WASHINGTON – The Pentagon's most senior civilian and military officials share a portion of blame for creating conditions that led to the Abu Ghraib (search) prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq, according to a new report.
The report, by a commission appointed by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search), was briefing Rumsfeld on its findings and recommendations Tuesday in advance of a Pentagon news conference to release the details. The commission was headed by James Schlesinger, a former secretary of defense.
A person familiar with the report said it implicitly faulted Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers (search), chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, by finding that those responsible for the military prison system in Iraq were operating under confusing policies on allowable interrogation techniques. The person discussed some aspects of the report on condition of anonymity.
The question of how high responsibility for the abuse goes continues to be one of the central unanswered questions in the scandal — and it is key to the ongoing criminal cases against several low-ranking military police soldiers charged with mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib.
The U.S. military judge hearing the Abu Ghraib abuse case in Mannheim, Germany, said Tuesday that prosecutors have until Sept. 17 to file charges against top military intelligence commanders or he would consider forcing them to testify under a grant of immunity.
The judge, Col. James Pohl, also rejected a request from the attorney for Spc. Javal Davis (search) for Rumsfeld and his chief deputy for intelligence, Stephen Cambone (search), to submit to an interview, but said the request could be brought back if the defense can fill in some of the gaps.
"There's got to be some links in that chain," Pohl said.
Davis and the five other military police accused of abusing prisoners at the prison near Baghdad insist they were following orders from military intelligence officers and civilian contractors. A seventh soldier, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits (search) of Hyndman, Pa., pleaded guilty May 19 to taking pictures of naked prisoners and was sentenced to a year in prison.
None of the investigations has found that Rumsfeld or Myers ordered or encouraged any mistreatment of prisoners. In May, Rumsfeld told the House and Senate that as secretary of defense "I am accountable" for the events at Abu Ghraib and he issued "my deepest apologies" to the Iraqis who were abused.
Also faulted by the Schlesinger commission is Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (search), who was the top field commander in Iraq at the time of the reported abuses last fall.
Sanchez also takes a portion of the blame in a separate Army investigation which looked specifically at the role of military intelligence soldiers. That probe has been completed and is expected to be publicly released as early as Wednesday.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan, with President Bush at the president's ranch in Crawford, Texas, had no immediate comment on the Schlesinger report.
"I think we'll wait until we see the full report," McClellan said. "I fully expect the president will be briefed on any and all reports from these investigations."
Rand Beers, national security adviser to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, said Tuesday, "This report makes clear that the failures at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere start at the top -- beginning with a failure to plan for the peace in Iraq, a failure to adequately train the troops and a failure to provide clear orders for interrogation."
The report said senior leaders did not establish clear guidelines on permissible techniques for interrogating various categories of prisoners held at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq.
The Army report, initially headed by Maj. Gen. George Fay, says at least two dozen lower-ranking military intelligence soldiers, as well as civilian contractors, were responsible for the abuses, which were depicted in photographs and videos taken by U.S. soldiers.
The New York Times said in Tuesday editions the report also blames Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski (search) — commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade at Abu Ghraib — for faulty leadership. She has been faulted in other investigation reports but has denied knowing about any abuses until they become public.
The Schlesinger commission interviewed Rumsfeld twice during its investigation, which began in May. The three other commission members are former defense secretary Harold Brown, former Republican Rep. Tillie Fowler of Florida, and retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner.
When he chartered the commission, Rumsfeld told its members that he wanted independent advice on a wide range of issues related to the abuse allegations. "I am especially interested in your views on the cause of the problems and what should be done to fix them," he wrote at the time.
Fay's investigation concluded that Sanchez failed to deal with rising problems at the prison as he tried to manage 150,000 troops countering an unexpected insurgency. But Sanchez will not be recommended for any punitive action or even a letter of reprimand, a Pentagon official told the Washington Post.
The Army report also says soldiers used police dogs to intimidate Iraqi detainees as young as 15, the Post said.
Handlers have told investigators that the use of unmuzzled military police dogs was sanctioned by top military intelligence officers. But the new report will show that MPs were using their animals to threaten detainees as part of an unusual competition among themselves — not in accordance with intelligence officers — the Post reported, citing a Pentagon source.
Both reports will be reviewed by the Senate Armed Services Committee in hearings scheduled for Sept. 9.