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ON POINT II: Transition to the New Campaign

The United States Army in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM May 2003-January 2005





Part II

Transition to a New Campaign


Chapter 5
Intelligence and High-Value Target Operations

 

Interrogation Operations

As the success of the 1st AD’s Muhalla 636 operation demonstrated, effective interrogation of detainees was perhaps the most critical mission in the larger HUMINT campaign in Iraq. Interrogations often occurred within the broader scope of detention operations, although the two types of operations were distinct. By doctrine, the US Army had assigned these two closely related missions to different branches of the force. At the time of the campaign, FM 3-19.40, Military Police Internment/Resettlement Operations, published 1 August 2001, established the authority for the US Army Military Police Corps to detain and hold enemy prisoners of war (EPWs), civilian internees, and criminals in time of war.46 Once these individuals entered military police (MP) custody, whether in a camp or a temporary facility, they would be screened for intelligence value and possibly interrogated. However, these two missions—screening and interrogating—belonged to the MI Corps who operated inside the EPW camps and detention facilities run by the MPs. FM 34-52, Intelligence Interrogation, established the MI Corps’ authority for interrogation operations and codified the US Army’s policy on the authorized techniques for questioning EPWs, internees, and criminals. This section will examine interrogation operations in 2003 and 2004, focusing on the role of interrogators in the larger intelligence system. (The next chapter will address detainee operations more closely.)

Understanding that detainee operations—and the interrogations directly related to detentions—would become an integral element in the Iraq campaign, in the summer of 2003 Lieutenant General Sanchez sought to assert clear rules that established how Coalition soldiers would treat those Iraqis and others they detained and questioned. To do so, the CJTF-7 commander and his staff reviewed the policies established before the initial invasion of Iraq. In February 2003 the V Corps staff had established guidelines for the treatment of EPWs as well as those Iraqis who had been detained but did not clearly meet the legal definition of EPWs. Colonel Marc Warren, the V Corps Judge Advocate General, determined that the basis for the Corps’ policy would be the Fourth Geneva Convention, which in 1950 had established norms for the protection of civilians in wartime.47 Warren then added other measures such as magistrate review of detainees and oversight mechanisms used by the US Army during operations in Haiti and the Balkans.48

Warren, who in June 2003 became the CJTF-7 Judge Advocate General, believed the policies developed for the invasion had to form the basis for Coalition detainee operations after the Saddam regime had fallen. Sanchez, in agreement with his top lawyer, issued a CJTF-7 fragmentary order (FRAGO) in late June 2003 explicitly directing all Coalition units to ensure their detention activities met the regulations of the Fourth Geneva Convention concerning the legal status and treatment of civilian internees and criminal detainees.49 A lengthier order in late August, which later became widely known as the “Mother of all FRAGOs,” gave greater detail on how Coalition forces must conduct detainee operations and reiterated the requirement for all Coalition soldiers to adhere to the strictures of the Geneva Convention concerning their behavior toward detainees.50 Thus, Sanchez established the Geneva Conventions as the legal norm for all operations, including interrogations, that involved Iraqi detainees.

The setting of clear legal guidelines became critical as the demand for intelligence increased in 2003. Under this pressure, the relatively small number of interrogators in Iraq came under increasing stress to screen and interrogate the large number of Iraqis detained by Coalition forces. Most of the HUMINT Collectors (Military Operational Specialty 97E), the MI Soldiers who were trained to conduct interrogations, served on the THTs. Even when these Soldiers were augmented in their interrogation activities by counterintelligence specialists (Military Operational Specialty 97B), there were still not enough THTs to conduct the type of interrogation operations that would produce actionable intelligence for all tactical units. Major General Raymond Odierno, the commander of the 4th Infantry Division (4th ID), which operated in the Sunni Triangle, contended that in the summer of 2003 his division simply did not have enough interrogation assets:

At first we had no interrogators basically, so our ability to interrogate and get information at the brigade and division level was extremely limited. So what we would do is try to take our most important [detainees] and forward those to a higher level that had the assets. But they were so overwhelmed that they did not, in my mind, provide us with the information we needed.51

The situation was not much better in Baghdad. Colonel Michael Tucker, the commander of the 1st BCT of the 1st AD, noted that in 2003 he had only three interrogators in support of his entire unit.52 While the number of THTs would slowly increase and most units had at least some interrogation capability by 2004, tactical units still commented on the shortfall of interrogators. The 2d Brigade, 2d Infantry Division (2d ID), which began operations in Al Anbar province in the fall of 2004, asserted that they did not have enough interrogators and had to contract civilian interrogators to fill the gap.53

One of the reasons why tactical units felt they lacked interrogator support was that since June 2003 the number of Iraqis detained by Coalition forces had increased dramatically. In May 2003 one estimate stated that the Coalition held a total of 600 detainees.54 Many operations brought in small handfuls of detainees, but a large-scale multi-brigade operation like the 4th ID’s PENINSULA STRIKE in June 2003 detained hundreds of Iraqis, all of which had to be screened by qualified MI Soldiers and, if determined to have valuable intelligence, questioned by trained interrogators. By November 2003 Coalition forces had processed over 30,000 Iraqi detainees with roughly 10,000 still in custody.55 As the number of detainees rose in 2003, units constructed an increasing number of detention facilities to house them and provide the setting for interrogations. All divisions had facilities and many brigades built their own camps. The 1st Infantry Division (1st ID), for example, had a division facility and a facility for each of its four brigades.56 Detention and interrogation became so important to the collection of HUMINT that some units began running facilities at the battalion level. After the 3d Brigade, 2d ID, left the Samarra area in December 2003 and moved to northern Iraq, two of its battalions began operating small collection points in Mosul where they detained Iraqis and conducted interrogations.57 (The next chapter will examine the devolution of detention facilities to these lower tactical levels in greater detail.)

The broadening nature of detainee operations partly resulted from the drive for quick interrogations near the point of detention. As the US Army’s Inspector General Report on Detainee Operations noted in 2004, most of the S2s and G2s (division-level intelligence officers) reported a severe shortage of interrogators near the points of capture and at the company and battalion detainee collection points.58 Many MI Soldiers felt the same way. Two young interrogators in the 4th ID, for example, contended that if a unit wanted to gather actionable intelligence, it had to include interrogators on every raid it conducted to identify the detainees with the highest intelligence value.59 The biggest obstacle to this procedure was the lack of trained personnel. Their consensus was, “There were too many interrogations and not enough interrogators.”60 This shortfall in interrogators even plagued the division-level facilities where commanders concentrated many of their HUMINT assets. In the 4th ID’s division-level detainee facility, the chief of interrogations noted that he had only six military interrogators.61 Although he received augmentation in the form of civilian contractor interrogators, who were often well-trained ex-military men, his team could not satisfy the demand for interrogations. The chief felt that he required 20 to 30 interrogators on his staff to meet the division’s need for actionable intelligence.


Chapter 5. Intelligence and High-Value Target Operations





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