WASHINGTON – The images were vivid: A U.S. Army sergeant who told his troops to "rough up" two prisoners; a platoon that agreed to make prisoners jump off a bridge into the Tigris River; an interrogator who hit a prisoner in the head.
Those were among the new details of abuses by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan reported by the Army Inspector General's office. The review found 94 cases of confirmed or alleged abuses and 39 deaths, 20 of which were ruled homicides or remain under investigation.
Still, Army Inspector General Lt. Gen. Paul Mikolashek concluded in Thursday's report that the abuses were the work of rule-breaking soldiers and a few officers and not the fault of Army rules or training.
Senate Democrats, pointing to deficiencies in training and inconsistencies in doctrine outlined in the Army report, immediately challenged the findings.
"It is difficult to believe there were not systemic problems with our detention and interrogation operations," Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said at a hastily called hearing.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker said mistakes were understandable, though not excusable. Troops must be trained to contain their anger at prisoners who had been trying to kill them, he said.
"It's in the middle of a rumble that this is happening," Schoomaker said.
The prisoner abuse scandal burst into public view this spring, when photographs surfaced showing beatings and humiliations of Iraqis held at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
Seven Army enlisted soldiers have been charged with abusing detainees at the prison outside Baghdad. One has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to a year in prison and a dishonorable discharge.
Acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee ordered Mikolashek to review detention practices in February, two months before the pictures appeared, based on internal reports of abuse that had reached the Pentagon.
The report added new details about other abuses, including:
— Two chief warrant officers accused in the death of an Iraqi general routinely beat and slapped prisoners they were questioning, fellow soldiers told investigators. Guards who witnessed such abuse didn't report it and thought it was approved by higher-ups, the report said. The Denver Post has reported the Army plans to file criminal charges against Chief Warrant Officers Lewis Welshofer and Jeff Williams in the suffocation death of Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush.
— A sergeant first class told subordinates to "rough up" two detainees, and two of the subordinates and a sergeant from another unit beat those prisoners. All four faced courts-martial, with the sergeant first class being demoted to staff sergeant, one staff sergeant demoted and sentenced to 30 days in jail, one staff sergeant being demoted and one specialist fined $1,092 and sentenced to 45 days hard labor.
— Troops who forced two detainees to jump off a bridge into Iraq's Tigris River — killing one — had discussed the plan as an entire platoon before carrying it out, apparently with the support of the platoon sergeant. Three soldiers have been charged with involuntary manslaughter in the Jan. 3 drowning and another faces charges of pushing the second man, who survived, into the river.
— An interrogator hit a prisoner in the head during questioning. After the International Committee of the Red Cross discovered the incident and complained, the interrogator was punished and the unit's commander required two soldiers to be present at all future interrogations.
— Civilian interrogators working on an Army contract were accused of mistreating prisoners in two separate incidents, including pouring water on the head of a prisoner forced into an uncomfortable "stress position." The interrogators' employer, CACI International Inc., plans to investigate further, spokeswoman Jody Brown said Thursday. She said that in one incident military interrogators reportedly used the same techniques as the contract workers.
The Army investigators looked at alleged abuse incidents that happened between the start of combat in Afghanistan in October 2001 until June 9. The allegations included physical and sexual abuse, prisoner deaths and thefts.
Mikolashek's review found that all the interrogation procedures approved in Iraq and Afghanistan were legal, "if executed carefully, by trained soldiers, under the full range of safeguards." But interrogator training was often incomplete and inconsistent, the report said.
The Army's contract with CACI did not require the civilian contractors to have military interrogation training. Eleven of the 31 CACI interrogators who worked in Iraq did not have military interrogation training and one said he had been given no training after arriving in Iraq, the report said.
The 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, which was in charge of interrogations at Abu Ghraib during the abuses there, had no soldiers trained as interrogators, the report found.