Review: Leaders didn’t encourage abuse

/ Source: The Associated Press

A comprehensive U.S. military review of prisoner interrogation policies and techniques for the global war on terrorism concluded that no civilian or uniformed leaders directed or encouraged the abuse of prisoners, officials familiar with the review said Wednesday.

No Pentagon official or senior military commander “ever accepted that detainee abuse would be permissible,” an official quoted the review as stating among its central conclusions.

However, the review concluded that, in hindsight, the failure to provide commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan with specific and early guidance on interrogation techniques was a “missed opportunity.” It offered no judgment on whether this failure led to any of the abuses discovered in 2004.

The probe also found, in the cases of detainee operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, that the dissemination of approved interrogation policy to commanders in the field was generally poor. And in Iraq in particular it found that compliance with approved policy guidance was generally poor.

Report to be made public Thursday
The review was done last summer by Navy Vice Adm. Albert T. Church and is to be made public at a congressional hearing on Thursday. Officials familiar with Church’s investigation provided his key findings Wednesday only on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the report.

The Church probe was among several triggered by disclosures last spring of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison complex in Iraq. Church, formerly the Navy’s chief investigator, was directed to look at how interrogation policies were developed and implemented from the start of the terror war in the fall of 2001.

“An early focus of our investigation was to determine whether DOD (the Department of Defense) had promulgated interrogation policies or guidance that directed, sanctioned or encouraged the abuse of detainees. We found that this was not the case,” an official quoted the report as stating.

“Even in the absence of a precise definition of ‘humane’ treatment, it is clear that none of the pictured abuses at Abu Ghraib bear any resemblance to approved policies at any level,” another passage was quoted as saying.

Church did not directly investigate the Abu Ghraib matter or address questions about accountability for senior defense officials involved in interrogation policy. Both of those matters have been investigated by others.

Details behind conclusions classified
Many of the details underlying Church’s conclusions remain classified.

While the problems cited by Church in the dissemination of interrogation policy guidance to commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan were found to be “certainly cause for concern,” Church concluded that “they did not lead to the employment of illegal or abusive interrogation techniques.”

Church also addressed the assertion raised by some in Congress that commanders in Iraq were under undue pressure from Washington to extract more useful intelligence information from prisoners.

“It is certainly true that ‘pressure’ was applied in Iraq through the chain of command, but a certain amount of pressure is to be expected in a combat environment,” Church concluded. And he determined that interrogators in Iraq did not believe that any such pressure “subverted their obligation to treat detainees humanely in accordance with the Geneva Conventions,” an official quoted the report as saying.