Army agency is placed in awkward position of investigating its own

CID personnel worked at Iraqi prison during time inmates were abused

Crisis In Iraq

May 06, 2004|By Scott Shane | Scott Shane,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

The Army agency investigating the abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison has to work around an awkward fact: Some of its own agents were working in the prison, interrogating detainees, throughout the alleged abuse.

In fact, the personal journal of one of the military police reservists criminally charged in the case names two agents of the Army Criminal Investigation Command who he claims witnessed or encouraged abuse.

But no agent of what is commonly called Army CID, for criminal investigation division, has been called to account.

Chris Grey, a CID spokesman, said the agency "is unaware of any information" that any of the CID agents investigating prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib had previously witnessed abuse.

But he said yesterday that as a result of questions from The Sun, CID has opened an inquiry into allegations about CID agents in the journal sent home in January by Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II, a military police officer charged with assault and other crimes.

The double role of CID agents at Abu Ghraib is repeated at military detention facilities throughout Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hundreds of Army CID agents are assigned to question detainees suspected in attacks on U.S. troops and other serious crimes. And when Army personnel - including CID employees - are suspected of mistreating detainees, CID agents are usually the lead investigators.

With Army CID now conducting 20 investigations of prisoner deaths and alleged mistreatment in Iraq and Afghanistan, the potential for conflicts of interest could make a difficult situation even more complicated.

Eugene R. Fidell, a Washington attorney who handles many military cases, said CID's double role poses a conundrum.

"How do you obtain public confidence in a case in which at some level an agency appears to be investigating itself?" asked Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

A detailed Army report on the Abu Ghraib misconduct, written by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, has only praise for CID.

Taguba writes that CID's "highly professional" investigators did a "superb job of investigating several complex and extremely disturbing incidents of detainee abuse."

But Taguba's report makes no mention of the fact that some CID interrogators were inside Abu Ghraib during the period of the abuse last year.

Nor does it address allegations that some of those CID interrogators condoned some abusive treatment.

Such allegations are contained in the 10-page, handwritten journal that Frederick sent to relatives as the Army prepared to charge him.

Frederick's journal states that Army CID agents were "present when the military working dogs were used to intimidate prisoners at MI's [Military Intelligence's] request."

The journal asserts that one CID agent, whom Frederick identifies by last name, directed a soldier guarding detainees "to stress one prisoner out as much as possible" because "he wanted him to talk the next day."

In another case, Frederick wrote that a different CID agent watched as an unruly prisoner was "placed in a headlock and choked out" by a soldier.

Grey, the CID spokesman, said one of the CID agents named by Frederick spent time at Abu Ghraib interviewing an Iraqi suspect about the murder of two U.S. soldiers. The other agent named by Frederick has not been identified for certain, he said.

Grey said that apart from Frederick's journal, CID commanders in February received an allegation that a CID agent at Abu Ghraib "may have witnessed abuse." But an investigation found no evidence, and some soldiers signed sworn statements saying the CID agent was not present during the abuse, Grey said.

Another illustration of the complexities created by CID's dual role in Iraq involves its commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Donald J. Ryder, who conducted his own inquiry last fall into the handling of detainees in Iraq.

While he recommended some changes, he concluded in his Nov. 5 report that no units were "applying inappropriate confinement practices."

When Taguba wrote his own report on Abu Ghraib two months later, he noted pointedly that although Ryder had failed to find abuse, "many of the abuses suffered by detainees occurred during, or near to, the time of [Ryder's] assessment."

Why did Ryder, the Army's top law enforcement officer, miss the abuses taking place while he and his investigative team were at Abu Ghraib? Did any of the CID agents stationed at Abu Ghraib have knowledge of the abuse that they kept from their boss? Those questions await answers in the ballooning investigation.

Whatever the reason for Ryder's failure to find the abuse, it was soon corrected by CID agents on the spot. After a military police officer from Cumberland saw photos of the abuse, he slipped a note under the door of a CID agent at Abu Ghraib. After that, CID investigators appear to have aggressively pursued the case - at least against the military police reservists guarding the detainees.

The CID investigation has so far produced criminal charges against six soldiers from a Maryland-based military police unit, as well as career-ending reprimands for six of their superiors.

No CID personnel have been charged or reprimanded.

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