation of international law. Naked detainees were sometimes placed in excessively cold or hot cells with limited or poor ventilation, and no light. Commanders were complicit, or turned a blind eye.

The report also for the first time provided extensive details of the connection between controversial military intelligence interrogation tactics and the notorious abuse seen around the world in digital photographs of military police soldiers at Abu Ghraib. The report found that 23 military intelligence soldiers were directly involved in abuse, sometimes while interrogating prisoners, and that four civilian contractors were also a party to the wrongdoing.

Many of the problems at the prison stemmed from lack of clarity in instructions from the U.S. command in Iraq, according to the report. Interrogation guidelines were borrowed and assembled from detainee operations in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Afghanistan. Interrogators were taking cues from their previous experiences, and guidance about the legality of certain harsh tactics from commanders was hazy at best and sometimes even wrong, according to the report. For example, the use of painful stress positions, nudity and military working dogs were not approved tactics for interrogations -- yet they were endorsed by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez's command.

Military intelligence solicitation of military police abuse "included the use of isolation with sensory deprivation, removal of clothing and humiliation, the use of dogs as an interrogation tool to induce fear, and physical abuse," the report said.

Later, in summarizing the abuse at the prison, the generals wrote that examples of physical abuse included "slapping, kicking, twisting the hands of a detainee who was hand-cuffed to cause pain, throwing balls at restrained internees, placing gloved hand over the nose and mouth of an internee to restrict breathing, 'poking' at an internee's injured leg, and forcing an internee to stand while handcuffed in such a way as to dislocate his shoulder."

Officials at the Pentagon have characterized the sexual humiliation, beatings and sexual positions seen in the photographs as the work of a few rogue military police soldiers who were attacking detainees on their own. Instead, yesterday's report made it clear that while MPs were involved in abuse, the transgressions were more widespread and generally accepted at the prison than previously acknowledged.

But the Army generals found no overarching Army policy or doctrine that they believe led to the abuse, emphasizing that a vast majority of U.S. soldiers abided by the rules and have been serving with pride. Instead, they conclude that a lack of proper attention to operations at the facility, a rising and unexpected insurgency sapping resources, and a lack of discipline probably played strong roles in the problem.

They also found rampant confusion about allowable interrogation techniques, leadership failures by top-ranking officials, and the cultural acceptance of certain abuse at the prison.

"We found that the pictures you have seen, as revolting as they are, were not the result of any doctrine, training or policy failures, but violations of the law and misconduct," Kern told reporters at the Pentagon yesterday afternoon. "We've learned there were leaders at Abu Ghraib who knew about this conduct, knew better, and did nothing. Some soldiers behaved improperly because they were confused by their experiences and direction."

The generals said yesterday that they were unable to properly address the problem of ghost detainees because the policy appears to be one adopted by the CIA and was largely out of bounds of their investigation. They said that at one point there were eight such detainees at Abu Ghraib who were not registered, something they considered a violation of law. They said they were referring the matter to the Defense Department's inspector general and to the CIA.

The report assigns blame for committing abuse or failing to report it to 35 military intelligence personnel -- including six civilian contractors -- and to 11 MPs and two medics. In addition, the generals cited five others for reprimand, including Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, who was in charge of the facility at the time of the abuse.

While the months-long investigation found scant evidence that interrogators specifically ordered MPs to carry out abuse, it did conclude that in 16 cases -- more than a third of the 44 cases the generals documented -- "abuse by the MP soldiers was, or was alleged to have been, requested, encouraged, condoned, or solicited by MI personnel."

That conclusion could be important to the seven MP soldiers who have been charged with criminal conduct because it tends to support their attorneys' claims that they were acting at the direction of military intelligence. In some cases, the generals conclude that the MP claims of direction from MI interrogators were "plausible" but lacked clear proof. In others, tactics employed by intelligence soldiers such as stripping prisoners appear to have created an environment for worse treatment.

"The use of clothing as an incentive (nudity) is significant in that it likely contributed to an escalating 'de-humanization' of the detainees and set the stage for additional and more severe abuses to occur," according to the report.

Richard A. Hernandez, the lead attorney defending one MP, Pfc. Lynndie R. England, against abuse charges, said the report confirms what he has been claiming all along: The MPs were told to use abusive tactics against detainees.

"This was no rogue band of soldiers; this was a completely chaotic and failed command structure," he said. "They believed it was condoned because of what they were told to do and what they had seen done."

Human rights groups said the report highlighted major problems -- such as abuse of children and the hiding of detainees -- but still muddled questions of responsibility.

"They're just afraid to take that obvious but politically dangerous step of stating plainly that General Sanchez and other commanders were responsible for what happened," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "I think the report is a powerful argument for having clear guidelines for humane treatment in interrogations."

In Philadelphia, Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) renewed his call for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation, saying that he bears responsibility for "the climate" that made the prison abuse possible.

Kerry had called on the president to remove the Pentagon chief for what he called faulty planning of Iraq operations, and he said that the newly released reports offered further evidence of "the most serious miscalculations in any American military deployment."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Kerry's call for Rumsfeld's departure showed the Democratic presidential nominee "really does not want to talk about the issues and his record" and added: "He is more interested in saying what is the most politically beneficial thing to his campaign.

"In terms of these recent reports," McClellan said, "the president believes that those who committed the atrocities at Abu Ghraib should be punished. What occurred there was appalling, and it was wrong."

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, said the report raises additional concerns and called for an independent investigation of the Pentagon leadership's role in and responsibility for the abuse.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.) described the Army abuse report as a "very thorough and competent job," virtually the same words he used to describe an independent analysis of detention operations issued earlier this week by James R. Schlesinger, a former defense secretary.

Asked at a news conference whether Rumsfeld should resign, Warner said he "essentially" agreed with Schlesinger that he should not resign, but he added that "the commanding officer has to take responsibility for those actions of his subordinates that are proven to be unprofessional or downright wrong."

The committee has scheduled hearings on the reports for Sept. 9, and Warner said he hopes to hear from Rumsfeld before then to see if further investigation by Congress or the executive branch is needed.

Staff writers David S. Broder in Philadelphia and Helen Dewar in Washington contributed to this report.

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