Pentagon Releases Whitewash Report on Detainee Abuse

July 3, 2006 12:00 am

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Church Report Evades Question of Command Responsibility for Abuse

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union announced today the receipt of several key documents regarding the military’s internal investigations into allegations of abuse. The Church Report was among the documents the government was forced to release to the ACLU as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request regarding detainees held overseas by the United States. While the Church Report’s executive summary was released in March of 2005, this is the first time the full report has been made available.

“Despite its best efforts to absolve high-ranking officials of any blame, the Church report cannot hide the fact that abusive and unlawful interrogation techniques authorized by Secretary Rumsfeld were used in Guantánamo Bay, Iraq, and Afghanistan,” said ACLU staff attorney Amrit Singh. “The facts speak for themselves, and only underscore the need for an independent investigation into command responsibility for the widespread and systemic abuse of detainees held in U.S. custody abroad.”

The report was commissioned by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to conduct a comprehensive review of Department of Defense interrogation operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay based on 187 investigations into detainee abuse that had been closed as of September 30, 2004. The report did not analyze information relating to 130 abuse cases that remained open as of that date, and issues of senior official responsibility for detainee abuse were beyond its mandate. The detainee abuse statistics recorded in the report are, by the U.S. military’s own account, out of date—the report refers to six “substantiated” cases of detainee deaths, but in March 2005, the military confirmed at least 26 instances of suspected homicide of detainees held in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Written by Vice Admiral Albert T. Church, the report skirts the question of command responsibility for detainee abuse, euphemistically labeling official failure to issue interrogation guidelines for Iraq and Afghanistan as a “missed opportunity.” In addition, it references a “ failure to react to early warning signs of abuse . . .that should have prompted . . . commanders to put in place more specific procedures and direct guidance to prevent further abuse.”

The report provides details of how techniques such as “stress positions”–authorized by Secretary Rumsfeld for Guantánamo Bay in December 2002—came to be used in Afghanistan and Iraq. It specifically notes, moreover, that the “migration” of interrogation techniques intended for Guantánamo Bay to Iraq was “neither accidental nor uncontrolled.” Yet, the report concludes that there is “no link between approved interrogation techniques and detainee abuse.”

The full Church Report, along with other documents released to the ACLU are available online at:

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