records provide the clearest view yet of the
U.S. tactics used at Anu Ghraib and elsewhere
to coax secrets from Iraqis.
interrogation techniques by U.S. military
personnel are being investigated in connection
with the deaths of at least five Iraqi prisoners
in war-zone detention camps, Pentagon documents
obtained by The Denver Post show.
deaths include the killing in November of
a high-level Iraqi general who was shoved
into a sleeping bag and suffocated, according
to the Pentagon report. The documents contradict
an earlier Defense Department statement that
said the general died "of natural causes"
during an interrogation. Pentagon officials
declined to comment on the new disclosure.
Iraqi military officer, records show, was
asphyxiated after being gagged, his hands
tied to the top of his cell door. Another
detainee died "while undergoing stress technique
interrogation," involving smothering and "chest
compressions," according to the documents.
of the death investigations, involving at
least four different detention facilities
including the Abu Ghraib prison, provide the
clearest view yet into war-zone interrogation
rooms, where intelligence soldiers and other
personnel have sometimes used lethal tactics
to try to coax secrets from prisoners, including
choking off detainees' airways. Other abusive
strategies involve sitting on prisoners or
bending them into uncomfortable positions,
is the only thing you can call this," said
a Pentagon source with knowledge of internal
investigations into prisoner abuses. "There
is a lot about our country's interrogation
techniques that is very troubling. These are
violations of military law."
records obtained by The Post point to wider
problems beyond the Abu Ghraib prison and
demonstrate that some coercive tactics used
at Abu Ghraib have shown up in interrogations
elsewhere in the war effort. The documents
also show more than twice as many allegations
of detainee abuse - 75 - are being investigated
by the military than previously known. Twenty-seven
of the abuse cases involve deaths; at least
eight are believed to be homicides.
criminal punishments have been announced in
the interrogation deaths, even though three
deaths occurred last year.
the interrogation deaths, the military documents
show that investigators are examining other
abuse cases involving soldiers using choking
techniques during interrogations, including
the handling of prisoners at a detention facility
in Samarra, Iraq, where soldiers allegedly
"forced into asphyxiation numerous detainees."
under investigation are reports that soldiers
in Iraq abused women and children. One April
2003 case, which is awaiting trial, involves
a reservist who pointed a loaded pistol at
an Iraqi child in front of witnesses, saying
he should kill the youngster to "send a message"
to other Iraqis.
officials, asked to comment on synopses of
the cases provided by The Post, released a
statement saying they do not discuss ongoing
investigations. "Make no mistake; we will
take whatever corrective actions are determined
to be appropriate," the statement said. "The
offenders will be dealt with, and action will
be taken to prevent such situations from happening
officials and the Bush administration face
international scrutiny over the mistreatment
of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, which entailed
a range of physical assault, mental abuse
and sexual humiliation by military police
officers. The role of military intelligence
personnel in abuse cases has been murky. On
Tuesday, The New York Times reported that
an American officer who led interrogations
at the prison acknowledged that intelligence
personnel sometimes instructed military police
to mete out abuse.
the case of Iraqi Major General Abed Hamed
Mowhoush, who headed Saddam Hussein's air
force, intelligence officers' role was documented
in abuse that soon turned fatal, documents
considered a "high-priority target," turned
himself in for questioning in November, according
to documents. After two weeks in custody at
an Al Qaim detention facility, northwest of
Baghdad, two soldiers with the 66th Military
Intelligence Company, slid a sleeping bag
over his body, except for his feet, and began
questioning him as they rolled him repeatedly
from his back to his stomach, the documents
one of the soldiers, an interrogator, sat
on Mowhoush's chest and placed his hands over
the prisoner's mouth, according to the report:
"During this interrogation, the (general)
became non-responsive, medics were called
and he was later pronounced dead." According
to the documents, "The preliminary report
lists the cause of death as asphyxia due to
smothering and chest compressions."
after Mowhoush's death was reported, U.S.
military officials released a statement acknowledging
he died during an interview.
said he didn't feel well and subsequently
lost consciousness," read the press statement,
which is still posted on a Pentagon website.
"The soldier questioning him found no pulse,
then conducted CPR and called for medical
authorities. According to the on-site surgeon,
it appeared Mowhouse died of natural causes."
investigative report was finalized in late
January, and the interrogating soldiers received
reprimands, in addition to being barred from
further interviews, documents show. According
to the report obtained by The Post, commanders
have not taken criminal action against the
soldiers, citing an ongoing investigation.
punishments apparently have not been pursued
in the other interrogation-death cases, which
also are ongoing.
Iraqi prisoner was assaulted by interrogators
on two occasions in early January of this
year at the FOB Rifles Base in Asad, Iraq,
documents state. U.S. forces arrested him
for allegedly possessing explosive devices,
and he was later placed in an isolation cell
for questioning by special-forces soldiers
with the Operational Detachment Alpha, where
he was shackled to a pipe that ran along the
ceiling. After he was allowed to sit, he lunged
at one of the soldiers, grabbing his shirt.
"The three ODA members punched and kicked
(the prisoner) in the stomach and ribs for
approximately one to two minutes," documents
days later, the prisoner escaped from his
cell and was recaptured.
questioning, the detainee refused to follow
instructions. When he refused orders to remain
quiet in his cell, his hands were tied to
the top of his cell door, the report shows.
When he still refused, he was gagged, the
report notes, and five minutes later, a soldier
"noticed that he was slumped down and hanging
from his shackles" dead.
to the investigative report, special forces
commanders are reviewing "consideration of
misconduct" in the case.
prisoner deaths under homicide investigation,
beating in early April of a detainee at the
LSA Diamondback facility in Mosul, Iraq, who
was found dead in his sleep. A death report
showed "blunt- force trauma to the torso and
positional asphyxia." He had gone to sleep
immediately after questioning by members of
the Naval Special Warfare Team. No disciplinary
action was noted in the report, but the investigation
continues, the report states.
June, at a "classified interrogation facility"
in Baghdad, an Iraqi detainee was found dead
after being restrained in a chair for questioning.
"While in custody the detainee was subjected
to both physical and psychological stress,"
the report shows. An autopsy determined that
he died of a "hard, fast blow" to the head.
The investigation continues. No disciplinary
action was noted.
Nov. 4, an Iraqi died at Abu Ghraib during
an interview by special forces and Navy SEAL
soldiers. "An autopsy revealed the cause of
death was blunt force trauma as complicated
by compromised respiration." The report notes
that Navy investigators concluded Navy personnel
did not commit a crime leading to the detainee's
death. But the investigation, including by
CIA officials, is still ongoing. No disciplinary
action was noted.
a storm of controversy over prisoner handling
in recent weeks, U.S. military officials have
launched eight separate internal investigations
into abuse cases, administrative procedures
and interrogation techniques.
also have acknowledged that reports of abuse
at Abu Ghraib violate the Geneva Conventions
and other treaties.
to Human Rights Watch, which monitors prisoner
maltreatment around the world, the patterns
of interrogation tactics known as "stress
techniques" in the death cases is tantamount
to torture and should be investigated by an
"independent" body or government.
sounds as though the Iraqi general and others
were being subjected to extreme techniques
we are only just now learning about, and it's
clearly cruel and degrading treatment," said
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human
Rights Watch. "This highlights the need for
independent scrutiny at a minimum by Congress
or possibly an independent commission of inquiry."
the detainee cases that were not homicides,
commanders typically handed down lenient job-related
punishments to the accused, instead of seeking
criminal convictions. Of 47 punishments given
to those accused of prisoner abuse, according
to the report, only 15 involved court-martial.
Criminal penalties ranged from reprimands
to 60 days' confinement.
civilian practices, in the military, commanders
decide whether to send accused soldiers to
investigations regarding allegations of Iraqi
12, 2004: Member of the 1st Marine Expeditionary
Force abused a detainee involved in shooting
death of a Marine lieutenant and sergeant.
During interrogation, detainee was kicked
in the rib cage, punched in kidney area and
slapped in the head. Incident being investigated.
9, 2004: FOB Rifles Base detainee died while
in custody. The detainee, an escapee who had
been recaptured, was shackled to the door
of his cell with his hands over his head and
gagged. Five minutes later, he was found dead.
The death is under investigation.
31, 2003: Military police officer used butt
of M-4 rifle to strike a detainee in the face
and on the back of the neck. Then the officer
placed the muzzle of his M-4 rifle in the
detainee's mouth and pulled trigger on the
empty weapon. Officer then chambered a round
and pointed the rifle at detainee, firing
a round 5 or 6 feet from detainee. The incident
is under investigation.
26, 2003: At the 3rd ACR detention facility,
Iraqi Gen. Abed Hamad Mowhoush, a "high-priority
target," was placed inside a sleeping bag
with only his feet exposed. He was rolled
back and forth while being questioned. One
of the interrogators sat on his chest and
placed hands over his mouth. He died during
the interrogation, and an autopsy confirmed
evidence of blunt force trauma to the chest
and legs. The interrogating officers were
given general officer reprimands, prohibited
from conducting further interrogations and
referred for consideration of misconduct charges.
11, 2003: A guard at the FOB Packhorse detention
facility fatally shot a detainee who was throwing
rocks. The soldier, who did not follow regulations,
was reduced in rank and discharged from the
military in lieu of trial by court-martial.
13, 2003: A sergeant beat a detainee while
his squad leader was present. Sergeant received
rank reduction and 60 days' confinement. His
commanding officer - who also beat detainees
- was charged with dereliction of duty, given
a reprimand and fined $2,000.
researcher Monnie Nilsson contributed to this
writer Miles Moffeit can be reached at 303-820-1415
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