WASHINGTON — The Army closed a criminal investigation of abuse allegations by an Iraqi detainee last year, finding no reason to believe his claims, even though no Americans involved in the case were questioned, according to Pentagon records made public Thursday.
Internal Army documents about the Iraqi’s capture on Jan. 4, 2004, and his subsequent interrogation at an unspecified facility at or near Baghdad International Airport were not reviewed, the records show, because investigators were told they had been lost in a computer malfunction.
The Iraqi, whose full name was blacked out in the documents by U.S. censors, is described as a relative of a former bodyguard for Saddam Hussein.
The detainee alleged that he was kicked in the stomach once and punched in the spine once by his interrogators. He said he was placed in front of a window air conditioner after being stripped naked and having a bag placed over his head. Cold water was poured over the bag every few minutes, he said, and he was dragged around a room by his arm.
The investigation records were among thousands of pages of records released by the American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained them from the Defense Department as part of a Freedom of Information request.
Hundreds of investigations
Army spokesman Paul Boyce said more than 500 investigations have been conducted on allegations of detainee abuse and that so far at least 251 military members have been court-martialed or given other forms of punishment.
“This effort by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command demonstrates the Army’s continuing and tireless commitment to investigate any allegation of detainee abuse by any unit or soldier, and to locate possible witnesses to allegations of detainee abuse,” he said.
The documents include numerous references to investigators being blocked from a thorough investigation, yet the matter was closed a final time on June 17, 2005, by the Army Criminal Investigation Command.
An April 8, 2005, report, for example, said an Army investigation unit had been unable to fully investigate 23 criminal cases “due to the suspects and witnesses involvement in Special Access Programs and/or the security classification of the unit they were assigned to during the offense.” Special Access Programs are highly classified activities such as Task Force 6-26, which was hunting high-value targets like insurgent leaders.
A Feb. 26, 2005, report said that even though the Iraqi who made the abuse allegations had given a detailed description of the interpreter who was present, as well as others, “no effort was made to identify and interview the interrogators and screening personnel who were working” at the screening facility.
A report two weeks earlier said, “The only names identified by this investigation were determined to be fake names utilized by the capturing soldiers,” yet it added that “necessary requirements” of the probe had been met.
“Hell, even if we reopened it we wouldn’t get any more information than we already have,” it concluded.
Fake names impeded probe
The records indicate that the Iraqi was captured in a house in Tikrit, Saddam’s home town, and screened by members of Task Force 6-26. They also indicated that the probe was impeded in part by the fact that Task Force members involved in captures of detainees had been authorized to use fake names.
The case was initially closed Oct. 27, 2004, about three months after it was opened. A memo explaining the decision said records to refute or substantiate the alleged abuses “could not be located,” adding that this result “did not diminish the integrity or credibility of (the) allegation” by the unidentified detainee.
Even so, the memo said, investigators said continuing the investigation “would be of little or no value and leads remaining to be developed would not impact on the investigative findings of this investigation.”
Four months later the probe was reopened after a review concluded that the investigation was flawed. Commenting on the absence of documentation, the review said the “‘lost records’ explanation is unacceptable” — referring to the assertion that records had been lost in a computer glitch.
“The bottom line is this detainee’s circumstances were rather unique, due to his relationship to another high-value detainee,” the review said. “Because of this relationship, the interrogators would have prepared and submitted a report to higher echelons.”
Superiors kept informed
In an indication that superiors were kept informed, one of the investigation documents released Thursday noted that investigators had been instructed to provide an update “concerning the conduct of our investigation” to Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who was in charge of detainee operations in Iraq from March-December 2004.
- Military officials said Miller had declined to answer questions in two courts-martial cases involving the use of dogs during interrogations at the detention center at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Miller commanded that facility from November 2002 to March 2004.
- Solicitor General Paul Clement asked the Supreme Court to dismiss an appeal by Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a terror suspect held at Guantanamo Bay. Hamdan is challenging the administration’s plan to try him and others by military commission.
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