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Abu Ghraib report faults top commanders

The Pentagon commission investigating abuse at Abu Ghraib will accuse top commanders of responsibility for disorganization that led to wrongdoing at the prison, NBC News has learned.
/ Source: and NBC News

The Pentagon commission investigating abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq will accuse top commanders of responsibility for disorganization in the command structure that led to wrongdoing at the prison, according to excerpts of the commission’s report obtained by NBC News.

The investigation, headed by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, is one of two expected to be released this week. The other was ordered by the Army.

The Schlesinger commission found no evidence that units up the chain of command from the 800th Military Police Brigade, which was in charge of security at Abu Ghraib, and the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, which oversaw interrogations, were directly involved in the incidents. But it will accuse the Joint Staff at the Defense Department of failing to recognize deteriorating mission performance among military intelligence interrogators owing to the stress of repeated combat deployments.

In addition, the report underscores, there were not enough trained military police assigned to an increasingly growing detainee population because reinforcements were not sent to the prison despite a growing insurgency. Partly as a result, suspect interrogation techniques first used with detainees at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were employed at Abu Ghraib without proper safeguards, the report found. Among those techniques was the use of unmuzzled dogs.

The Washington Post, citing Pentagon sources, reported that the Army investigation found military police dogs were used to frighten Iraqi teenagers detained at the prison as part of a sadistic game. The Post reported that MPs were using their animals to make juveniles—as young as 15 years old—urinate on themselves as part of a competition.

"It has nothing to do with interrogation," The Post quoted one Army officer as saying. "It was just them on their own being weird."

7 MPs charged
Seven members of the Army’s 372nd Military Police Company, a reserve unit based at Cresaptown, Md., are charged in the scandal over physical abuse and sexual humiliation of prisoners in Iraq.

Pretrial hearings in the cases of four of the MPs were under way Monday in Mannheim, German. One of the four said in a statement Monday that he would plead guilty to some charges, and a fifth already has pleaded guilty.

The Schlesinger commission concluded that Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, commander of the 800th MP Brigade, and Col. Thomas Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, knew or should have known that the abuses were taking place and should have taken measures to prevent them.

Pappas received a letter of reprimand. Karpinski, who was suspended in May, has denied knowing about any mistreatment of prisoners until photographs surfaced at the end of April.

The report is particularly harsh on Karpinski, accusing her of leadership failures that set the conditions that led to the abuses. The report cites her failure to establish appropriate standard operating procedures and to ensure that protections of the Geneva Conventions were afforded prisoners, as well as her failure to take appropriate action against ineffective commanders and staff officers.

Karpinski said in an interview broadcast this month by the British Broadcasting Corp. that there had been a conspiracy to prevent her knowing about the abuse. Asked whether she thought the conspiracy reached up to the Defense Department or the White House, she said, “The indication is that it may have.”

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who was the top U.S. military officer in Iraq at the time of the abuse, testified before Congress that he did not find out about the abuse until this year, when a military police officer revealed the problem at the prison. The new report essentially absolves Sanchez, saying only that he should have been more vigilant in supervising Karpinski.

The Los Angeles Times, quoting senior defense officials, and other news organizations reported last week that the commission would also recommend that two dozen intelligence soldiers face criminal abuse charges similar to those lodged against the seven MPs.