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VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-323166 US / Detainee Abuse Update
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=3/10/2005

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=US / DETAINEE ABUSE UPDATE (L-ONLY)

NUMBER=2-323166

BYLINE=AL PESSIN

DATELINE=PENTAGON

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

///EDS: UPDATES CR A2-323153 TO ADD THIRD ACTUALITY, ALSO NEW INFO IN INTRO AND GRAF THREE OF TEXT///

HEADLINE: Pentagon Report: Detainee Abuse Result of Lapses, Not Policy

INTRO: A report issued Thursday by the U.S. Defense Department blames the abuse of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay on low level soldiers who went beyond the rules, and inadequate enforcement of military discipline. As a result, the report says, the U.S. commander in Iraq issued a new set of interrogation rules last month, in addition to other earlier changes in detainee procedures. But human rights groups and some members of congress say the report does not go far enough. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

TEXT: The nine-month investigation by the Navy's former Inspector General concludes that there was no policy to abuse detainees. That is what Defense Department officials and senior military officers have been saying since photographs of detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan began appearing early last year. The report says in spite of the well-publicized exceptions, the tens of thousands of prisoners held in the war on terrorism have been treated humanely.

Presenting the report Thursday to the Senate Armed Services Committee, the chief investigator, Vice Admiral Albert Church, faced pointed questions from senators who expressed concern that his investigation did not go far enough in questioning senior officials to determine whether there was a systemic problem behind the abuse.

///ACTUALITY CHURCH 1///

"Clearly some things were done wrong. Clearly some things, in hindsight, senator, would be done differently. And I think I've captured those."

///END ACT///

The admiral's report, which mainly compiled information gathered by other investigations, concludes that commanders failed to recognize early signs of prisoner abuse, but he says the failures were not specific enough for any individuals to be held accountable. The report concludes that there were relatively few cases of abuse, that most were minor, and many occurred in the heat of battle, at the time the detainees were arrested, not at detention facilities. The report says the widespread nature of the abuse, across continents and in different military services, suggests there was no single cause for the incidents. But he disagreed with one senator's charge that his report attempts to dismiss the abuse scandal as just one big misunderstanding.

///ACTUALITY CHURCH 2///

"We spent nine months, over 800 interviews, reviewed thousands and thousands of pages of documents, leveraged (used) all the other reports and I understand that I was picked because they wanted an independent look at exactly what happened, how it happened, why it happened. And I think I've laid that out with some precision. I took it where it led. And the facts are the facts. And I understand that some people won't like the facts, and in some cases the conclusions. But it's not all one big misunderstanding, sir."

///END ACT///

The vice admiral also rejected criticism that he was unable to investigate higher ranking officers and senior civilians, such as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. And speaking to reporters later, the admiral responded to charges from human rights groups that his report is a whitewash.

///ACTUALITY CHURCH 3///

"I don't believe anybody can call this a whitewash. The facts are what the facts are. I was an independent investigator. I took that very seriously. Had the facts and the documentation led me to a different conclusion, I would have made that conclusion."

///END ACT///

Admiral Church's report concludes that there were at least two efforts to specify which interrogation techniques were allowed, and which were not. He says that created some confusion. According to the rules, only relatively mild techniques such as poking a prisoner in the chest with a finger or gentle pushing, were allowed. But the admiral also concluded there was a lack of clarity on what non-military interrogators, like those from the CIA, could do in military prisons. And the report says the urgency of gathering intelligence in the wake of the September 11th attacks contributed to a more aggressive, and unauthorized, approach by some interrogators.

The report also says Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld approved harsher techniques for two particular prisoners, a move the report says contributed to an atmosphere in which the boundaries of proper procedures became blurred. Secretary Rumsfeld ordered this review last May. He declined to comment on the report Thursday.

In the latest effort to ensure there is no more abuse, U.S. Army General George Casey, the commander of all coalition forces in Iraq, issued new guidelines late last month. According to the report, the new document further limit the number of authorized interrogation techniques, requires additional training of troops, and orders commanders to verify their compliance with the rules. (Signed)

NEB/AWP/PT



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