American Special Operations soldiers employed a set of harsh, unauthorized
interrogation techniques against detainees in Iraq during a four-month period
in early 2004, long after approval for their use was rescinded, according to
a Pentagon inquiry released today.
The investigation is the last of 12 major inquiries to be made public in reviewing
allegations of detainee abuse by American personnel in Cuba, Afghanistan and
Iraq,, and it is the first to focus on Special Operations forces, who operate
with more latitude than other military units. It detailed harsh treatment that
continued at isolated operations bases even after the abuses first surfaced
at the Abu Ghraib prison.
Special Operations interrogators gave some detainees only bread or crackers
and water if they did not cooperate, according to the investigation by Brig.
Gen. Richard P. Formica of the Army. . One prisoner was fed only bread
and water for 17 days. Other detainees were locked up for as many as seven days
in cells so small they could neither stand up nor lie down, while interrogators
played loud music that disrupted their sleep.
The inquiry also determined that some detainees were stripped naked,
drenched with water and then interrogated in air-conditioned rooms or outside
in cold weather. General Formica said it appeared that technique was used in
the case of one detainee who later died during questioning by Navy Seals in
Mosul in 2004, but he reported that he had no specific allegations related to
But General Formica recommended that none of the soldiers he investigated
be disciplined. He faulted "inadequate policy guidance" from
superiors and not "personal failure" for the mistreatment, and he
said that none of the Iraqi detainees he later interviewed seemed to be any
worse for wear because of the mistreatment.
"Seventeen days with only bread and water is too long," the general
concluded. But he added that the military command's surgeon general had advised
him "it would take longer than 17 days to develop a protein or vitamin
deficiency from a diet of bread and water."
General Formica's review focused on conduct by the Fifth and Tenth Special
Forces Groups, which are primarily Army units. It did not cover the actions
in Iraq of more highly classified special operations units, including Delta
Force and the Navy Seals, or other secretive, specialized units including Task
Force 6-26, a subject of extensive allegations of misconduct that were reported
by The New York Times in March.
Within the scope of his review, General Formica recommended eight largely administrative
changes, including more training for Special Operations interrogators, minimum
standards for detention conditions, and new policies regulating the use of indigenous
forces who worked with Special Operations soldiers. Pentagon officials said
today that all eight had been carried out.
The crux of the problem, General Formica concluded, was that the Special Operations
interrogators mistakenly used 5 out of 12 interrogation techniques between February
2004 to May 2004 that Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, then the top commander in
Iraq, had withdrawn in October 2003 because military lawyers had determined
they were overly harsh.
"It is regrettable," General Formica said in an interview at the
Pentagon with three reporters today. "But they were erroneously given the
General Sanchez had approved the techniques in September 2003, to include yelling
and blaring loud music and the use of military dogs to frighten Iraqi captives.
But confusion over use of the techniques became widespread throughout Iraq,
even after they were rescinded a month later. Many of the American captors at
the Abu Ghraib prison have also said they believed the techniques were authorized
without General Sanchez's prior approval.
The report made public by the Pentagon on Friday was a heavily redacted copy
of the 75-page classified document General Formica completed 20 months ago.
Members of Congress received briefings on its contents more than a year ago.
The Pentagon and Central Command had refused repeated requests since then from
The New York Times and other news organizations to provide a declassified version
of the report.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had promised such a version of all major
inquires would be made public. But the Pentagon finally made public a declassified
version under a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Civil Liberties
At the Pentagon today, General Formica and other senior Defense Department
officials underscored that the officer's was not intended to be a wide-ranging
review of Special Operations detention and interrogation practices.
In his report, General Formica conducted interviews regarding three separate
incidents of alleged detainee abuse involving Special Operations Forces, some
of which had been referred from another Army inquiry by Maj. Gen. George R.
Fay, whose inquiry examined intelligence personnel. General Formica also reviewed
the findings of seven other incidents that were previously investigated.
In the first incident he investigated, General Formica said that allegations
by several members of an Iraqi family that American interrogators at Abu Ghraib
in December 2003 had beaten, sodomized with a water bottle and slapped them
were unsubstantiated by any physical or medical evidence. In addition, he said
the family members were known to be insurgent sympathizers.
In the second case, General Formica acknowledged that two Iraqi detainees at
an unidentified field station were fed only bread and water for 13 and 17 days,
respectively. But he allegations that a former Iraqi policeman and an Iraqi-born
Lebanese interpreter, both working with the Americans, had beaten and kicked
them were unsubstantiated.
General Formica found that in the third case at a Special Operations field
station near Tikrit, three detainees were held in cells four feet high , four
feet deep, and 20 inches wide, except to go to the bathroom, to be washed or
to be interrogated. He concluded that two days in such confinement "would
be reasonable; five to seven days would not." Two of the detainees were
held for seven days; one for two days, General Formica concluded.
Of the seven other previously investigated cases General Formica reviewed,
, allegations in two were unfounded and one did not involve Special Operations
Forces, the report concluded. In two other cases, investigations were still
pending when General Formica completed his report in November 2004. A Pentagon
spokesman, Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros, said today that those inquiries were completed
but he would not comment on their findings.
Iraqi detainees held in box-like cells for days: US
Iraqi detainees were held with their eyes taped shut in tiny box-like
cells for up to seven days at a time while loud music blared at a special operations
holding facility in 2004, a US military investigation found.
Iraqi detainees were held with their eyes taped shut in tiny box-like cells
for up to seven days at a time while loud music blared at a special operations
holding facility in 2004, a US military investigation found.
The investigation conducted by Brigadier General Richard Formica following
the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in 2004 also found that detainees were fed only
bread and water for up to 17 days at another special operations location.
Formica's report, released in heavily redacted form Friday in response to a
Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union,
dismissed other allegations that prisoners were physically abused or humiliated
at the so-called tactical holding facilities.
He also accepted the argument of US special operators that the small cells,
which he said measured 20 inches wide by four feet high and four feet deep,
were "necessary for force protection and to prevent detainees from escape."
"It is reasonable to conclude that this would be acceptable for short
periods of time, 24-48 hours, coincident to capture and until it was reasonably
practical to transfer them to a suitable facility — two days would be
reasonable; five to seven days would not," Formica wrote.
The general recommended no disciplinary action against any US special operations
The allegations about the tiny cells were brought by three detainees, who gave
remarkably similar stories of being held for days in boxes of crates so small
that they had to sit with their knees to their chests.
One of the detainees said he was kept inside for two days, another for five
days, and the third for seven days.
The one kept for seven days alleged "that before he was placed in the
box his clothes were cut off. He alleges that while held in the box, his captors
duct-taped his mouth and nose, making it hard for him to breath."
"He further alleges that water was thrown on him, that he was beaten,
kicked, electrocuted, and a Kurd threatened to bring (redacted) two wives there
and have sex with them in front of him," it said.
"He alleges he was not given food or water for five days," the report
Formica concluded that the detainees sometimes were blindfolded with duct tape
to prevent escape.
He found "that detainees were held in small cells measuring 20 inches
(wide) by 4 feet (high) by 4 feet (deep)
0.5 meters by 1.2 meters by 1.2 meters, that loud music was played at a
volume to prevent detainees from communicating with each other and that (redacted)
was employed as a method of setting favorable conditions for interrogations."
"I find (redacted) the allegations of physical abuse and mistreatment
during their detention and interrogations to be unsubstantiated," the report
said, saying there was lack of evidence to support those allegations.
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