IG: Iraqi Prisoner Contractors Backgrounds Unknown

The Justice Department did not know about problems in the tenures of four former state prison officials when it hired them to help set up Iraq's prison system, the department's inspector general said Friday.

But the information would not have changed the decision to send the men to Iraq, even if officials had been aware of civil lawsuits against them, Inspector General Glenn Fine (search) said.

Fine said his review of the contractors' time in Iraq also "found no evidence to suggest that they played any role in the abuses" at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib (search) prison.

Fine's inquiry also identified weaknesses in the way background checks are performed, including 22 cases in which contractors were sent to Iraq without required background checks.

Sen. Charles Schumer (search), D-N.Y., requested Fine's review in June, saying the four former state officials had backgrounds that should have precluded them from the private contracting jobs.

Each had lawsuits or other problems linked to their tenures in state government, Schumer said. One of the four, Terry Stewart, was sued by the Justice Department in 1997, when he ran Arizona's Corrections Department, over allegations that female inmates were repeatedly raped, sexually assaulted and watched by corrections workers as they dressed, showered and used the bathroom.