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
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 again."
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
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 show,
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 show.
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
punishments apparently have not been pursued in
the other interrogation-death cases, which also
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 show.
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
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
also have acknowledged that reports of abuse at
Abu Ghraib violate the Geneva Conventions and
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
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 trial.
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
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
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
researcher Monnie Nilsson contributed to this
writer Miles Moffeit can be reached at 303-820-1415
Posted: June 21, 2004