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American Forces Press Service

U.S. Military Continues to Improve Detainee Handling

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 10, 2005 Since allegations of detainee mistreatment have surfaced, the Defense Department and the military services have conducted 10 major reviews, assessments and investigations.

In turn, they produced more than 500 specific recommendations for improving detention operations. Many of those recommendations already have been implemented. Together, these reviews represent more than 1,700 interviews and more than 16,000 pages of information, DoD officials said.

The reports generated from these investigations and reviews “have formed a comprehensive picture of what’s been done to date and where we need to improve,” said Matthew Waxman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for detainee affairs.

During an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service, Waxman explained that the department continually reviews lessons learned, investigation reports and input from outside agencies to seek improvements.

He said improvements have included everything from increased oversight to expanded training.

To date, at least 100 military members -- officer and enlisted -- have been held accountable for their roles in mistreating detainees or allowing mistreatment to occur.

“There have been a number of different types of reviews,” Waxman said. “These include not only some broad investigations … which were commissioned by the secretary of defense and took a comprehensive look at detention and interrogation operations, but also investigations that took a thinner slice and looked at certain aspects of the problem or certain theaters of operations.”

Waxman said the investigation into the abuses at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison is an example of a smaller-scope investigation. Based on a review of operations at Abu Ghraib, “the Department of Defense has vastly improved detention operations in Iraq,” he said.

In fact, Waxman’s own position was created in July 2004 as a DoD-level initiative to improve handling of detainee issues. His office was designed to provide policy- and strategy-development advice to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

“As important as what we do internally, in terms of providing that advice to the secretary and taking the experiences of the past and developing ways to improve detention operations, is what we do externally, to communicate with our coalition partners, nongovernmental organizations, and with the Congress,” Waxman said.

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