New York Times Report on Abuse Faults 2 Officers in Intelligence: Graphic Sex Description of Iraqi Prisoner Abuse

New York Times

May 3, 2004

An internal Army investigation has found a virtual collapse of the command structure in a prison outside Baghdad where American enlisted personnel are accused of committing acts of abuse and humiliation against Iraqi detainees.

A report on the investigation said midlevel military intelligence officers were allowed to skirt the normal chain of command to issue questionable orders to enlisted personnel from the reserve military police unit handling guard duty there.

The Army has already begun one investigation into the abuse allegations. Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, the incoming deputy commander of Army intelligence, is examining the interrogation practices of military intelligence officers at all American-run prisons in Iraq and not just the Abu Ghraib prison.

A second review was ordered Saturday by Lt. Gen. James R. Helmly, head of the Army Reserve, to assess the training of all reservists, especially military police and intelligence officers, the soldiers most likely to handle prisoners. Six members of an Army Reserve military police unit assigned to Abu Ghraib face charges of assault, cruelty, indecent acts and maltreatment of detainees.

Gary Myers, a lawyer for Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick II, one of the enlisted men charged in the case, requested over the weekend that the Army open a court of inquiry into the abuse at Abu Ghraib, a move that would expand the investigation beyond the six enlisted personnel to look at the broader command failures.

The widening prison-abuse scandal in Iraq, which has stirred anger in the Arab world just as the Marines have tried to defuse a bloody confrontation in Falluja, holds the potential to damage efforts by American officials to meet a June 30 deadline to transfer limited self-rule to the Iraqi people. It appeared to have caught senior Pentagon officials and some top officers off guard on Sunday, despite President Bush's condemnation of the abuses on Friday.

Appearing on three Sunday talk shows, Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, gave conflicting answers when asked if the problems at Abu Ghraib were systemic throughout detention centers in Iraq.

At first, General Myers insisted that the instances of mistreatment were not widespread and were the actions of "just a handful" of soldiers who had unfairly tainted all American forces in Iraq. But when pressed, he acknowledged that he had not yet read a classified, 53-page Army report completed in February by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, first reported in the May 10 issue of The New Yorker, that chronicled the worst of the abuses at Abu Ghraib. General Myers left open the possibility the abuses could be broader, saying, "We don't know that yet."

A spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said that the secretary had not been briefed on General Taguba's report either, but had been kept abreast of the investigative process.

General Myers also acknowledged that he had asked the CBS News program "60 Minutes II" to delay broadcasting photographs of the abuses taken by guards inside the prison to avoid worsening tensions in Iraq at a time when attacks against American forces are on the rise and one soldier is being held hostage by insurgents. "I thought it would be particularly inflammatory at that time," General Myers said on the ABC News program "This Week."

The Taguba report, as well as other documents seen Sunday by The New York Times, also reveal a much broader pattern of command failures than initially acknowledged by the Pentagon and the Bush administration in responding to outrage over the abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison.

The report on General Taguba's investigation identified two military intelligence officers and two civilian contractors for the Army as key figures in the abuse cases at Abu Ghraib. In his internal report on his findings in the investigation, General Taguba said he suspected that the four were "either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib and strongly recommended disciplinary action."

The Taguba report found that they were never properly trained or supervised. It found that in effect, the military police were told to soften up the prisoners so they would talk more freely in interrogations conducted by intelligence officials.

The Taguba report states that "military intelligence interrogators and other U.S. Government Agency interrogators actively requested that M.P. guards set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses." It noted that one civilian interrogator, a contractor from a company called CACI International Inc., based in Arlington, Va., and attached to the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, "clearly knew his instructions" to the military police equated to physical abuse.

The Taguba report's sharpest criticism was for officers in charge of the military police and military intelligence units in the prison.

"There is abundant evidence in the statements of numerous witnesses that soldiers throughout the 800th M.P. Brigade were not proficient" in basic skills needed to operate the prison, the report found.

A crucial problem, the report found, was the bad relationship between the commanders of the military police unit and the military intelligence officers. The report found that there "was clear friction and lack of effective communication" between Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of the accused soldiers, and military intelligence officials operating in the prison.

The report said the "ambiguous command relationship" in the prison was made worse by orders that seemed to give military intelligence officials broad authority.

The orders from occupation commanders in Iraq effectively made a military intelligence officer, rather than a military police officer, responsible for the military police units, the report said. This arrangement was not supported by General Karpinski, the report added, and "is not doctrinally sound."

But while the Taguba report criticized military intelligence's role in the abuse, it did not spare General Karpinski. It recommended that she be relieved of command and reprimanded for command failures related to the abuse. General Karpinski said Saturday that she was sickened by the photos of the abuse.

The report identifies Col. Thomas M. Pappas, commander of the 205th military intelligence brigade, Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, the former director of the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center and Liaison Officer to the 205th Military intelligence Brigade, Steven Stephanowicz, an Army contract employee from CACI, and John Israel, a contractor and civilian interpreter with CACI, as the people suspected of being "either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib."

The report concluded that Mr. Stephanowicz made a false statement to the investigation team regarding the "locations of his interrogations, the activities during his interrogations, and his knowledge of abuses." It recommended that he be dismissed.

Mr. Israel, the report found, "denied ever having seen interrogation processes in violation" of Army standards, "which is contrary to several witness statements." Colonel Pappas was recommended for a reprimand for, among other things, failing to supervise his soldiers properly, and failing to ensure that soldiers under his direct command knew, understood and followed the Geneva Conventions for the treatment of prisoners of war.

Efforts to reach Colonel Pappas by e-mail yesterday were unsuccessful, as were efforts to find a telephone number or e-mail address for Colonel Jordan. Officials at CACI did not respond to telephone and e-mail messages yesterday requesting comment. In the New Yorker article, a spokeswoman said the company had received "no formal communication" from the Army about the case.

Some photographs of abuse at Abu Ghraib have been broadcast and published in recent days, since "60 Minutes II" first broadcast them on Wednesday. One photo shows a naked Iraqi man kneeling in front of another naked Iraqi man, who is standing over him with a bag over his head, while another shows a female American soldier pointing as an Iraqi man with a bag over his head is masturbating.

Another photo shows an American soldier sitting on top of a naked Iraqi man, who is straining to look up, and still more photos show naked Iraqi men in a human pyramid.

The photographs, some included in evidence in the Army's investigation, support the conclusions of the Taguba report, which found that between October and December 2003 "numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses were inflicted on several detainees" by members of the 800th Military Police Brigade. "This systemic and illegal abuse of detainees was intentionally perpetrated by several members of the military police guard force in Tier 1-A of the Abu Ghraib Prison."

In addition, the report said, "there were also abuses committed by members of the 325th Military Intelligence Battalion, 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, and the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center."

Documents from an April 2 military court hearing in Iraq for Sergeant Frederick provide new details about the abuse. The documents show that Specialist Matthew Carl Wisdom, of the 372nd Military Police Company at Abu Ghraib, appeared in the hearing and described some of the acts of abuse he saw.

"I went down to Tier 1 (the cellblock where much of the abuse is said to have occurred) and when I looked down the corridor, I saw two naked detainees, one masturbating to another kneeling with its mouth open," he is quoted as saying. "I thought I should just get out of there. I didn't think it was right, as it seemed like the wrong thing to do. I saw Staff Sergeant Frederick walking towards me, and he said, `Look what these animals do when you leave them alone for two seconds.' "

Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker contributed reporting for this article.