Investigations and other resources

A look at investigations into Abu Ghraib; plus, other reports, legal documents and further reading about prisoner abuse and torture.


Pentagon investigations into Abu Ghraib

The Taguba Report
Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba’s investigation into detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib, “Article 15-6 Investigation of the 800th Military Police Brigade,” was classified before being leaked to the New Yorker. The report was completed in March 2004 and found that “systemic and illegal” abuse occurred under the watch of the 372nd Military Police Company in Tier 1A of Abu Ghraib, and that “several US Army Soldiers have committed egregious acts and grave breaches of international law.”

In addition to the abuses seen in photos worldwide, Taguba detailed other allegations of abuse he deemed credible, including “a male MP guard having sex with a female detainee”; “arranging naked male detainees in a pile and then jumping on them”; “sodomizing a detainee with a chemical light and perhaps a broom stick”; and “using military working dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees with threats of attack, and in one instance actually biting a detainee.”

Taguba faulted Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, for poor leadership and recommended that she be relieved from command and given a letter of reprimand. He also recommended that Col. Thomas M. Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, be given a reprimand for failing to ensure that his soldiers were trained and following the interrogation rules of engagement.

The Mikolashek Report
“Department of the Army, The Inspector General — Detainee Operations Inspection” focused on detainee interrogation practices in Iraq and Afghanistan. Written by Lt. Gen. Paul Mikolashek, the report was released in July 2004. At Abu Ghraib, it found that “there were no formal control processes, such as a routine inspection of Tier 1A during the night hours or electronic monitoring, in place to easily identify abuse and bring it to the attention of command.” It also found overcrowding, spoiled and contaminated food, “ineffective communication systems,” and it found that the prison lacked necessary measures to protect detainees from frequent hostile fire by insurgents in the area. It recommended that the U.S. military should “phase out detainee operations at Abu Ghraib completely.”

The Fay-Jones Report
The investigations of Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Jones and Maj. Gen. George R. Fay were released in August 2004. The Fay report recommended further investigation of or disciplinary action for 48 soldiers, officers and civilian contractors. The Jones report found that Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez and his deputy, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, “failed to ensure proper staff oversight of detention and interrogation operations,” but added that given the difficult operating environment the two officers still “performed above expectations.” These reports focused heavily on the actions of military intelligence and leave many questions unanswered, but they represent the most complete official record of abuse at Abu Ghraib.

The Schlesinger Report
The investigation by the Department of Defense panel led by former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger was released in August 2004. The panel was charged with determining the roots of detainee abuse and providing recommendations to prevent future abuse. The report includes the most extensive official discussion of how White House, Pentagon and military command policy indirectly contributed to the Abu Ghraib abuses. “We cannot be sure how much the number and severity of abuses would have been curtailed had there been early and consistent guidance from higher levels,” the panel concluded. “Nonetheless, such guidance was needed and likely would have had a limiting effect.”

The Church Brief
Vice Adm. Albert T. Church reviewed Department of Defense interrogation policies in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantánamo Bay. The report is classified, but a summary was released in March 2005. From an analysis of 70 cases, it found that instances of abuse had been “perpetrated by a variety of active duty, reserve and national guard personnel from three services” on multiple occasions in all three locations. It also found that “there was a failure to react to early warning signs of abuse. Though we cannot provide details in this unclassified executive summary, it is clear that such warning signs were present — particularly at Abu Ghraib — in the form of communiqués to local commanders, that should have prompted those commanders to put in place more specific procedures and direct guidance to prevent further abuse.”

The Green Report
The classified “Review by Department of the Army Inspector General Stanley Green” was leaked to the press in April 2005. The investigation focused on allegations of abuse against Sanchez, Wojdakowski, Maj. Gen. Barbara G. Fast, Karpinski and Col. Marc Warren, according to a May 5, 2005, Army press release. Charges of dereliction of duty were found unsubstantiated for all but Karpinski, who received a letter of reprimand.

Independent investigations into Abu Ghraib

Report of the International Committee of the Red Cross on the Treatment by Coalition Forces of Prisoners of War and Other Protected Persons by the Geneva Conventions in Iraq During Arrest, Internment and Interrogation
The ICRC visited Abu Ghraib and other detention facilities in Iraq between March and November of 2003; its investigators found widespread violations of the Geneva Conventions, including brutalizing prisoners upon capture, “sometimes causing death or serious injury,” and the use of “physical and psychological coercion that in some cases might amount to torture” during interrogations. The February 2004 report, which was not intended to be made public, called on the military to conform to international humanitarian law. It offers a rare independent eyewitness account of conditions inside Abu Ghraib at the time of the abuse scandal.

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Other reports on prisoner abuse

Report of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York Committee on International Human Rights and Committee on Military Affairs and Justice
The report considered allegations of detainee abuse in Afghanistan and examined legal standards applying to the U.S. military. The report was released in April 2004 and recommended that all military and intelligence personnel involved in interrogation be “educated regarding the prohibition against torture.”

American Bar Association Report to the House of Delegates
Submitted to the ABA’s House of Delegates on Aug. 9, 2004, the report exhorts the U.S. government to investigate and prosecute cases of detainee abuse according to the rule of law. It found that “the extent of the prisoner abuse scandal is so great, and its ramifications so broad and lasting, that an independent investigation is necessary to identify how these practices evolved and their extent, and to make recommendations to assure they will not recur.”

Torture documents

Center for Constitutional Rights: Torture Memos
Collection of memos and reports that reveal the Bush administration’s interrogation policy, including the Department of Justice Memo on Interrogation and the Army Inspector General’s Detainee Operations Inspection Report.

American Civil Liberties Union: Government Documents on Torture
Archive of government documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, including an FBI memo that suggests that senior officials approved of abuse at Guantánamo Bay.

Legal background

Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Adopted on Dec. 10, 1948, by the General Assembly of the United Nations, the declaration states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War
Signed on Aug. 12, 1949, and updated on June 8, 1977, the Geneva Conventions govern conduct in wartime and prohibit torture.

War Crimes Act of 1996
The act deems it a federal crime to violate the Geneva Conventions.

Human Rights Watch: Summary of International and U.S. Law Prohibiting Torture and Other Ill-treatment of Persons in Custody
Synopsis of laws that establish a legal basis for prosecuting cases of torture or abuse.

Resources on detainees

Sworn Statements by Abu Ghraib Detainees
Official detainee testimonies alleging abuse, obtained by the Washington Post.

U.S. Department of Defense Detainees Investigations
The Department of Defense’s Web site containing press releases, reports and transcripts relevant to detainee investigations.

Further reading

Salon’s full coverage
Archive of Salon stories on Abu Ghraib, torture and the CIA’s secret detainee operation known as rendition.

“Frontline’s” “The Torture Question”
Extensive background on abuses at Abu Ghraib, a discussion among legal scholars about the justification for torture, interviews with key figures in the torture scandals, and streaming video of the 90-minute “Frontline” documentary “The Torture Question.”

Human Rights Watch: Torture and Abuse
Archive of Human Rights Watch’s reports regarding torture and abuse worldwide, as well links to legal background and relevant reports and investigations.

American Civil Liberties Union: Torture
The ACLU’s archive of legal information and documents, as well as numerous U.S. government documents obtained using the Freedom of Information Act, regarding the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. custody. Among other legal actions, the ACLU and Human Rights First jointly filed a complaint in federal court in January 2006, charging that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility for the torture and abuse of detainees.

Human Rights First’s “End Torture Now Campaign”
Comprehensive information on alleged abuse at Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Bagram Air Base and other secret detention facilities. Also includes a number of HRF reports on torture, including “Command’s Responsibility,” a report released Feb. 22, 2006, on the nearly 100 known deaths — including at least 34 homicides — of detainees in U.S. custody.

– Mark Follman and Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory

Tracy Clark-Flory is a staff writer at Salon. Follow @tracyclarkflory on Twitter and Facebook.

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