Menu

CIA's Role in Prison Abuse Questioned

The latest Army investigation into the Abu Ghraib (search) scandal is raising new questions about whether the CIA, operating outside military rules, contributed to the breakdown of military discipline at the prison.

The report cites the presence of unregistered "ghost detainees" who did not fall under the military's usual system of registration, interrogation and medical care.

But the CIA (search) is rejecting much of the criticism. Spokesman Mark Mansfield said recently that the report, released last week, "makes broad allegations about the CIA that are not supported by the text."

The report by senior Army generals describes some of the CIA's detention procedures, shining a rare light on those practices. Yet it does little to describe the spy agency's actual interrogation methods at Abu Ghraib, beyond saying they contributed to the discipline problems.

"The CIA's detention and interrogation practices contributed to a loss of accountability and abuse at Abu Ghraib," says the investigation report.

Of 44 incidents of possible abuse cited in the Army's intelligence investigation, the CIA was involved in only one — the only one to involve the death of a detainee. In that case, a newly arrived CIA prisoner did not receive the initial medical screening typical for incoming detainees, and then died. That death remains under investigation.

To date, none of the abuses depicted in the infamous photographs from Abu Ghraib have been found to involve CIA personnel, Mansfield said.

The specific allegations of abuse at various U.S.-run detention and interrogation centers in Iraq and Afghanistan are being investigated by the CIA's Inspector General. In several cases, the Justice Department is also investigating whether any CIA officers or contractors committed criminal acts.

The arrangements to hold "ghost detainees" were made between local CIA officers and military officials at the prison, the investigation found. Army investigators said they located information on eight "ghost detainees" held at Abu Ghraib, but said there may have been more.

In one case, military guards at the prison moved a group of detainees around the prison to hide them from a visiting Red Cross delegation, according to the report of U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba (search), who conducted a separate investigation into the prison's military police unit. He described the actions as "deceptive, contrary to Army Doctrine, and in violation of international law."

A U.S. intelligence official, discussing agency operations on the condition of anonymity, said the CIA would keep detainees hidden to prevent insurgents both inside and outside the prison from learning of their capture, suggesting the agency believed that Red Cross knowledge of a given prisoner could ultimately reach insurgents.

If the prisoners had been put in the general prison population, they might have been able to confer with associates and plan their responses for an interrogation, the official said. The official said there were only a "handful" of such secret prisoners.

The Army investigation suggested that one prisoner who died did not receive a proper medical screening because the CIA officers who brought him to the prison ignored the usual registration procedures.

In that case on Nov. 4, 2003, a Navy SEAL team captured Manadel Al-Jamadi, who was thought to have been connected to an attack on the International Committee of the Red Cross. In detaining him, a SEAL subdued him by hitting him on the side of the head with a gun butt. Two CIA personnel brought Al-Jamadi to Abu Ghraib and put him in a shower room.

The prisoner was dead 45 minutes later. An autopsy determined Al-Jamadi died of a blood clot in his head that was probably the result of being struck with the gun.

A day later, U.S. personnel sneaked the body out on a stretcher, disguised so the dead person would only look sick to other inmates.

"It is unclear how and under what authority the CIA could place prisoners like (this detainee) in Abu Ghraib," because no formal agreement between the agency and the military existed, the report says.

Had the prisoner been processed like a normal Army prisoner, he would have received at a minimum a medical screening, the report says.

Mansfield said the CIA does not take issue with the Army report's conclusion that there was confusion in the military regarding the CIA's role and authority at the prison.

Agency officials agree that better coordination and written agreements between the military and CIA would have clarified some matters, particularly for the soldiers, he said.

The Army report describes Lt. Col. Stephen Jordan, the head of the interrogation center at Abu Ghraib, as "fascinated" with the CIA, and says he gave agency personnel leeway to operate without military involvement.

The CIA's freedom to operate influenced Army soldiers to ignore military procedures, the report contends.

The Army generals said it is possible that still other agencies were involved in handling prisoners, but that most of the information about non-military operators in the report referred to the CIA.

Other groups could have included the FBI; the Task Force 121, the special operations-CIA unit hunting senior Iraqi leaders; and the Iraqi Survey Group, the CIA-Defense Intelligence Agency operation that hunted for weapons of mass destruction.