Military Investigations Stymied By Missing Documents, Flawed Records And Failure Of Witness Recollection, Records Show
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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union released Department of Defense documents today that provide further evidence that prisoner abuse in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq was systemic. The documents, obtained as part of an ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, also show that Army investigations of abuse in Iraq were compromised by missing records, flawed interviews and problems with witness recollection.
"The Bush administration created a climate in which abuse was tolerated even when it wasn't expressly endorsed," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. "With a new administration entering the White House, we should remember that the tone set by senior military and intelligence officials has very real implications for what takes place in U.S. detention facilities overseas. The new administration should make clear from the outset that it won't turn a blind eye to torture and abuse."
The documents released today relate to eight investigations of detainee abuse that occurred in 2003 and 2004. Charges of abuse described in the documents include food and sleep deprivation, the misuse of Tasers, sexual threats, urinating on detainees and the use of various stress positions and dogs to intimidate detainees.
In one file, a soldier who was stationed at Camp Cropper in Iraq states that "soldiers would hog-tie detainees out of their own frustration, because detainees would continuously ask them for water or in some form not be compliant." In another file, a prisoner who was held at a facility called "Kilometer 22" charges that he was punched repeatedly and hit in the face with a sandal by an Egyptian interpreter when he could not give American interrogators the answers that they wanted.
"These documents provide more evidence that abuse of prisoners was systemic in Iraq, and not limited to any particular detention center or military unit," said Jaffer. "There was a culture of impunity."
In addition to revealing systemic abuse, the documents describe investigations stymied by military units that were unable or unwilling to cooperate. Six of the eight investigations were compromised by an inability to locate critical records; three investigations include documents in which military personnel state that their facilities were so disorganized that it would be impossible to produce records on detainees; and three investigations were hampered because interviewees claimed that they did not recognize the names of the relevant detention facilities or the name of the capturing unit. It is clear, however, that at least some of the facilities and capturing units did exist because their names appear in other Defense Department documents that have been obtained by the ACLU over the last four years.
In October 2003, the ACLU – along with the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace – filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act for records concerning the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad. To date, more than 100,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to the ACLU's FOIA lawsuit.
Attorneys in the FOIA case are Lawrence S. Lustberg and Melanca D. Clark of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons, P.C.; Jaffer, Amrit Singh and Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU; Arthur Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the New York Civil Liberties Union; and Shayana Kadidal and Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Today's documents are available at: www.aclu.org/torturefoia/released/111808.html
All of the documents received in the ACLU's FOIA litigation are online at: www.aclu.org/torturefoia
In addition, many of the FOIA documents are also compiled and analyzed in a book by Jaffer and Singh, "Administration of Torture." More information is available online at: www.aclu.org/administrationoftorture