Unit Says It Gave Earlier Warning of Abuse in Iraq By ANDREA ELLIOTT
Published: June 14, 2004
"RANKFURT, June 13 — Beginning in November, a small unit of interrogators at Abu Ghraib prison began reporting allegations of prisoner abuse, including the beatings of five blindfolded Iraqi generals, in internal documents sent to senior officers, according to interviews with military personnel who worked in the prison.
The disclosure of the documents raises new questions about whether senior officers in Iraq were alerted about serious abuses at the prison before January. Top military officials have said they only learned about abuses then, after a soldier came forward with photographs of the abuse.
"We were reporting it long before this mess came out," said one of several military intelligence soldiers interviewed in Germany and the United States who asked not to be identified for fear they would jeopardize their careers.
The Red Cross has said it alerted American military commanders in Iraq to abuses at Abu Ghraib in November. But the disclosures that the military's own interrogators had alerted superiors to abuse back then in internal documents has not been previously reported.
At least 20 accounts of mistreatment were included in the documents, according to those interviewed. Some detainees described abuse at other detention facilities before they were transferred to Abu Ghraib, but at least seven incidents said to be cited in the documents took place at the prison, four of them in the area controlled by military intelligence and the site of the notorious abuses depicted in the photographs.
The abuse allegations were cited by members of the prison's Detainee Assessment Branch, a unit of interrogators who screened prisoners for possible release, in routine weekly reports channeled to military judge advocates and others.
Military intelligence personnel said the unit's two- to five-page memorandums were to be sent for final approval to a three-member board that included Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the commander of the 800th Military Police Battalion, and Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, the top Army intelligence officer in Iraq. The sections in which the abuse was cited were generally only a paragraph or two in a larger document.
Military officials in Baghdad acknowledged Sunday that lawyers on a magistrate board reviewed the reports, but they could not confirm whether Generals Karpinski and Fast had seen them, or whether any action had been taken to investigate the incidents. Col. Jill E. Morgenthaler, chief of public affairs at military headquarters in Baghdad, said Sunday that officials were "trying to find the documents in question."
"Until then, there's nothing we can say," she said.
Most of the Abu Ghraib incidents were reported before January, said military intelligence personnel. In one case a detainee told workers from the Detainee Assessment Branch that he was made to stand naked, holding books on his head, while a soldier poured cold water on him. Among the other incidents cited by military personnel: a man was shoved to the ground before a soldier stepped on his head; a man was forced to stand naked while a female interrogator made fun of his genitals and a woman was repeatedly kicked by a military police guard.
The beating of the former generals, which had not been disclosed, is being examined by the Pentagon as part of its inquiry into abuses at Abu Ghraib, according to people knowledgeable about the investigation.
By mid-December, those people said, two separate reports of the beating had been made — one by the assessment branch and one by a military intelligence analyst. The analyst asked a former general at the end of an interrogation what had happened to his nose — it was smashed and tilted to the left, and a gash on his chin had been stitched.
The prisoner, in his 50's, told the story of the beating, which he said had occurred about a week earlier. His account closely matched that given independently to the Detainee Assessment Branch by another former general around the same time.