Report Cites Lack of Training, Supervision in Prisoner Abuse Cases

By Leon Worden
Signal City Editor

Friday, July 23, 2004

*MEDIA—MANDATORY CREDIT: The Signal newspaper of Santa Clarita, Calif.

inety-four reported cases of prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001 through June 9 were the fault of a small number of ill-supervised soldiers and didn't indicate a broad, systemic breakdown in detainee operations, according to a report released Thursday by Army Inspector General Paul T. Mikolashek.
    "The overwhelming majority of our leaders and soldiers understand and adhere to the requirement to treat detainees humanely and consistent with the laws of land warfare," the report said. "(The) abuses were unauthorized actions taken by a few individuals, coupled with the failure of a few leaders to provide adequate monitoring, supervision and leadership over those soldiers."
    Mikolashek's inspection, authorized Feb. 10 by acting Army Secretary Les Brownlee, was not an investigation into specific acts of criminal wrongdoing. Those investigations are still ongoing. Rather, its purpose was to "identify the root causes of the problems and to recommend solutions" to improve the system.
    As such, it didn't name names and offered no direct clues as to why Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, in an earlier Army investigation that remains classified, identified John B. Israel, a 48-year-old Iraqi-American interpreter from Canyon Country, as one of four people "either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuse" at Abu Ghraib prison last fall.
    In fact, as far as interpreters are concerned, Mikolashek merely said there aren't enough of them.
    "Military intelligence units are not resourced with sufficient interrogators and interpreters to conduct timely detainee screenings and interrogations in the current operating environment, resulting in a backlog of interrogations and the potential loss of intelligence," the report said.
    But Mikolashek's review tends to bolster the claims of accused soldiers who say military intelligence personnel were in charge of Tier 1 of Abu Ghraib prison, where the most widely publicized abuses occurred, and that interpreters such as Israel would have been translating commands from interrogators who may not have been properly trained in the latest Army doctrine.
    In some cases, Mikolashek reported, there was "leader complicity at the lieutenant colonel level and below in these actions." In Tier 1A, "the degradation of the detainees by the guard force appears to have started out with smaller, less-intensive types of abuse and humiliation, and increased to physical assault and injury" when "no formal control processes (were put) in place."
    In the report, Mikolashek cites several examples of abusive incidents allegedly carried out by interrogators — and not only by the guards who now face criminal charges.
    Without saying whether it occurred at Abu Ghraib or another location, Mikolashek reports, "In (one) incident that resulted in death, two warrant officers appeared to exhibit a pattern of abusive interrogations. ... Sworn statements (indicated) that physical beatings at this site were common. ... There was a perception among the guard personnel that this type of behavior by the interrogators was condoned by their chain of command."
    Interrogations at Abu Ghraib were conducted by a combination of military intelligence personnel and civilian contractors provided by CACI International Inc., a rapidly growing information technology company in greater Washington, D.C., whose board of directors has included several former military and government luminaries such as, from 1999 to 2001, current Deputy U.S. Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage.
    CACI's work orders required it to provide interrogators with military intelligence training or "similar skill sets." CACI met that obligation, Mikolashek found.
    Of the 31 interrogators CACI provided to the Army since August, 20 were ex-military interrogators with an average of 9.5 years of experience. The rest had comparable backgrounds as police officers or intelligence agents.
    One concern for Mikolashek was the training they received at their job site.
    "While in Iraq, the (inspector general) team did not find evidence of a formal training program for contract interrogators."
    Four contract interrogators were interviewed about their on-the-job training.
    "One stated he received no in-theater training of any kind. Two stated training was provided on the Geneva Conventions and the interrogation approach techniques." The fourth said he observed interrogations for two weeks, then spent a week performing them under supervision.
    Soldiers reported incidents where "contract interrogators (used) techniques and procedures inconsistent with Army policy and doctrine, e.g., pouring water over detainees' heads while in stress positions."
    Among his 52 specific recommendations for procedural improvements, Mikolashek said work orders should be changed "to require (all) civilian interrogators to be former military interrogators trained in current interrogation policy and doctrine, or receive (such) formal training."
    Nineteen of CACI's 31 interrogators are still in Iraq. The other 12, including Steven Stefanowicz, for whom Israel interpreted, have returned home.