At 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 25, a delegation of five UFPPC members met with Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA 9th) to thank him for his efforts on the Abu Ghraib torture scandal and for further discussions on this matter, which is much in the news this week. The UFPPC members urged Congressman Smith to work with others to assert Congressís prerogatives in the Abu Ghraib affair by seeking and conducting a full-fledged, unlimited Congressional inquiry into a matter of immense importance to the honor and standing of the United States in the eyes of the world, but that at present is being whitewashed through in-house investigations within the Department of Defense. -- Congressman Smith is well placed to exert influence on the issue, being a member of both the House Armed Services Committee (where he works on subcommittees for Tactical Air & Land Forces, Terrorism, and Unconventional Threats & Capabilities) and the House International Relations Committee (where he belongs to the subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific). While not optimistic about action on Abu Ghraib and related matters from the present Congress, both houses of which are controlled by members of the Republican Party, Congressman Smith held out hopes for a new approach from the 109th Congress, should there be a change of administrations. -- UFPPCís visit was arranged by Kristi Nebel. In attendance were UFPPC members Kristi Nebel, Mark Jensen, Marty Webb, Steve Nebel, and Ted Nation, who met for about forty minutes with Congressman Smith and his aide, Sean Eagan, in the Federal Building in Tacoma and gave him the following letter....
UNITED FOR PEACE
OF PIERCE COUNTY
August 25, 2004
The Honorable Adam Smith
United States Congress
1717 Pacific Avenue
Tacoma, Washington 98402
Dear Congressman Smith:
Thank you for taking the time to meet with us today. We appreciate your efforts on behalf of addressing in an adequate way the very serious misdeeds committed by persons acting in the name of the United States in what has become known as the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal, but which is more properly termed a torture scandal.
Yesterday the report of a panel led by former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger and chosen by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld issued its report; today the report of another investigation led by Maj. Gen. George R. Fay is scheduled to be released. We find these reports inadequate and unsatisfactory, both substantively and procedurally. It is highly inappropriate for the Department of Defense to take on the role of investigating itself. It is even more inappropriate for the secretary of defense to designate persons who are under his authority to investigate wrongdoing in which he is a suspect. For thousands of years it has been an elementary principle of justice that no one should be judge in their own cause. It is for this reason that only the United States Congress has the authority and legitimacy to conduct a thorough and adequate investigation into a matter that has besmirched the reputation and standing of our nation in the international community.
Unfortunately, we see a concerted effort on the part of those who should be laying these facts and perspectives before the American public to propagate, instead, the belief that this matter is being disposed of appropriately. As a comparison of the appended articles in todayís New York Times[1,2] with a piece published ten days ago in the London Telegraph demonstrates, the U.S. press is virtually complicit with the military hierarchy in presenting the two reports that are being released this week as adequate investigations into the Abu Ghraib torture scandal.
In fact, it is clear to anyone who has been following this affair that the true responsibility for the horrors of Abu Ghraib likely lies squarely on the shoulders of the political leaders in the Pentagon and the White House. But the actions of these individuals have been exempted from serious examination.
A truly independent and thorough examination would likely reveal that it was the decision of Donald Rumsfeld, with the full concurrence and knowledge of the White House leadership, to send Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller to Iraq in a desperate effort to ìGitmo-izeî interrogation procedures, so as to obtain some purchase upon an Iraqi insurgency that the Coalition Provisional Authority was unable to master, which was chiefly responsible for the Abu Ghraib scandal.
Particularly egregious is the language on pages 37 and 38 of the Schlesinger panelís report, entitled the Final Report of the Independent Panel to Review DoD Detention Operations [link to .pdf file of the 126-page document], stating that interrogation techniques used in Guant·namo ìmigratedî to Iraq, without ever laying the blame for that squarely on the shoulders of Gen. Miller ― who is, incredibly, still in charge of prisons in Iraq at the present time ― and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
The result of their improper and possibly illegal conduct was to undermine thoroughly, decisively, and, no doubt, irrevocably any prospect (if indeed such a possibility ever existed, which is doubtful) that the U.S. could play a constructive role in Iraq, and, as a result, to contribute to the exacerbation of conflict in the Middle East, endanger the security of the United States, and stain durably if not indelibly the honor of the nation, whose foundation in ideals of liberty and justice we hold so dear.
The whitewashing and scapegoating that characterize the Schlesinger panel and the Fay report, coming in an election year, surprise no one. But the fact is that the Pentagon should never have been allowed to undertake the task of investigating itself.
We fear that the ultimate responsibility for this travesty of justice and good government lies not with the Pentagon but with Congress and American public opinion. The American people have at least the excuse that they are being misled by poor reporting even from prestigious newspapers like the New York Times. This is at least partly responsible for their failure to exert enough pressure upon their Congressional representatives to overcome partisan hesitations to fulfill constitutional responsibilities.
But Congress has no such excuse. It is the duty of our elected representatives to inform themselves, and not to rely upon a lackadaisical press. Congress has both the power and the responsibility to investigate these abuses, regardless of the political party that happens to be in control.
We urge you to continue to do all in your power to address this grave matter, and to call it to the attention of your constituents. Once again, thank you for taking the time to meet with us.
A TRAIL OF 'MAJOR OFFENSES' LEADS TO DEFENSE SECRETARY'S OFFICE
By Douglas Jehl
** On Eve of Convention, an Official Indictment **
New York Times
August 25, 2004
WASHINGTON -- For Donald H. Rumsfeld to resign over the prison abuses at Abu Ghraib would be a mistake, the four-member panel headed by James M. Schlesinger asserted Tuesday. But in tracing responsibility for what went wrong at Abu Ghraib, it drew a line that extended to the defense secretary's office.
The panel cited what it called major failures on the part of Mr. Rumsfeld and his aides in not anticipating and responding swiftly to the post-invasion insurgency in Iraq. On the eve of the Republican convention, that verdict could not have been welcome at the White House, where postwar problems in Iraq represent perhaps President Bush's greatest political liability.
The report rarely mentions Mr. Rumsfeld by name, referring most often instead to the "office of the secretary of defense.'' But as a sharp criticism of postwar planning for Iraq, it represents the most explicit official indictment to date of an operation that was very much the province of Mr. Rumsfeld and his top deputies.
"Any defense establishment should adapt quickly to new conditions as they arise, and in this case, we were slow, at least in the judgment of the members of this panel, to adapt accordingly after the insurgency started in the summer of 2003,'' Mr. Schlesinger, a former defense secretary himself, said in presenting the panel's findings at the Pentagon on Tuesday.
Beginning in late 2002, the panel said, Mr. Rumsfeld and his staff set the stage for an environment in which abuses later became widespread. They did this first by sowing confusion about what kinds of interrogation techniques would be permitted, then by failing to plan for the intensity of the post-invasion insurgency, and finally by delaying for months in dispatching reinforcements to help the American guards at Abu Ghraib contend with the swelling number of prisoners.
The panel sidestepped the broader, even more contentious, question of whether Mr. Rumsfeld had sent enough troops to Iraq. It focused instead on what it described as short staffing among the military police, who were outnumbered by prisoners by a ratio of 75 to 1 at Abu Ghraib, and at the headquarters of Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, whose 495-member staff numbered only about one-third of the authorized total.
In the four months since the abuses at Abu Ghraib first came to light, some of Mr. Rumsfeld's critics have demanded his resignation, as a gesture of the accountability that the defense secretary himself has promised. But while the panel chronicled failures all the way up the civilian as well as the military command, all four members said that Mr. Rumsfeld's errors were less severe than those made by uniformed officers, and that he should not be forced from office for what they described as primarily failures of omission.
"If the head of a department had to resign every time someone below him did something wrong, it'd be a very empty cabinet table,'' said Harold Brown, defense secretary under President Jimmy Carter and a panel member. Indeed, members of the panel went out of their way to praise Mr. Rumsfeld for having tried to avert abuses by directing his staff beginning in late 2002 to draw up rules for interrogation at the American detention facility in Guant·namo Bay, Cuba.
But they said confusion about those rules, which were rewritten several times as part of a fierce Pentagon debate, ultimately added to problems in Afghanistan and Iraq as the procedures were put into force there, without adequate supervision, by military intelligence units that were moved from Cuba to the Middle East.
Mr. Rumsfeld, who was briefed on the findings by video conference on Tuesday morning, responded later in the day only with a brief statement, saying that the panel had provided "important information and recommendations.''
"We have said from the beginning that we would see that these incidents were fully investigated, make findings, make the appropriate corrections, and make them public,'' Mr. Rumsfeld said.
As described by Tillie K. Fowler, another member of the group and a former Republican congresswoman from Florida, the panel's mission was to find out "how this happened and who let it happen,'' a reference to the abuses that came to public attention in April with the publication of what have now become infamous photographs.
The abuses depicted in those photographs themselves were primarily the work of a small group of wayward soldiers, including the seven members of a military police unit who have already been charged with the crime, the panel members said Tuesday. But the panel took issue with the idea, voiced publicly by senior officials including Mr. Bush, that the full array of misconduct at the prison was limited to no more than "a few'' soldiers.
"We found a string of failures that go well beyond an isolated cellblock in Iraq," Ms. Fowler said at the Pentagon.
"We found fundamental failures throughout all levels of command, from the soldiers on the ground to the Central Command and to the Pentagon," she said. "These failures of leadership helped to set the conditions which allowed for the abusive practice to take place."
In addressing the role played by Mr. Rumsfeld in particular, the panel's report emphasized the defense secretary's decisions beginning on Dec. 2, 2002, to authorize for use at Guant·namo Bay 16 additional interrogation procedures more aggressive than the 17 methods long approved as part of standard military practice. The next month, in response to criticisms from the Navy, Mr. Rumsfeld rescinded a majority of the approved measures, and directed that the remaining aggressive techniques could be used only with his approval.
But it was not until April 16, 2003, the report said, that a final list of approved techniques for use at Guant·namo was issued. It said that those changes "were an element contributing to uncertainties in the field as to which techniques were authorized,'' and that ultimately "the augmented techniques for Guant·namo migrated to Afghanistan and Iraq where they were neither limited nor safeguarded."
"Had the secretary of defense had a wider range of legal opinions and a more robust debate regarding detainee policies and operations, his policy of April 16, 2003, might well have been developed and issued in early December 2002," the report said. "This would have avoided the policy changes which characterized the Dec. 2, 2002, to April 16, 2003, period."
In terms of postwar planning, members of the panel faulted the Pentagon for assuming that the problems encountered in Iraq after a full-scale American invasion in 2003 would be limited to the refugee issues that followed the limited incursion of the Persian Gulf war of 1991.
By last summer, as it became clear "that there was a major insurgency growing in Iraq," the report said, senior leaders within the uniformed military and the Pentagon "should have moved to meet the need for additional military police forces" to help guard prisoners at Abu Ghraib in particular, whose population had begun to overwhelm the members of the 800th Military Police Brigade, who ultimately became the primary agents in the acts of abuse.
Here in particular, the panel made clear its view that by October or November at least, the void should have been filled by Mr. Rumsfeld and his aides.
Using an acronym that refers to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the report said, "It is the judgment of this panel that in the future, considering the sensitivity of this kind of mission, the OSD should assure itself that serious limitations in detention/interrogation missions do not occur."
ABUSE PANEL SAYS RULES ON INMATES NEED OVERHAUL
By Eric Schmitt
** Command Chain Faulted; In Wake of Abu Ghraib, Military Is Urged to Use a ëMoral Compassí **
New York Times
August 25, 2004
Attributing abuses of prisoners in Iraq to a string of failures that led all the way up the chain of command to the Pentagon, an independent panel called Tuesday for a sweeping overhaul of how the American military handles and interrogates prisoners in the global campaign against terrorism.
In its recommendations, the panel called for more and better trained military police and intelligence specialists. It urged that all prisoners be treated in ''a way consistent with U.S. jurisprudence and military doctrine and with U.S. interpretation of the Geneva Conventions.''
While the panel said the nation's approach to international humanitarian law ''must be adapted to the realities of the nature of conflict in the 21st century,'' it also said all military personnel engaged in detainee operations must be trained to equip them with a ''sharp moral compass.''
The panel's report, released at a news conference at the Pentagon, was the first official finding in several military reviews conducted so far that assigns any responsibility, even indirectly, for the misconduct at the Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad to Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the top commanders in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.
"The abuses were not just the failure of some individuals to follow known standards, and they are more than the failure of a few leaders to enforce proper discipline," the panel concluded in its 93-page report. "There is both institutional and personal responsibility at higher levels."
James R. Schlesinger, the panel's chairman, warned that the "chilling effect" of the Abu Ghraib abuses might undermine attempts to obtain better intelligence through interrogations.
"One consequence of the publicity that has been associated with the activities at Abu Ghraib and the punishments that prospectively will be handed out is that it has had a chilling effect on interrogation operations," Mr. Schlesinger said. "It is essential in the war on terror that we have adequate intelligence and that we have effective interrogation."
The report may satisfy, at least partly, critics who have complained that only those of relatively low rank have been blamed for what happened at the prison in Iraq.
It found that top commanders and staff officers in Iraq had not adequately supervised commanders at the prison. Up the chain of command to Washington, other officers and officials did not recognize that guards at the prison were overwhelmed by their task as an insurgency took hold and the prison population swelled, it said. By last October, 90 guards were assigned to oversee more than 7,000 prisoners
Problems at the prison "were well known," said Mr. Schlesinger, a former defense secretary, and he said corrective actions "could have been taken and should have been taken."
Interrogation techniques that Mr. Rumsfeld approved for limited use at the military detention center at Guant·namo Bay, Cuba, "migrated to Afghanistan and Iraq, where they were neither limited nor safeguarded," the report said. As early as 2003, interrogation techniques employed by Special Operations forces in Afghanistan went beyond standard military doctrine, it disclosed.
When Mr. Schlesinger was asked if Mr. Rumsfeld or other high-ranking officials should resign, he said the secretary's "resignation would be a boon for all of America's enemies."
Mr. Rumsfeld, who is on vacation this week and was briefed by video-teleconference on the report before the news conference, issued a statement that praised the panel's work but did not address the inquiry's criticisms.
"The Defense Department has an obligation to evaluate what happened and to make appropriate changes," he said.
The prisoner abuses photographed at the Abu Ghraib facility were unauthorized "acts of brutality and purposeless sadism" that served no intelligence-gathering purpose, the report found. "They were freelance activities on the part of the night shift at Abu Ghraib," Mr. Schlesinger said.
But there were other abuses, as well, including some that took place during interrogations. The panel said that there were about 300 reported incidents of mistreatment, and 66 confirmed abuses so far. Of those, 8 occurred at Guant·namo, 3 in Afghanistan and 55 in Iraq, it found. About one-third were related to the interrogations of prisoners.
In a preview of conclusions from yet another report that is due to be issued at the Pentagon, that one examining the role of military intelligence personnel at the prison, the Schlesinger panel concurred in its finding that the interrogators shared a "major part of the culpability" for the abuses.
The panel found that military commanders and staff officers in the field and in Washington bore more responsibility than the Pentagon's civilian leaders for not preventing the abuses, which prompted outrage at home and abroad when the photographs were disclosed in April.
The panel, for instance, faulted Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top military commander in the Middle East, for failing to order new plans to deal with the increasingly effective Iraqi insurgency that caught American commanders off guard last summer.
The report also said that although General Myers was aware of the existence of photographs of abuses as early as January, when the misconduct was first reported and the military immediately began an investigation, ''the impact of the photos was not appreciated'' and the images were not sent promptly to top officials in Washington.
Among those the panel criticized by name for the problems at Abu Ghraib was the commanding general in Iraq at the time, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez.
"We believe Lt. Gen. Sanchez should have taken stronger action in November when he realized the extent of the leadership problems at Abu Ghraib," the report said, criticizing him for not exerting stronger control immediately over the military police commander there, Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski, whose leadership was faulted.
The report added that General Sanchez's deputy, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, and the headquarters staff in Baghdad "should have seen that urgent demands were placed to higher headquarters" for more troops at the understaffed prison.
The Schlesinger panel also said it agreed with new findings by an Army investigation, opened by Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, that "military intelligence personnel share responsibility for the abuses at Abu Ghraib with the military police soldiers" who were cited in an earlier investigation, headed by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba. The Army report is expected to be released as early as Wednesday.
Some of the 44 abuse allegations investigated by General Fay, the Schlesinger panel said, involved military intelligence personnel directing the actions of military police guards. The panel said it did not have access to enough information to assess whether officers of the Central Intelligence Agency played any role in the abuses at Abu Ghraib or elsewhere in Iraq and Afghanistan. It called for further investigation of that question.
The report concludes that "augmented" interrogation techniques for Guant·namo Bay -- which included the use of dogs, stripping detainees naked, and subjecting them to painful stress positions -- migrated to Afghanistan and Iraq, and it finds that those techniques went beyond what was permitted by the Army's traditional interrogation guidelines.
It also confirms that after a visit to Iraq by Gen. Geoffrey Miller, General Sanchez approved such techniques, including specifically the use of dogs, to aid interrogations. Yet the panel does not state that any of those techniques were inherently abusive or unlawful and does not hold the officials and general officers who approved them responsible for abuses.
Asked about the panel's contention that it did not have "full access to information involving the role of the Central Intelligence Agency in detention operations," the chief C.I.A. spokesman, Mark Mansfield, said, "We fully support thorough investigations into allegations of abuse in Iraq."
Mr. Mansfield said that the C.I.A.'s inspector general "has ongoing investigations into the agency's involvement in detention and interrogation activities in Iraq," but that to date it had found no indication that C.I.A. personnel had been involved in abuses photographed at Abu Ghraib.
Human rights advocates were quick to criticize the report.
"The report talks about management failures when it should be talking about policy failures," said Reed Brody, special counsel with Human Rights Watch. "The report seems to go out of its way not to find any relationship between Secretary Rumsfeld's approval of interrogation techniques designed to inflict pain and humiliation and the widespread mistreatment and torture of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guant·namo."
The report was prepared by a four-member panel led by Mr. Schlesinger, who was defense secretary under Presidents Nixon and Ford, and that included Harold Brown, President Carter's defense secretary; Tillie K. Fowler, a former Republican congresswoman from Florida and the chairwoman of an investigation last year into sexual misconduct at the United States Air Force Academy; and Gen. Charles A. Horner, a retired Air Force officer, who led the air campaign in the Persian Gulf war in 1991. All of the panel members sit on the Defense Policy Board, an advisory panel to Mr. Rumsfeld.
RUMSFELD ESCAPES BLAME IN ëWHITEWASHí ABU GHRAIB REPORT
By Julian Coman
The Telegraph (UK)
August 15, 2004
WASHINGTON -- A Pentagon report on prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison is being labelled a whitewash before it has even been released.
The report is the result of the internal inquiry launched by Gen. George Fay in April after the now notorious images of mistreated Iraqi prisoners were broadcast around the world. Critics are arguing that its final conclusions, some of which were leaked last week to the Baltimore Sun, amount to a deliberate cover-up to protect senior military and civilian figures in the Pentagon.
Due to be published by the end of the month, the report will call for disciplinary procedures to be launched against up to two dozen military intelligence officers, all of whom arrived at Abu Ghraib last October, when the worst abuses began. But no action against senior military figures will be called for.
Even more controversially, the role of the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, has been judged to be outside the investigation's remit, despite allegations that extreme treatment of prisoners was authorized at the highest levels. Last month, Brig-Gen Janis Karpinski, the commander formerly in charge of Abu Ghraib, alleged that Mr. Rumsfeld had authorized the use of "dogs, food deprivation and sleep deprivation."
"This is a whitewash -- a carefully orchestrated one," said a lawyer who has liaised with military officials involved in the case. "People in the Pentagon have been coming to me in a fury because of the way this has been handled. By naming military intelligence officials as well as the seven military police who have been charged, it will look like action has been taken. But basically it's still the same storyline of just a few bad apples, way down the food chain."
The decision to limit the investigation to military personnel has caused huge controversy within the Pentagon. "Some of the military lawyers are incandescent," said one Pentagon adviser. "There's been a deliberate attempt to make sure the buck stops well before it gets to the doors of the civilian hierarchy."
Critics of Mr. Rumsfeld allege that a high-level Pentagon decision to toughen up interrogation conditions in Iraq was taken last autumn. Senior civilians at the Department of Defense sanctioned the transfer of Major-Gen. Geoffrey Miller from Guant·namo to Abu Ghraib, where he allegedly told senior officers that he was authorized to "Gitmo-ize" interrogation procedures.
A separate Pentagon investigation into the Abu Ghraib scandal, chaired by the former CIA director James Schlesinger, is expected to criticize Mr. Rumsfeld and senior aides for failing to set clear interrogation rules for Iraq. But according to the rules by which this investigation, unlike the Fay report, was set up, Mr. Schlesinger's panel is not allowed to enter into "matters of personal accountability."
Speaking under condition of anonymity, Pentagon officials said last week that military intelligence officials found to have orchestrated detainee abuse will face sanctions such as loss of pay and reduction in rank. The most serious misdemeanors will lead to court martial.
Almost all the officials named in the report belong to the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade. Its commander, Col Thomas Pappas, has already received a written reprimand for failing to ensure that the Geneva Conventions were followed.
Of the seven military police already charged, Cpl Jeremy Sivits has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to a year in prison. Pte. Lynndie England, who was pictured dragging a naked Iraqi man through the prison on a leash, is awaiting trial.
"The handling of the Fay inquiry has been a very smooth operation," said a lawyer familiar with the report. "The focus has been kept on Iraq and on the 'grunts' in uniform."