US Army generals told of prisoner abuse before Abu Ghraib photos: report
WASHINGTON (AFP) Dec 01, 2004
A confidential report to a top general in Iraq raised concerns over abuse of prisoners by members of a joint special operations-CIA task force before the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed Wednesday.
The report by retired colonel Stuart Herrington found that members of Task Force 121 had been abusing detainees throughout Iraq and had been using a secret interrogation facility to hide their activities, The Washington Post reported.
"Detainees captured by TF 121 have shown injuries that caused examining medical personnel to note that 'detainee shows signs of having been beaten,'" Herrington said in his 13-page report obtained by the Post.
"It seems clear that TF 121 needs to be reined in with respect to its treatment of detainees," he concluded.
The report was sent to Major General Barbara Fast, the top intelligence officer in Iraq, on December 12, about a month before detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison was exposed in an investigation by Major General Antonio Taguba.
"It obviously raises the some of the same issues we raised in several of the looks we've taken," Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita said.
"We had heard from commanders who said they were concerned about how the (Abu Ghraib) prison was being run," he said, adding that those concerns extended beyond organizational issues to prisoner abuse.
DiRita stressed, however, that the commanders' concerns came to light only later in investigations set in motion by the Abu Ghraib scandal.
He said he did not know how far up the chain of command the Herrington report went or whether Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the US commander in Iraq, had seen it.
The Herrington report was cited in an as yet unreleased investigation by Vice Admiral Albert Church, the Navy's inspector general who has been examining detainee operations across the military, he said.
The Church report, a draft of which is under review at the Pentagon, will probably not be made public for several weeks, DiRita said.
News of the Herrington report, which indicates that detainee abuse in Iraq was not confined to the Abu Ghraib prison, comes a day after a New York Times article on a confidential Red Cross report alleging that prisoner abuse at the US military facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was tantamount to torture.
The US government on Tuesday strongly denied the accusations of prisoner abuse at Guantanamo.
In his report, Herrington said a US officer in charge of interrogation in Iraq told him that detainees brought in by TF 121 showed signs of having been beaten, and that when asked if he had informed his superiors was told: "Everyone knows about it."
Herrington also noted in his report that the abuse of detainees and the practice of arresting thousands of people with no connection to the Iraq war was not making friends of the Iraqis.
"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."
Herrington also found that US soldiers sometimes arrested family members when a person targeted for detention was not at home.
The relatives were released when the suspect turned himself in, Herrington said adding that the practice "has a 'hostage' feel to it."All rights reserved. © 2005 Agence France-Presse. Sections of the information displayed on this page (dispatches, photographs, logos) are protected by intellectual property rights owned by Agence France-Presse. As a consequence, you may not copy, reproduce, modify, transmit, publish, display or in any way commercially exploit any of the content of this section without the prior written consent of Agence France-Presse.