updated 3/26/2005 4:45:52 AM ET 2005-03-26T09:45:52

Newly released government documents say the abuse of prisoners in Iraq by U.S. forces was more widespread than previously reported.

An officer found that detainees “were being systematically and intentionally mistreated” at a holding facility near Mosul in December 2003. The 311th Military Intelligence Battalion of the Army’s 101st Airborne Division ran the lockup.

Records previously released by the Army have detailed abuses at Abu Ghraib and other sites in Iraq as well as at sites in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The documents released Friday were the first to reveal abuses at the jail in Mosul and are among the few to allege torture directly.

“There is evidence that suggests the 311th MI personnel and/or translators engaged in physical torture of the detainees,” a memo from the investigator said. The January 2004 report said the prisoners’ rights under the Geneva Conventions were violated.

Top military officials first became aware of the Abu Ghraib abuses in January 2004, when pictures such as those showing soldiers piling naked prisoners in a pyramid were turned over to investigators. The resulting scandal after the pictures became public tarnished the military’s image in Arab countries and worldwide and sparked investigations of detainee abuses.

The records about the Mosul jail were part of more than 1,200 pages of documents referring to allegations of prisoner abuse. The Army released the records to reporters and to the American Civil Liberties Union, which had filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

“They show the torture and abuse of detainees was routine and such treatment was considered an acceptable practice by U.S. forces,” ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh said.

Guards at the detention facility near Mosul came from at least three infantry units of the 101st Airborne, including an air-defense artillery unit. The investigating officer, whose name was blacked out of the documents, said the troops were poorly trained and encouraged to abuse prisoners.

According to the report, the abuse included:

  • Forcing detainees to perform exercises such as deep knee bends for hours on end, to the point of exhaustion.
  • Blowing cigarette smoke into the sandbags the prisoners were forced to wear as hoods.
  • Throwing cold water on the prisoners in a room that was between 40 degrees and 50 degrees.
  • Blasting the detainees with heavy-metal music, yelling at them and banging on doors and ammunition cans.

No one was punished for the abuses, however, because the investigating officer said there was not enough proof against any individual. The report did not say what actions might have amounted to torture or which individuals might have committed them.

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