Army report finds worse POW abuse

Civilian contractor had interrogation role, magazine writer reports

`Sadistic, blatant, and wanton'

Intelligence units focus of wider investigation

Crisis In Iraq

May 02, 2004|By Scott Shane and Tom Bowman | Scott Shane and Tom Bowman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - As new details emerged yesterday about allegations that reservists based in Western Maryland had tortured Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, the Army expanded its investigation into the "manner of interrogation" employed by military intelligence units and civilian contractors, a senior military official said.

New Yorker writer Seymour M. Hersh published details on the magazine's Web site yesterday from a 53-page report on the conduct of soldiers from the 372nd Military Police Company by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba that accused the soldiers of "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" at Abu Ghraib between October and December last year.

Six soldiers attached to the unit, based in Cresaptown near Cumberland, are facing criminal charges and possible courts-martial, and eight more have been accused of administrative violations.

Taguba's report, which was written in February and led to the charges being filed against 16 soldiers and one military contractor, accuses the troops of "breaking chemical lights and pouring the phosphoric liquid on detainees; pouring cold water on naked detainees; beating detainees with a broom handle and a chair; threatening male detainees with rape; allowing a military police guard to stitch the wound of a detainee who was injured after being slammed against the wall in his cell; sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick, and using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee."

The Taguba report, as quoted by Hersh, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting of the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War, also contains details of how a civilian contractor played a key role in interrogating prisoners, all but unprecedented in military annals.

Steven Stephanowicz, identified as an employee of CACI International, a publicly held company based in Arlington that boasts of its expertise in combating terrorism, is accused by Taguba of allowing or ordering military policemen "who were not trained in interrogation techniques to facilitate interrogations by `setting conditions' which were neither authorized" by nor comported with Army regulations.

"He clearly knew his instructions equated to physical abuse," the Taguba report said.

Hersh's article will appear in the magazine's May 10 issue.

Repeated telephone calls to Jody Brown, CACI's senior vice president for public relations, went unanswered. On Friday, the company, which has 7,600 employees worldwide and 2003 revenues of $843 million, issued a statement that said it had "no indication from the Army that any CACI employee was involved in any alleged improper conduct with Iraqi prisoners," according to the Los Angeles Times.

Civilian role unusual

Robert Baer, a former CIA officer with extensive experience in the Middle East, said "it's very unusual" to use civilian contractors for translations or interrogations. But he said even the CIA is short-handed with translators and interrogators. "There's nobody to send," he said.

At the same time, Baer said that the allegations that civilians encouraged the mistreatment of prisoners shows the civilians were ill-trained for any interrogation work. "Physical coercion doesn't work," he said.

Gary Myers, a former Army lawyer who is representing Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II, one of the six reservists facing criminal charges, said this created a lawless situation. "You've got civilians in there who don't come under [military law]," he said. "I don't know there's an Iraqi criminal court at the moment. Who do they [contractors] answer to?"

Frederick, who has already been recommended for court-martial, has complained of being made a scapegoat by the Army. He places the blame for the abuses at Abu Ghraib with military intelligence officials, contractors and operatives from OGA, or "other government agencies," a euphemism for the CIA.

In a journal he began keeping in January after he came under suspicion for misconduct, Frederick, a Virginia prison guard, accused agents of covering up a killing. Hersh refers to a second fatal incident at the prison and said the corpse was photographed by soldiers: "There is the battered face of prisoner No. 153399."

Investigation expands

The new, broadened investigation of the role played by military intelligence and civilian contractors in the Abu Ghraib abuses has already begun, according to a senior military official in Baghdad. It is being headed by Army Maj. Gen. George Fay, who has a background in military intelligence.

One of the Army military intelligence units operating at Abu Ghraib during the period when Taguba documented the abuses was the 325th Military Intelligence Battalion, based in East Windsor, Conn. It had more than 300 soldiers serving in Iraq from March until December, when most returned home.

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