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Abuse investigation records released

R. Jeffrey Smith and Josh White Washington Post

WASHINGTON – An Army intelligence sergeant who accused fellow soldiers in Samarra, Iraq, of abusing detainees in 2003 was in turn accused by his commander of being delusional and ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation in Germany, despite a military psychiatrist’s initial judgment that the man was stable, according to internal Army records released Friday.

The soldier had angered his commander by urging the unit’s redeployment from the military base to prevent what the soldier feared would be the death of one or more detainees under interrogation, according to the documents. He told his commander three members of the counterintelligence team had hit detainees, pulled their hair, tried to asphyxiate them and staged mock executions with pistols pointed at the detainees’ heads.

In another case detailed in the Army files, soldiers in a Florida National Guard unit deployed near Ramadi in 2003 compiled a 20-minute videotape that depicted a soldier kicking a wounded detainee in the face and chest in the presence of 10 colleagues and soldiers positioning a dead insurgent to appear to wave hello. The video was found in a soldier’s computer files under the heading “Ramadi Madness,” and it initially prompted military lawyers to recommend charges of assault with battery and dereliction of duty for tampering with a corpse.

The unit’s commander told Army investigators he was concerned about the images becoming public and promised to take steps to “minimize the risk of this and other videos that may end up in the media.”

Both criminal investigations involved events that occurred before the May 2004 revelation of widespread detainee abuse committed by U.S. military personnel at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad in late 2003, but unlike that event, neither of these cases led to criminal charges.

These cases were among 13 described in more than 1,000 pages of Army criminal records released at the Pentagon under the order of a New York federal judge. They detail the Army’s investigations of other allegations by U.S. military personnel in Iraq of abuse, rape and larceny by fellow soldiers.

Investigations into similar allegations were previously disclosed in tens of thousands of pages of records made public since December under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union. Those records describe allegations of detainee abuse in Afghanistan and at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in addition to Iraq, and show that when FBI field agents and interrogation specialists in the Defense Intelligence Agency protested alleged abuse, the complaints were generally ignored.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, when asked about detainee abuse Friday on CNN’s “Wolf Blitzer Reports,” said he was not surprised. Gonzales said that he presumed the military used lawful interrogation techniques, but “sometimes people do things that they shouldn’t do. People are imperfect … and so the fact that abuses occur, they’re unfortunate but I’m not sure that they should be viewed as surprising.”

In New York, ACLU staff attorney Jameel Jaffer said the new files “provide further evidence that abuse of detainees was widespread.” He added: “In light of the hundreds of abuses that we now know to have taken place, it is increasingly difficult to understand why no senior official, civilian or military, has been held accountable.” The ACLU has called for Congress to hold hearings on the abuse.

In each of the 13 cases described in the latest set of documents, the Army concluded that “the investigations failed to support any criminal charges,” according to a statement it released Friday. Those conclusions are consistent with the majority of the 226 Army investigations into alleged wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan that have been completed so far; in 70 percent of those, the Army closed its probes after concluding it could not substantiate the allegations. The soldier who was removed had complained that he had had to resuscitate abused detainees and urged the unit’s withdrawal. He told investigators that the unit’s commander, an Army captain, responded by giving him “30 seconds to withdraw my request or he was going to send me forcibly to go see a psychiatrist.” The soldier added: “I told him I was not going to withdraw my request and at that time he confiscated my weapon and informed me he was withdrawing my security clearance and was placing me under 24-hour surveillance.”

A witness in his unit told investigators that the captain later pressured a military doctor – who had found the soldier stable – into doing another emergency evaluation, saying: “I don’t care what you saw or heard, he is imbalanced, and I want him out of here.”

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