Several U.S. guards allege they witnessed military intelligence operatives encouraging the abuse of Iraqi prison inmates at four prisons other than Abu Ghraib, investigative documents show.
Court transcripts and Army investigator interviews provide the broadest view of evidence that abuses, from forcing inmates to stand in hoods in 120-degree heat to punching them, occurred at a Marine detention camp and three Army prison sites in Iraq besides Abu Ghraib.
That is the prison outside Baghdad that was the site of widely published and televised photographs of abuse of Iraqi detainees by Army troops.
Testimony about tactics used at a Marine prisoner of war camp near Nasiriyah also raises the question whether coercive techniques were standard procedure for military intelligence units in different service branches and throughout Iraq.
At the Marines’ Camp Whitehorse, the guards were told to keep enemy prisoners of war — EPWs, in military jargon — standing for 50 minutes each hour for up to 10 hours. They would then be interrogated by “human exploitation teams,” or HETs, comprising intelligence specialists.
“The 50/10 technique was used to break down the EPWs and make it easier for the HET member to get information from them,” Marine Cpl. Otis Antoine, a guard at Camp Whitehorse, testified at a military court hearing in February.
U.S. military officials say American troops in Iraq are required to follow the Geneva Conventions on POWs for all detainees in Iraq. Those conventions prohibit “physical or moral coercion” or cruel treatment.
The Army’s intelligence chief told a Senate panel this month that intelligence soldiers are trained to follow Geneva Convention rules strictly.
“Our training manuals specifically prohibit the abuse of detainees, and we ensure all of our soldiers trained as interrogators receive this training,” Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Marine Corps judge hearing the Camp Whitehorse case wrote that forcing hooded, handcuffed prisoners to stand for 50 minutes every hour in the 120-degree desert could be a Geneva Convention violation. Col. William V. Gallo wrote that such actions “could easily form the basis of a law of war violation if committed by an enemy combatant.”
Two Marines face charges in the June 2003 death of Nagem Sadoon Hatab at Camp Whitehorse, although no one is charged with killing him. Military records say Hatab was asphyxiated when a Marine guard grabbed his throat in an attempt to move him, accidentally breaking a bone that cut off his air supply. Another Marine is charged with kicking Hatab in the chest in the hours before his death.
Army Maj. Gen. George Fay is finishing an investigation into military intelligence management and practices at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq. Alexander and other top military intelligence officials say they never gave orders that would have encouraged abuses.
“If we have a problem, if it is an intel oversight problem, if it is an MP (military police) problem, or if it’s a leadership problem, we have to get to the bottom of this,” Alexander told the Senate panel.
Soldiers say they were encouraged
Most of the seven enlisted soldiers charged in the Abu Ghraib abuses say they were encouraged to “soften up” prisoners for interrogators through humiliation and beatings. Several witnesses also report seeing military intelligence operatives hit Abu Ghraib prisoners, strip them naked and order them to be kept awake for long periods.
Other accusations against military intelligence troops include:
- Stuffing an Iraqi general into a sleeping bag, sitting on his chest and covering his mouth during an interrogation at a prison camp at Qaim, near the border with Syria. The general died during that interrogation, although he also had been questioned by CIA operatives in the days before his death.
- Choking, beating and pulling the hair of detainees at an Army prison camp near Samarra, north of Baghdad.
- Hitting prisoners and putting them in painful positions for hours at Camp Cropper, a prison at Baghdad International Airport for prominent former Iraqi officials.
Military officials say they’re investigating all of those incidents.
One focus of the incident at Qaim is Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshover, an interrogator with the Army’s 66th Military Intelligence Group. Welshover told The Associated Press on Friday: “I am not at liberty to discuss any of the details.”
Welshover was part of a two-person interrogation team that questioned former Iraqi Air Force Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush, 57. Military autopsy records say Mowhoush was asphyxiated by chest compression and smothering.
Army officials say members of a California Army National Guard military intelligence unit are accused of abusing prisoners at a camp near Samarra, north of Baghdad. The New York Times has reported those accusations include pulling prisoners’ hair, beating them and choking them to force them to give information.
The Red Cross complained to the military in July that Camp Cropper inmates had been kept in painful “stress positions” for up to four hours and had been struck by military intelligence soldiers.
One of the military intelligence soldiers interviewed in the Abu Ghraib probe claimed some prisoners were beaten before they arrived at Camp Cropper.
Cpl. Robert Bruttomesso of the 325th Military Intelligence Battalion told Army investigators he reported that abuse to his chain of command. The report of his interview, obtained by The Associated Press, does not include details on what action, if any, Bruttomesso’s commanders took.