updated 9/12/2004 2:00:54 PM ET 2004-09-12T18:00:54

Editor's note: The following is the Pentagon's response to allegations made by journalist Seymour Hersh in a report that aired Sunday, September 12, on Dateline NBC.

Mr. Tim Peek
Producer
Dateline NBC
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10112

Dear Mr. Peek,

In response to your September 8 letter to the White House press office, we offer the following information on Mr. Hersh's questionable reports:

Many of Mr. Hersh's prior assertions on the treatment of detainees demonstrated the fevered insights of someone who had little, if any, connection to the activities of this Department. The claims are outlandish, conspiratorial, and filled with error and anonymous conjecture. To date, not one of his more absurd claims has been corroborated. Many have proven to be demonstrably false. Others had already been discovered by the military in the ordinary course of our investigations - and not unearthed by Mr. Hersh at all.

Mr. Hersh has repeatedly referenced a DoD program so secret that only he and his anonymous source are even aware of its existence. Indeed, at the modest risk of overstatement, there was almost nothing in a previous New Yorker article that could be substantiated beyond the assertion that Donald Rumsfeld is, indeed, the Secretary of Defense.

Operations involving detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere have been examined in minute detail - both within the Department of Defense and by an independent panel led by former Secretary of Defense Jim Schlesinger. It is worth reminding you that the U.S. military itself - not Mr. Hersh or any other reporter - first publicized the facts of the abuses at Abu Ghraib in January 2004, four months before Mr. Hersh "broke" the story. To date:

  • The Department has conducted 11 investigations, of which eight reports have been completed and released.
  • Over 13,000 pages of reports have been compiled thus far.
  • Investigators have completed 950 interviews.
  • 43 Congressional briefings and hearings have been conducted (not to mention 39 additional briefings for Congressional staff).

Those responsible for criminal activities at Abu Ghraib or other detention facilities are being held accountable. So far:

  • 45 have been referred for court martial;
  • 42 have been referred for Article 15 non-judicial punishment;
  • 12 for General Officer Letters of Reprimand; and
  • 23 soldiers have been administratively separated.

There are ongoing investigations and there will be more information disclosed, but thus far these investigations have determined that no responsible official of the Department of Defense approved any program that could conceivably have been intended to result in such abuses as seen at Abu Ghraib.

Should Mr. Hersh's anonymous sources wish to come forward and offer evidence to the contrary, they are welcome to do so. There are several open investigations and we would certainly investigate their allegations without prejudice or hesitation. Until some of these sources are willing to come forward though, it would appear to me that they are withholding information that could lead to further administrative - or perhaps even criminal - proceedings. It would be quite unfortunate if justice were not served as a result of their irresponsible anonymous leaking to Mr. Hersh.

Sincerely,

Lawrence Di Rita
Pentagon Spokesman

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