Military: “Justifiable Homicides”?

[ Quite apart from the thousands of dead prisoners in the “war on terror” denied by the U.S. military, it admits that numerous prisoners have died in its custody, several of which it claims are “justifiable homicides.” From the article:

Altogether, a senior military official said at a Pentagon briefing on Friday afternoon, 37 prisoners have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since August 2002, all but five in Iraq.

Of these, 15 prisoner deaths have been determined by the Army to be cases of death by natural or undetermined causes, and 8 as justifiable homicides….
The Pentagon also released copies of 23 death certificates of prisoners who died while in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.

–BL ]

Dogs and Other Harsh Tactics Linked to Military Intelligence

May 22, 2004 | New York Times


WASHINGTON, May 21 — The use of dogs to intimidate prisoners during interrogation at Abu Ghraib in Iraq was approved by military intelligence officers at the prison, and was one of several aggressive tactics they adopted even without approval from senior military commanders, according to interviews gathered by Army investigators.

Intelligence officers also demanded strict limits on Red Cross access to prisoners as early as last October, delaying for a day what the military had previously described as an unannounced visit to the cellblock where the worst abuses occurred, according to a document from the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The role of intelligence officers in the abuse scandal is still under investigation, and the newly disclosed documents provide further details of their involvement in abuses that so far have resulted in formal charges against the prison guards, but not the interrogators.

Other Army documents first obtained by The Denver Post provided new evidence that harsh treatment extended beyond Abu Ghraib to more American-run detention centers in Iraq, revealing details about three previously unreported incidents in which Iraqi prisoners died after questioning by American interrogators.

At the Pentagon on Friday, the Army revised an earlier estimate to say that it is now actively investigating the deaths of nine prisoners in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002, and that eight had already been determined by medical examiners to be possible homicides, involving acts committed before or during an interrogation.

In previous statements, it was not clear that so many prisoners died in interrogation, rather than being shot during riots or escape attempts. At Abu Ghraib, military intelligence units were responsible for interrogations, and military police units for guarding the prisoners and preparing them for interrogation.

The documents assembled by Army investigators starting in January and obtained by The New York Times cite accounts by American dog handlers who say the use of military working dogs in interrogations at Abu Ghraib was approved by Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade. Previously, Pentagon and Army officials have said that only the top American commander, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, could have approved the use of the animals for interrogations. A “memorandum for the record” issued on Oct. 9 by the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center at the prison listed as permissible a number of interrogation procedures that Army officials have said were allowed only with approval from General Sanchez. Among other things, the memorandum said the use of dogs in interrogations and the confining of prisoners to isolation cells was permitted in some cases without a prior approval from General Sanchez.

In a November report to military commanders in Iraq that was included in the documents, the Red Cross complained that its inspectors had faced restrictions “at the behest of Military Intelligence,” including a one-day delay in interviewing prisoners, who were to be seen for only a short time, and asked only about their names and their health.

In the four-page report, which has not previously been made public, the Red Cross said it had nonetheless found naked prisoners covering themselves with packages from ready-to-eat military rations, and subjected to “deliberate physical violence and verbal abuse.” Prisoners were found to be incoherent, anxious and even suicidal, with abnormal symptoms “provoked by the interrogation period and methods.”

The document said the prison authorities “could not explain” the lack of clothing for prisoners and “could not provide clarification” about other mistreatment of prisoners.

On Capitol Hill, some Senate Republicans and Democrats expressed concern that the Pentagon withheld important supporting documents when it sent Congress copies of the 6,000-page investigative report by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba.

But a spokesman for Senator John W. Warner, a Virginia Republican who heads the Armed Services Committee, said the Army was working to fill any gaps in materials. “There does not appear to be a problem in producing materials that are germane to the facts of the inquiry,” said the spokesman, John Ullyot.

The documents show that military intelligence officers at the prison and civilian contractors under their control adopted harsher tactics than previously known, and enlisted the military police in some of their interrogation methods. In many details, the documents elaborate on what has already been known since the photos of the abuses first became public last month.

To date, only seven enlisted soldiers from a military police company have been charged with crimes in connection with the abuses at Abu Ghraib, all in a single cellblock, known as Tier 1. But most have argued that they were acting with the knowledge or encouragement of the military intelligence officers who oversaw the interrogations and exerted authority over the cellblock.

A new time line provided by an Army spokesman also showed that the involvement of military intelligence personnel in abuses at Abu Ghraib began in October 2003. The first reported episode involved soldiers assigned to the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center, months before the major criminal investigation initiated in January into misconduct at the prison, which focused on the involvement by the military police.

Three enlisted soldiers from the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion were fined and demoted in the incident, whose broad outlines have been reported previously. The spokesman, Lt. Col. Billy Buckner, declined to identify the soldiers involved or the details of the incident, citing privacy concerns.

The documents obtained by The Times included transcripts of sworn statements from military intelligence, the military police, civilian contractors and others who were interviewed by Army investigators last January as they began to look into allegations of abuse.

The statements include several accounts from officers, including Capt. Donald J. Reese of the 372nd Military Police Company, who acknowledged having seen Iraqi prisoners stripped naked while in American detention. Captain Reese, among others, said they had been told that nudity was part of “an interrogation procedure used by M.I.” or military intelligence.

One intelligence officer, Specialist Luciana Spencer, said interrogations had been staged “in the showers, stairwell or property room” of the cellblock, as well as in two interrogation centers that were formally in control of the Joint Information and Debriefing Center. The officer in charge was Capt. Carolyn A. Wood of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, who other Army officers have said brought to Iraq the aggressive procedures the unit had developed during her previous service in Afghanistan, from July 2002 to January 2003. She served in Afghanistan as the operations officer in charge of the Bagram Collection Point.

Steven A. Stefanowicz, a civilian interrogator who worked under contract to the intelligence unit, described an interrogation tool that he called a “Sleep Meal Management Program,” in which prisoners were allowed no more than four hours of sleep in a 24-hour period, in a regime that usually lasted 72 hours. Mr. Stefanowicz said in a statement that military police were “allowed to do what is necessary,” within certain limits, to keep prisoners awake during that period.

At least two noncommissioned officers, Sgts. Michael J. Smith and Santos A. Cardona, said they had used unmuzzled military dogs to intimidate prisoners under interrogation. They said they were acting under instructions from Colonel Pappas, the commander of the intelligence brigade.

Both sergeants said Colonel Pappas had assured them that the use of dogs in interrogation was permitted and did not require written authorization or approval from senior officers. The memorandum for the record issued by the interrogation center on Oct. 9 also listed the “presence of working dogs” as “approved” on the basis of authorization from the interrogation officer in charge.

Colonel Pappas has declined requests for interviews, but other Army officials have said the use of dogs in interrogations could have been approved only by General Sanchez, as outlined in a policy he issued on Oct. 10. An unclassified Dec. 12 situation update sent by Colonel Pappas’s unit describes interrogation techniques permitted for use in Iraq, including “sleep management, sensory deprivation, isolation longer than 30 days, dogs,” as among the “harsh approaches” that could be introduced only with prior approval from General Sanchez.

Some new details involving deaths of Iraqi prisoners that are being investigated as possible homicides were first reported in Wednesday’s editions of The Denver Post, and several of them involved Special Operations Forces. The details of the incidents were confirmed Friday by Pentagon officials, who said the deaths were among the nine now being investigated by the Army.

Among the previously unknown incidents was the death in January 2004 of an Iraqi prisoner at a forward operating base in Asad, Iraq, where a detainee had resisted questioning by Special Forces soldiers from Operational Detachment Delta. The prisoner died after he was gagged and his hands were tied to the top of his cell door, in an incident being reviewed for “consideration of misconduct,” the Army documents said.

In a second incident in June 2003, at a “classified interrogation facility” in Baghdad, an Iraqi prisoner was found dead after being restrained in a chair for questioning, and after being subjected to physical and psychological stress, the Army documents show. The Denver Post said an autopsy had determined that he died of a “hard, fast blow” to the head; and that while an investigation was continuing, no disciplinary action has been taken.

A third incident, whose broad outlines had been previously known, involved the death in custody of a high-ranking general, Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush, who died in November at a detention facility run by the Third Armored Cavalry, a unit based in Fort Carson, Colo. A Nov. 27 announcement by the American military command in Baghdad described General Mowhoush as having died “of natural causes.”

In fact, according to the Army documents cited by The Denver Post, General Mowhoush died after being shoved head-first into a sleeping bag, and questioned while being rolled repeatedly from his back to his stomach. Then, according to the documents, an interrogator sat on the general’s chest and placed his hands over his mouth.

The documents say the “preliminary report lists the cause of death as asphyxia due to smothering and chest compressions.” American intelligence officials have said General Mowhoush died several days after C.I.A. officers handed over custody of him to the military, but they say the agency’s inspector general is examining possible wrongdoing involving C.I.A. personnel.

Altogether, a senior military official said at a Pentagon briefing on Friday afternoon, 37 prisoners have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since August 2002, all but five in Iraq.

Of these, 15 prisoner deaths have been determined by the Army to be cases of death by natural or undetermined causes, and 8 as justifiable homicides. Two have been determined to be homicides inside American detention centers.

Three others, including one homicide, took place outside American prisons, the senior military officer said. The officer described the remaining nine as being under active investigation. Of them, the Army official said, two were at Abu Ghraib, including the death of a prisoner there in an incident that the C.I.A. has said involved agency personnel.

The Pentagon also released copies of 23 death certificates of prisoners who died while in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department announced Friday that it was opening a criminal investigation into a civilian contractor in Iraq. The action represents the first time that the Justice Department has formally begun a criminal investigation in the prisoner abuse scandal, although it has been reviewing its jurisdiction in three death cases involving the C.I.A., including one in Afghanistan.

Justice Department officials said they had received a criminal referral from the Pentagon on Thursday, but would not identify the civilian contractor who is under investigation. An internal Army report in March identified two contractors at Abu Ghaib who were suspected of abuses, but it is not clear whether either one of them is the subject of the criminal investigation.

The Justice Department has asserted its jurisdiction over the conduct of civilians working for the military under an as yet untested federal statute, the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, which allows contractors and other nonmilitary personnel working for the armed forces to be charged with crimes in civilian courts.

David Johnston and Kate Zernike contributed to this article.

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