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Taguba faults leadership for Iraqi detainee abuse
Lessons-learned go to MP schoolhouse

By Joe Burlas/Army News Service

WASHINGTON (May 12, 2004; re-released on TRADOC News Service May 14, 2004) -- “Rampant lack of supervision” was among the primary causes that led to a situation where detainee abuse could occur, according to the general charged in late January with investigating the U.S.-controlled Abu Ghraib prison 20 miles west of Baghdad.

Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, deputy commanding general for support, Coalition Forces Land Component Command, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee May 11 that the lack of proper leadership from the 800th Military Police Brigade – the unit in charge of detainee operations in Iraq at the time – down through the 320th MP Battalion that was in charge of Abu Ghraib, contributed to the circumstances that allowed the alleged abuse to occur unnoticed by the chain of command between mid-October and early January.

The 800th MP Brigade, to include the 320th MP Battalion, has returned to the United States and demobilized since Taguba concluded his investigation in late February.

A criminal investigation into the alleged abuse started a day after Spc. Joe Darby, a 320th MP guard at Abu Ghraib, reported through official channels in mid-January that he was concerned about the way some of the detainees were being treated.

Investigators found more than 100 digital photos of guards posing with hooded and naked Iraqi detainees. Some of the photos depicted the detainees in simulated sexual acts and others have an unmuzzled guard dog appearing to threaten the detainees.

Taguba was sent to Iraq at the request of Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, Joint Task Force 7 commanding general, for an impartial look from someone outside JTF-7 to see if any systemic issues contributed to circumstances that lead to the alleged abuse and to several detainee escapes at the Abu Ghraib prison. The general and his investigation team looked at three other large detainee facilities run by 800th MP Brigade units in addition to Abu Ghraib. Taguba’s report praised two 800th MP units at other facilities for the way they executed the detainee security function.

“Lack of discipline, no training whatsoever and a lack of leadership presence,” Taguba replied to one senator’s question for a short answer as to why the alleged abuse happened at Abu Ghraib.

In later testimony, Taguba expanded on his short answer.

To support the lack of discipline comment, the general told the committee there was no single standard uniform for either the MP guards or the military intelligence specialists who were responsible for interrogating the detainees – they wore whatever they felt like wearing.

Further, no formal guard mounts were held at Abu Ghraib where those guards going off duty brief important information to those going on duty, Taguba said. Guard mounts are now being held by the new MP unit that took over the Abu Ghraib mission. Each guard shift change now includes a briefing on the applicable Geneva Convention sections that pertain to detainees.

As far as training for operating a prison or detainee facility – a valid mission for an MP unit – Taguba said several guards questioned during the investigation said they had received no detainee security and resettlement training since arriving at their mobilization station prior to deployment. A search of training records from the 320th confirmed that no such training had occurred in battalion during the past year.

Taguba faulted the 800th MP Brigade commander, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, for lack of any substantive command presence at Abu Ghraib. He said that Karpinski attempted to mislead him during his investigation about the number of visits she made to the prison. A check with her aide and her calendar confirmed that Karpinski’s visits were less than she said.

In response to a question about interrogation techniques, Taguba said that Army doctrine has more than 50 approved techniques, some harsher than others, to include sleep depravation, a controlled diet, isolation for more than 30 days and having a guard dog present in the interrogation booth. He said the harsher techniques require general officer or higher approval for use, and that when a dog is used, it must be muzzled and under the control of a dog handler.

There was some disagreement between Taguba and Dr. Stephen Cambone, undersecretary of defense for intelligence who also testified, about exactly who the 320th MP Battalion worked for during the timeframe of the alleged abuse. A JTF-7 fragment order placed Abu Ghraib under the operational control of an MI brigade last October. Cambone said that meant the MI brigade was responsible for the infrastructure of the facility, not for telling the MP guards what to do. Taguba said operational control meant that the MPs’ priority was to work for the MI brigade.

The general said his investigation uncovered “no order whatsoever, written or otherwise” that directed the guards or MI interrogators to use inhumane measures in obtaining intelligence from the detainees.

However, Taguba said that he did “believe there was collaboration at the lower levels between interrogators and guards” that led to behavior outside the bounds of international laws and the Geneva Convention.

A separate investigation, called a Procedure 15, is underway to determine what, if any, responsibilities the interrogators had in ordering, encouraging or turning a blind eye to the alleged abuse.

Other investigations still ongoing include the criminal investigation, an inspector general look at all detainee facilities and applicable detainee security doctrine and training, and an Office of the Chief of the Army Reserve check into the pre-mobilization and mobilization detainee security training of Reserve units.

Through May 11, the criminal investigation has determined there was enough evidence against six 320th MP Battalion Soldiers to warrant criminal charges be preferred against them. The cases of two of those Soldiers have been reviewed by a general officer and referred for courts-martial.

Conducting investigations and pursuing criminal sanctions against suspected abuse offenders are not the only actions the Army has taken. Other implemented actions include: