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American Forces Press Service

DoD Creates Office of Detainee Affairs

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 16, 2004 - The Defense Department is changing the way it handles detainee issues and has created a new internal organization to deal with Red Cross reports, a senior official said in the Pentagon today.

Officials have created an Office of Detainee Affairs that will be responsible for strategy development and policy recommendations, Principal Deputy Undersecretary for Policy C. Ryan Henry announced in a news briefing.

An as-yet-unnamed deputy assistant secretary who will report to the undersecretary for policy will head the office. The new deputy will chair a joint committee composed of the undersecretary for intelligence and representatives from the Joint Staff, the Office of General Counsel, the Department of the Army, and others who might be involved in detainee affairs.

The new office also will handle reports from the International Committee of the Red Cross, Henry said.

"Normally, in the past, . they've been left at the field level," he said. Now, such reports will be forwarded to the deputy assistant secretary for detainee affairs, who, in turn, will convene the joint committee to review those reports and then advise Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for his guidance, Henry said.

"The deputy assistant secretary and the Office of Detainee Affairs will be the single focal point in communicating with the ICRC on DoD's behalf, he said.

Henry said steps have been taken to maintain the ICRC's confidential nature. Without that confidentiality, free-flowing information and the collegial environment that exists between the ICRC and local commanders could be stifled, he explained.

In trying to keep Congress in the loop, the department has made parts of some ICRC reports available to House and Senate members.

"This is part of an ongoing effort that the secretary has directed in keeping the congressional members informed and so they can effectively have their oversight function, " Henry said.

Asked if the creation of the Office of Detainee Affairs and other changes constituted an admission by Rumsfeld and the department that detainee operations have been handled poorly, Henry replied that it was "part of an ongoing effort by a learning organization."

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