Pentagon opposes independent abuse probe

By Will Dunham


August 27, 2004

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Thursday opposed calls for an independent investigation of prisoner abuse from
human rights groups and a key congressional Democrat, who said such a probe was the only way to get to the truth.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called for an independent investigation into U.S. prisoner detention and
interrogation operations after two Pentagon reports this week greatly expanded the scope of culpability in the prisoner abuse

"The investigations either completed or under way and the rigorous oversight by Congress provide the department and the public
a thorough examination of the facts," said Matt Waxman, deputy assistant secretary of defence for detainee affairs.

Waxman said in a statement existing Pentagon inquiries "have put detention operations under a microscope."

"What's needed now is not another investigation but time for the justice system to work its will and for the department to continue
its efforts to improve detention operations."

Alistair Hodgett, spokesman for Amnesty International USA, said no investigation conducted since the revelations that U.S. forces
abused and sexually humiliated Iraqis at Abu Ghraib jail had been free to take a full look at who was responsible for the abuse and
what caused it. Not one of the "patchwork of reports" had examined the CIA's role, he noted.

"We need to have somebody look into all this who's not appointed by or under the command of the secretary of defence. There is
a multitude of investigations, but they're all within the Pentagon or a panel that was appointed by the secretary of defence," added
Reed Brody, a lawyer with Human Rights Watch.

"To get the full truth, we need an independent investigation with the power to pick up the trail in Washington and to follow the facts
wherever they lead," said Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The rights groups called for an independent probe to examine the actions of Pentagon officials, U.S. troops, CIA personnel and
anyone else involved in or responsible for abuse, and they want a review of criminal liability of senior officials.

Amnesty International favours a special counsel. Human Rights Watch envisions an independent commission akin to the one that
examined the September 11, 2001, attacks.

A report on Tuesday by a panel appointed by defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and headed by former defence Secretary
James Schlesinger assigned indirect responsibility for the abuse to top Pentagon civilian and military officials.

An investigative report by Army Major General George Fay and Lieutenant General Anthony Jones on Wednesday found that
many more U.S. soldiers than previously acknowledged were directly involved in the Abu Ghraib abuse. Fay said some of the abuse
qualified as torture.

More Pentagon investigations are ongoing.

-- Navy Vice Adm. Tom Church, the Navy's inspector general, is heading a review of Pentagon interrogation techniques and
practices. It is expected to be completed by mid-September.

-- Army Brigadier General Richard Formica is looking into allegations of detainee abuse by elite U.S. special forces in Iraq. A
senior Army official said this report should be out "soon," but was not more specific.