The Army has initiated extensive changes in the way it trains for and conducts its worldwide detention operations, acknowledging that a series of investigations into prisoner abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and Cuba revealed failures, omissions or confusion in Army doctrine and training that might have contributed to the abuse.
Maj. Gen. Donald J. Ryder, the Army's provost marshal general and head of the Army's criminal investigation command, said yesterday that the wide-ranging abuse investigations launched after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal prompted the Army to rework its detention operations, specifically in training soldiers about their roles in U.S. prisons and rewriting doctrine to clarify what they are permitted to do in their jobs.
Some of the investigations released over the past year pointed to confusion between military police and military intelligence soldiers and a lack of clarity about the allowable interrogation techniques as setting the stage for illegal activities.
Ryder's description yesterday of a systemic restructuring in training and doctrine contrasted with early Army investigations, which ruled out doctrinal or systemic problems as the root causes of the abuse. The Army's inspector general, who issued his report on the abuse to Congress in July, called the abuse at Abu Ghraib "aberrations" and wrote that the incidents should be blamed on "the failure of individuals to follow known standards of discipline and Army values and, in some cases, the failure of a few leaders to enforce those standards of discipline."
Ryder told reporters at the Pentagon yesterday that the Army has since altered its interrogation policies and techniques, developed a new training program for correctional soldiers, revised two doctrine manuals, and created six doctrine manuals that relate to detention operations. He said the Army also is planning to add 35 specialized correctional units over the next three years, groups of soldiers who will be trained in running the Army's prisons and could be sent to foreign countries.
"The Army has taken action, and it has taken action from the very beginning," Ryder said. "This is an ongoing learning process."
Specifically at Abu Ghraib, the soldiers criminally implicated in abuse were low-ranking military police soldiers who said they had little or no training in correctional operations. Some also said they were approached by military intelligence officials to help in interrogation efforts that employed tactics that are considered torture by international standards, including the use of military working dogs.
The prison also was a holding ground for "ghost" detainees, prisoners who were brought in by the CIA, the FBI and other government agencies and held off the books and out of sight of international human rights organizations.
Thomas A. Gandy, director of the Army's Counterintelligence, Human Intelligence, Foreign Disclosure and Security Directorate, said yesterday that ghost detainees are now specifically not allowed in Defense Department detention facilities and that any prisoners brought into such compounds must be registered.
Gandy and Ryder also said the Army has retooled its interrogations manual to clarify which tactics are approved and to define the "left and right boundaries" so less is left to an interrogator's discretion and so the tactics comply with the Geneva Conventions. Commanding generals, however, will still have the authority to approve individual tactics, as long as they comply with the laws of war, Gandy said.
"It will be clearly laid out in policy," Ryder said. He said the main thrust of the changes is to "clarify the rules and responsibilities of everyone who works inside the correctional facilities."
Ryder said there have been 308 criminal investigations by the Army as a result of the alleged abuse, and 201 have been closed, though he could not provide information about the number of prosecutions or convictions. The remaining 107 cases remain open.