More Specifics Needed to Find Source of Abuse, Intel Chief Says
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 11, 2004 Pinpointing who said what to whom is one key to determining how alleged abuse of detainees by soldiers at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison came about, the Army's top intelligence officer told the Senate Armed Services Committee here today.
Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, the Army's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, told senators that although some accused soldiers have said military intelligence personnel told them to "soften up" prisoners for interrogation, no firm evidence to that effect has been uncovered as yet.
Alexander said an investigation being conducted by another top Army intelligence officer, Maj. Gen. George Fay, is exploring whether the soldiers acted on implied or direct instructions from their military police leaders or military intelligence personnel.
"We need to find out the specifics and the facts of that," he said, "wherever it may lead us." Fay's investigation, he said, "will identify and report questionable intelligence activities that may have violated law, executive order or presidential directive."
The general emphasized that all soldiers trained as interrogators receive extensive training in the law of war and the provisions of the Geneva Conventions, and in fact fail their training exercises if they even inadvertently violate those provisions.
Terming the abuse depicted in widely published photographs "totally reprehensible," Alexander said he believes a failure in MP leadership and poor communication between MP and MI personnel were contributing factors.
Military police and intelligence personnel need to communicate, he explained, because MPs have the most contact with the prisoners. MI personnel, he said, need to ensure the MPs know which are the "high-value" prisoners so they can observe their moods and activities. MI personnel, in turn, should seek that information from the MPs to aid in their interrogations, he said.
"Is this detainee or prisoner having a good day or bad, has he been quiet or has he been talking, and what is the way to discuss this with him?" are examples of the kinds of pre-interrogation help that MI personnel need from the MPs, the general said.
Getting to the bottom of the apparent abuse, he said, boils down to whose idea it was to mistreat the prisoners.
"The real question is 'Did intelligence personnel tell those individuals to do that?'" Alexander said. "Were those personnel low-level people who said, 'This would be a good idea,' or was (it) high-ranking personnel that said, 'This is the method of operations'?"
Based on what he knows so far, the general said, the abuse originated at a low level. "My understanding and, to date, my belief, is that this was interaction between low-level people who were not in the action of their duties, who were not doing interrogations at the time," he said, "or who made statements (to the MPs) that 'Yes, what you're doing is softening them up; they're talking like crazy."
Fay's investigation needs to find out where the complicity was and who was involved, and at what level, Alexander said. "To this point," he added, "my belief is that that was informal, and that (this) was a group of undisciplined MP soldiers who felt that they had some preference from intel to go and do what they were doing."