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American Forces Press Service

Naval Official Reports Review of Detainee Operations

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 14, 2004 - Shortly after photos of prisoner abuse in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison complex appeared in the media, shocking the world, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered a review of operations in the U.S. military detention center at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the Naval Consolidated Brig Charleston, S.C.

After a two-day review, Vice Adm. Albert T. (Tom) Church, the Navy's inspector general, reported that he found eight "minor infractions involving contact with detainees" going back to 2002.

He described the infractions as ranging from "an unauthorized haircut" by a barber at the prison to "mild physical contact."

In contrast, abuse and attacks on guards average 14 incidents per week, ranging from verbal abuse, to throwing excrement and toilet water, and physical attacks.

"You see the stress the guards work under and the discipline. . I was very impressed," the admiral said.

Church briefed Rumsfeld on his findings May 11. Rumsfeld then asked the admiral to travel to Iraq with him the next day. Church spoke to reporters traveling with the secretary aboard the airplane en route to Iraq May 12.

He described his findings as "good news," because all incidents were reported through the chain of command and dealt with quickly through the military justice system. "In my view that's good news because obviously people felt free to report, which is what I was looking for," Church said.

"And there was swift disciplinary action taken by a strong chain of command, which is another thing I was looking for."

Those who were punished included four guards, three interrogators and a barber. Punishments ranged from admonishments to reduction in rank.

In the most serious incident Church could recall, a military police guard punched a detainee who had bitten him. The guard was reduced in rank because he had hit the detainee after other guards had subdued him. The admiral called this act "a violation of standard operating procedures."

Church said he went to Guantanamo May 5th, two days after receiving his marching orders from Rumsfeld, with a team of military lawyers, a physician, a former interrogator and a naval investigator. The team observed interrogations and MP procedures; reviewed standard operating procedures, incident reports and unit punishment logs; interviewed under oath 43 staff members of various military and civilian ranks and specialties; and studied medical records of 100 detainees.

He described Joint Task Force Guantanamo as "a very tight organization, where everybody reports to and through" Army Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, the task force commander.

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