Rumsfeld implicated in Abu Ghraib abuse by damning report

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The Independent US

A high-level report has placed indirect blame for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal on the Pentagon's top civilian and military officials, saying their neglect allowed a culture and environment to develop in which such abuse could take place.

A high-level report has placed indirect blame for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal on the Pentagon's top civilian and military officials, saying their neglect allowed a culture and environment to develop in which such abuse could take place.

The report, released yesterday ­ one of 11 separate inquiries into abuses at the jail near Baghdad ­ is the first to criticise Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, and his closest advisers over the debacle.

James Schlesinger, a former defence secretary who led the investigation, said: "There was chaos at Abu Ghraib, but there was no policy of abuse." Rather, the photos of naked Iraqis were the"extracurricular activities" of the night shift, which he described as an "animal house".

The panel does blame the Pentagon for confused instructions about interrogation techniques and for not paying sufficient attention to how interrogations were carried out. "Institutional and personal responsibility" stretched "right up the chain of command in Washington," Mr Schlesinger said.

But it does not hold Mr Rumsfeld and his colleagues legally responsible for what happened. Nor does it contend that the Pentagon actually issued orders explicitly encouraging or condoning the brutal mistreatment of prisoners.

For that reason, the report is unlikely to dispel charges of a whitewash by the Bush administration, and complaints that the reservists seen in the infamous photographs of naked prisoners have been made scapegoats, while higher officials escape unscathed.

So far, only eight soldiers at Abu Ghraib have faced criminal charges. But up to two dozen others are expected to be named in a separate report today.

According to The Washington Post, this second report, by Major General George Fay, will detail more instances of abuse at Abu Ghraib. It will also contain fresh evidence that military intelligence officials deliberately kept no records about some prisoners, concealing their existence from the Red Cross.

In Mannheim, Germany, one of the reservists at the centre of the abuse scandal said he will plead guilty to the charges against him. Staff Sgt Ivan Frederick's guilty plea opens the possibility that he will co-operate with prosecutors and that senior officers may be incriminated.The intelligence unit at the prison was commanded by Colonel Thomas Pappas. The senior commander of US forces in Iraq when the abuse took place in late 2003 was Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez.

"We believe Lt-Gen Sanchez should have taken stronger action in November when he realised the extent of the... problems at Abu Ghraib," the Schlesinger report said.

But Lt-Gen Sanchez will not be held criminally accountable for the abuse. The implication is that he was so concerned with the growing insurgency faced by the 150,000 troops under his command that he paid no attention to the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

* A marine reservist became the first American soldier to face a court martial for causing the death in June 2003 of an Iraqi prisoner. Sgt Gary Pittman is accused of kicking the prisoner, crushing his windpipe and suffocating him. His defence says the Iraqi, Nagem Sadoon Hatab, died of natural causes.

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