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Army to clear top brass in Iraq prison abuse

/ Source: news services

A new U.S. Army report clears top U.S. military brass in Iraq of abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison but implicates 20 or more intelligence troops in the scandal, according to defense officials.

The investigation report, expected to be sent to Congress next week, recommends discipline against the military intelligence troops ranging from administrative reduction in rank and loss of pay to further investigation that could lead to military trials, one of the officials told Reuters.

The officials, who asked not to be identified, said most of the troops implicated in the intelligence probe, launched by Army Maj. Gen. George Fay in April, were from the U.S. 205th Military Intelligence Brigade that was assigned to Abu Ghraib when the abuses occurred.

“I think it will find that military police weren’t the only ones doing anything wrong,” said one official of the abuse and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners that sparked fury in the Arab world and international condemnation.

Medical personnel cited
In addition to the military intelligence personnel who are a key focus of the report, the Army found that military medical personnel became aware of abuse at Abu Ghraib while treating injured prisoners but failed to report it to their command superiors.

The New York Times, which first reported the finding on the medical personnel, said in its Thursday editions that it obtained medical records showing that medics had been in the area of the prison where the abuse occurred several times to treat suspicious wounds.

Seven U.S. military police reservists from the 372nd Military Police Company were earlier accused of humiliating and in some cases beating and photographing Iraqi prisoners at the infamous facility near Baghdad, once used as a torture chamber by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Some of those military police guards allege that they were acting under orders from military intelligence to ”soften up” prisoners for interrogation.

Blame stops at colonel
Col. Thomas Pappas, who was commander of the 205th Intelligence Brigade, has already received a letter of reprimand for failing to ensure that his troops protected the rights of prisoners guaranteed under the Geneva Conventions.

The Fay investigation found no evidence to directly blame anyone above Pappas, defense officials told the Associated Press on Thursday.

Although Fay concluded that no senior commanders ordered, encouraged or condoned the abusive acts, his report said they should be faulted for allowing conditions that led to the misdeeds. Fay found that commanders did not provide sufficient supervision and oversight of the prison system.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top defense officials have promised to leave no stone unturned in several investigations into the U.S. abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Gen. John Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command, and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who was the top U.S. military officer in Iraq at the time of the abuse, told Congress earlier that they did not find out about the abuse until this year when a military policeman revealed the problem at the prison.

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who commanded the 800th Military Police Brigade in Iraq late last year, has also received a letter of reprimand and been suspended from her post. She is protesting that suspension.

Lawyers defending military police suspects in the Abu Ghraib scandal have argued that the courts should take into account the psychological impact on suspects of working long hours in grim conditions at the big prison.