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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 6
Detainee Operations


The Consolidation of Detainee Operations

Even as the abuses were occurring at Abu Ghraib and before they became known outside the walls of Abu Ghraib, CJTF-7 began creating a more orderly detainee system by adapting its staff structure and augmenting its earlier statements of policy, rules, and procedures. This consolidation of detainee operations, which would last well into 2004, began with the Coalition headquarters issuing more explicit guidance about the correct treatment of all Iraqis. In October 2003 and again in January 2004 Lieutenant General Sanchez sent out a memorandum titled “Proper Treatment of Iraqi People During Combat Operations,” which established fundamental standards for dealing with Iraqi citizens for all CJTF-7 Soldiers.75 Sanchez directed that subordinate commanders ensure these memorandums were disseminated down to platoon level and reinforced by the chain of command. In November 2003 Sanchez issued the “CJTF-7 Rules for Detainee Operations” that unequivocally charged Soldiers to “treat all persons with dignity and respect” and set other standards as well.76 In May 2004 he reinforced this basic concept of proper treatment of Iraqis in a policy memorandum titled “Proper Conduct During Combat Operations,” which stated in part, “Respect for others, humane treatment of all persons, and adherence to the law of war and rules of engagement is a matter of discipline and values. It is what separates us from our enemies. I expect all leaders to reinforce this message.”77

It is impossible to say with any certitude to what degree American Soldiers internalized these fundamental behavioral concepts in their interaction with Iraqis in general and detainees specifically. However, the policies and procedures within several commands provide an indication that CJTF-7’s basic guidance for detainee operations did reach the individual Soldier level. In early 2004 Task Force (TF) Olympia, the unit that replaced the 101st ABN in the north of Iraq, issued a new policy for the operation of detainee collection points. The SOP gave clear rules on how to process detainees into the camp, how to classify them, and how to release them to Iraqi authorities or send them to other detainee facilities. More importantly, the policy directly addressed proper treatment of the detainees while in the collection points, stating that no guard had the right to mistreat the Iraqis in custody: “Guard Force members must understand that inhumane treatment, even if committed under the stress of combat and with deep provocation, is a serious offense and is a punishable violation under National Law, International law, and the [Uniform Code of Military Justice].”78

On the other side of Iraq, near the city of An Najaf, Camp Duke, located at FOB Duke, began holding detainees in 2004 and was normally manned by non-MP personnel throughout 2004. To provide the untrained Soldiers specific guidelines for general operations and treatment of detainees, the leadership of the facility issued the “Camp Duke Detainee Facility S.O.P.” in June 2004.79 The first sentence of the SOP echoed Sanchez’s statement in his November 2003 “Rules for Detainee Operations” almost exactly: “Detainees will be treated with respect and dignity.”80 The document continued, “No personnel will be allowed to humiliate any of the inmates. The guards will refrain from using inappropriate language toward the detainees. . . . There will be no physical, mental, or verbal abuse directed toward any of the detainees.”81 The guidance established standards for uniforms, schedules for both guards and detainees, administrative procedures to process detainees, and other routine matters required to govern a detention facility. It also mandated that Soldiers afford the detainees the right to practice their religion and would be given a Koran and a prayer rug if Muslim or a Bible if Christian. The SOP also established a procedure for detainees to file complaints and, toward the end of the document, mandated that the Sergeant of the Guard maintain a copy of the Geneva Convention for both reference and instructional purposes.82

By early 2004 units at the tactical level began reporting close adherence to the CJTF-7 guidelines for detainee operations by accounting for each detainee using databases, digital photos, and placing an identification bracelet with a tracking number on the detainee’s wrist. Soldiers paid careful attention to the requirement to inventory the detainee’s personal property and to the proper completion of forms that listed pertinent information about the detainee and the circumstances of his detention. This paperwork created greater accountability within the system and assisted the intelligence screening process. One form in particular, the CPA Apprehension Form, became so critical that units could not transfer detainees to higher-level facilities without it. Soldiers in the 4th ID’s 1st Battalion, 22d Infantry, for example, stated that if the form was not filled out with careful attention to detail, the MPs who ran the brigade and higher-level detention facilities would not accept a detainee and might release him into the civilian population.83 Some divisions actually added more requirements to the CJTF-7 standards, leading some Soldiers in tactical-level units to complain in 2004 that they spent up to 4 hours completing the paperwork for each detainee. This increased administrative burden had the effect of making at least some units more selective in deciding who to detain, not wanting to waste their time and resources processing paperwork for detainees who did not appear to be insurgents or criminals.84 Other improvements to detention facilities arrived as units learned how to use the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) and other funds to purchase materials such as cots and blankets for the detainees and to contract with local Iraqis to build safer and more secure detainee collection points and holding areas.85

The command also sought to standardize and improve practices at detention facilities by arranging for training teams to visit Iraq. One of the most effective teams was composed of MP confinement experts from the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, who traveled to all of the major detention facilities in Iraq to conduct a 40-hour course on basic detention procedures.86 Major Charles Seifert, an MP officer who monitored detainee operations at Abu Ghraib in 2004, emphasized another change that was critical in the wake of the abuse scandal at the Abu Ghraib Prison. Seifert noted that in 2004 the MP and MI commands at Abu Ghraib had reasserted the doctrinal and regulatory line that separated the duties of the MI and MP Soldiers. The MPs no longer had any role inside the prison other than escorting the detainee to the JIDC and returning them to their cells at the end of the interrogation.87

As the detainee mission expanded in 2003, the DOD and the Army attempted to give assistance to CJTF-7 in the form of additional MP support. However, because all of the Army Active Duty or Reserve Component MP units were serving in Iraq or Afghanistan or scheduled to deploy to these theaters in 2004, senior Army commanders had to look for innovative solutions to the problem caused by the insufficient number of MPs on the ground in Iraq. They responded by directing contingents of Army National Guard Soldiers to retrain as military police before deploying in support of OIF. Between October 2003 and January 2004, approximately 3,700 National Guard Engineer, Armor, Cavalry, Artillery, and Air Defense Artillery Soldiers from 9 states mobilized and traveled to Fort Dix, New Jersey, where they began the transition to MP duties.88 After the 40-day training program at Fort Dix, the Soldiers earned the designation “provisional MPs” and were reorganized into “in lieu of MP” companies.

These “in lieu of” companies were responsible for a variety of MP missions including convoy escort and route security. Still, most of these provisional MPs played a significant role in CJTF-7’s detainee operations. The Pennsylvania Army National Guard Soldiers of Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 107th Field Artillery, for example, deployed to Iraq in February 2004 and spent the next 12 months serving as guards at Camp Bucca near the southern city of Umm Qasr.89 In that period the new MPs dealt with detainee riots, escapes, and other more mundane duties involved in running an internment facility. The Soldiers of 2d Battalion, 103d Armor, also belonging to the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, had a similar experience conducting detainee operations in Baghdad as a unit subordinate to the 89th MP Brigade.90 All of these citizen Soldiers worked and fought alongside their Active Duty colleagues, sometimes without the Active Component headquarters realizing they were “provisional” MPs.91 Although they lacked experience in the field of MP operations, the 20 “in lieu of” MP companies that deployed to Iraq in 2004 gave the CJTF-7 and Multi-National Force–Iraq (MNF-I) commanders the equivalent of a third MP brigade in theater, thus making a significant contribution to the Coalition’s detention mission.

It was above the tactical level, in any case, that the Coalition made the most significant changes in detainee practices and policies. By January 2004 Paul Bremer, the CPA chief, had come to view the large number of detainees as a serious impediment to creating stability and progress in Iraq. One CPA report estimated that Coalition military forces detained 80 Iraqis on an average per day and contended that this rate was overwhelming the detention system.92 Additionally, the transition to Iraqi sovereignty loomed just 6 months away and the Coalition’s legal basis for continuing detention operations after 30 June 2004 was unclear. Bremer had repeatedly pressured CJTF-7 to release as many detainees as possible without handicapping the intelligence effort or threatening security.93 On 7 January he delivered a public address, imploring Iraqis to reconcile their differences and offering to help that process by releasing those detainees who renounced violence and could find an individual willing to guarantee their conduct.94 Bremer also promised to improve communication between detainees and their families.

The speech was just the first step in a concerted effort by the CPA and CJTF-7 to reduce the detainee population and consolidate the Coalition’s methods of conducting detention operations. CJTF-7 shared the concerns about the potential legal implications for Coalition detainee operations after Iraq became sovereign, but other more pressing issues forced the command’s leadership to look for ways to change procedures. On 25 January 2004 CJTF-7 reported holding 9,754 detainees, of which 7,000 had been placed in the categories of MI Hold or Security non-MI Hold. The large majority of the remaining detainees were criminal offenders.95 By February a CJTF-7 paper titled “Strategy for Addressing Detention Issues” contended that if processes did not change, by 30 June 2004 there would be 10,000 security or MI Hold detainees under their control, a figure that greatly concerned those in the military command involved in these matters.96

Coalition leaders introduced two important measures to begin addressing the problems created by the rising detainee population. First was the public listing of Iraqis under detention. The CPA mounted this action in response to Iraqi complaints about their inability to find out if a family member was interned by Coalition forces. By February 2004 the CPA had created a publicly accessible Web site that listed in English and Arabic the names and other key information of all Iraqis detained.97 In March 2004 CJTF-7 took the additional step of constructing a reception trailer at the Abu Ghraib Prison where Coalition staff could work with Iraqis to confirm information about family members who were under detention in the prison or in other facilities.98

The Coalition’s second measure focused on the review and appeal process and the related criminal prosecution of selected detainees. CJTF-7 had established the review and appeal system in 2003 as one of the requirements of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The process worked through the military’s magistrate cell and a review and appeal board composed of senior Coalition military officers who met periodically to verify the official status of a detainee and to decide whether there were legal or operational grounds for continued detention. The board could recommend continued internment for intelligence or security reasons, initiation of civil legal prosecution, or release of the detainee.

By early 2004 it was clear to CPA officials that the board could not keep pace with the influx of detainees into the system. To help remedy this problem, Lieutenant General Sanchez directed the creation of a standing review and appeal board whose only duty was to ensure the Coalition provided timely due process to all Iraqi detainees.99 This decision resulted almost immediately in an increased rate of review and release. In mid-March 2004, according to one CPA report, the review and appeal board was reviewing the cases of 100 detainees per day, 80 percent of which were approved for release.100 By 3 April 2004, CJTF-7 reported to the CPA that the review and appeal board had selected a total of 2,600 detainees for release.101

While the review and appeal board increased the number of Iraqis slated for release, the CJTF-7 SJA and his staff focused on prosecuting detainees for crimes before the CCCI. This initiative, designed to provide due process and avoid consigning detainees to months languishing in confinement without resolution of their cases, faced many obstacles when it started in the middle of 2003. CJTF-7 had to reestablish the Iraqi legal system, a monumental task that included finding judges willing to serve in an unstable security environment. As the process gathered steam, other problems emerged including the collection of evidence in combat zones and gathering testimonies from witnesses from the Coalition armed forces who had redeployed back to their home countries. By mid-2004, however, the CJTF-7 SJA had restarted the system and had Coalition military lawyers working closely with Iraqi prosecutors as they carefully shepherded cases through the CCCI.

The entire process of resuscitating the Iraqi criminal court received a boost in the spring of 2004 when the DOD sent a group of lawyers, paralegals, and investigators, collectively called the Joint Services Law Enforcement Team (JSLET), to Iraq. The CJTF-7 staff broke the team up into smaller units and placed them at division headquarters across the country.102 By July 2004 the staff of MNF-I reported that the introduction of the JSLETs had led to the convening of 95 hearings and 37 trials for 55 defendants, 5 of which were acquitted.103 Colonel Marc Warren, the CJTF-7 SJA who had started the CCCI initiative, believed that while difficult at times, the collaboration with the CCCI was critical for the establishment of the rule of law in Iraq because it created a system of due process in which the Iraqis had a stake.104

Perhaps the most important organizational change to CJTF-7’s detainee operations came in the spring of 2004 when Major General Geoffrey Miller deployed to Iraq to serve as CJTF-7’s deputy commanding general for detention operations, a position that did not exist prior to Miller’s arrival. Miller had commanded JTF-GTMO in 2002 and had led the JTF-GTMO Assessment Team to Iraq in late August 2003. At the time Miller’s team made that visit, the commander and staff of CJTF-7 had recommended to higher headquarters that detainee operations should be under the authority of a general officer whose responsibilities were focused on oversight of all the processes and policies related to detention. Eight months later Miller began serving in that role, and, after CJTF-7 transitioned to MNF-I, he created a support organization, Task Force (TF) 134, to assist him in the oversight of Coalition detainee operations.

The new TF ensured that once the new Iraqi Government became a sovereign power, all Coalition detainee operations continued under the controls established in the Fourth Geneva Convention. Miller’s staff also had the responsibility for close coordination with the Interim Iraqi Government (IIG) and collaboration with Coalition agencies on matters of policy. The TF also gained significant authority over MI and MP units in an effort to synchronize the critical assets involved in detainee operations.

Over the summer of 2004, Miller and the new detainee TF enjoyed some success in reducing the number of detainees held by the Coalition. In May 2004 CJTF-7 had reported to the CPA that it was holding 7,819 security internees.105 By July that number had dropped to 5,514.106 Miller also reported a reduction in the number of detainees held in tactical-level internment facilities for long periods of time.107 In May 2004 CJTF-7 units had documented 240 Iraqis who had been in these facilities for more than 14 days. By August 2004 Coalition units reported less than 30 detainees in this category.

Much of this improvement could be attributed to the review and appeal process and MNF-I’s work with the IIG and the CCCI. In fact, 6 weeks after Iraq became a sovereign state, General George W. Casey Jr., the MNF-I commander, and Major General Miller created a new entity called the Combined Review and Release Board, which included two Iraqi members from each of the Ministries of Justice, Interior, and Human Rights, along with three officers from the Coalition forces.108 Nevertheless, the review and release procedures still had weaknesses. Earlier in 2004 the Coalition’s senior military leaders had wrestled with creating a release process that balanced their desire to reduce the number of detainees with the very real security concerns of military commanders at the tactical level. In the spring of 2004, the system allowed for tactical-level commanders and staff to have input into the Review and Appeal Board’s recommendation, and place a hold on the release if they believed there were grounds for keeping the detainee interned. This measure had led to slowdowns in the release process.

However, when Miller took over detainee operations in May, he gained authority to make the final decision about releases. This move appears to have provided greater impetus to the system and over the course of the 4-month period between April and July 2004, 3,700 detainees were released. This number represented over half of the total detainees released since the Coalition had begun interning Iraqis in the spring of 2003.109 As the IIG and MNF-I moved toward the elections in early January 2005, they continued to adjust the system. In retrospect, it appears the scrutiny caused by the incidents of abuse at Abu Ghraib and the Coalition’s increased emphasis on due process and releases had led to more orderly, efficient, and disciplined operations that served the security and intelligence interests of Iraqi and Coalition soldiers while also attempting to prevent the disaffection of the Iraqi people.

Chapter 6. Detainee Operations

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