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Army Improving Procedures for Handling Detainees

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2005 – The Army is taking steps to improve how its soldiers handle detainees captured in the war on terror, senior officials announced Feb. 23.

Within DoD, the Army is responsible for detainee handling. In September 2004, the service published an action plan for detainee and interrogation operations. Maj. Gen. Donald J. Ryder, the Army's provost marshal general, explained some tenets of that action plan in a Pentagon media roundtable.

Ryder explained that the plan leverages information learned in investigations into allegations of abuse and operational lessons learned to develop and implement policy and doctrine that "reflect the nation's commitment to doing what is legally and morally right and meet the needs of the warfighting combatant commanders who are conducting detainee operations."

Officials have clarified rules for the handling of prisoners, the use of dogs within detainment facilities, the relationship between military police and military intelligence soldiers within prisons, and the role of agents from other government agencies within Defense Department facilities, Ryder said.

The service also is redesigning some unit structures to more efficiently handle internment and resettlement operations and is looking closely at how soldiers are trained to handle detainees, the general said.

The Army recognizes three theaters of detainee operations: Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, 32 internment/resettlement facilities were set up in Iraq. In early operations there, soldiers' job was further muddied by the fact that Iraq had no functioning police force or judiciary, Ryder said. In all, roughly 65,000 people have been screened for possible detention, and about 30,000 of those were entered "into the system," at least briefly, and assigned internment serial numbers.

Officials have been closely studying lessons learned from those operations and have implemented some changes and are recommending others. To start, the Army Military Police School, at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., has developed a 55-hour "training support package" for soldiers and other military forces who handle detainees. Mobile training teams have brought this course to mobilization sites and into Iraq to train troops who perform detainee operations.

Training is ongoing, as forces rotating into Iraq and Afghanistan are receiving the revamped training.

In addition, officials in the Army's Training and Doctrine Command are reviewing five core tasks for all soldiers -- not just military police and corrections specialists. The tasks being looked at fall under the areas of ethics, leadership, the law of warfare, the Geneva Conventions and values. The Army Medical Department Center and School, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, is also updating its program of instruction on responsibilities of medical personnel serving within detention facilities and treating detainees.

In 2003, a "force design update" implemented changes to the structure of units responsible for handling detainees. "That decision was made long before anything came up on detainee abuse," Ryder said. "The Army recognized that we needed to change that structure."

Between now and 2008, the Army is standing up 35 internment and resettlement organizations: one brigade, seven battalions, and 27 companies. The units will be spread across the active and reserve components and will focus specifically on "corrections operations." The new deployable organizations will be modeled after the personnel structure of military correctional facilities.

The structure change already is under way. A battalion and a company under the new force structure, manned with correctional specialists, have been stood up at the U.S. detention facility in Guantanamo Bay. Ryder said these are the first active-duty internment-resettlement units in the Army.

Other changes to Army policy and procedures have come about as a result of investigations into detainee abuses in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

Investigations into those abuses revealed that reports from the International Committee of the Red Cross sometimes never made it into the hands of the individuals who were ultimately responsible for the facilities. The Army has since added new policies and procedures on how to properly handle ICRC reports.

Allegations also surfaced that agents from other government agencies, such as the CIA, had free access to prisoners in Abu Ghraib and sometimes told MPs there to keep prisoners who were never officially in the system. These so- called "ghost prisoners" were then allegedly subjected to abuse.

Thomas Gandy, a senior military intelligence official who spoke with Ryder at the media roundtable, explained that policies in place to address such situations were not actively enforced or trained among U.S. soldiers. That is happening now, he said.

Gandy said there will be no more ghost detainees; every prisoner is now assigned an internment serial number for tracking purposes, and other government agents -- commonly called OGA by servicemembers working in detention facilities -- will follow DoD rules and regulations on detainee treatment as long as they're in DoD facilities.

Soldiers charged with abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib have claimed they were following orders from military intelligence specialists to "soften up" detainees for interrogation.

"This idea of 'softening up' has never been part of our doctrine, never been part of our training," Gandy said.

Ryder added that new doctrine clarifies the roles of military police and intelligence agents within prisons and lays out more clearly the relationship between the two to prevent such problems in the future. "The military police are responsible for custody and control and the safe and secure environment in detention facilities," he said. "Military police are not involved in interrogations."

Other changes to Army doctrine developed from lessons learned and investigations include:

  • Setting "left and right boundaries" for specific interrogation techniques, so interrogators have a clear understanding of what's allowed and what's not. Gandy explained a new field manual will be released in March that will more clearly spell out interrogation techniques. "There'll be far less up to the interrogator to decide what they can and cannot do," he said.

  • Integrating the tenets of the Geneva Conventions tighter into rules for interrogation techniques. "You'll see a much closer binding of the Geneva Conventions laws of war with the techniques of interrogations" in the new field manual, Gandy said.

  • Spelling out how police dogs can be used within military detention facilities. Specifically, Ryder said, dogs can never be used in interrogations and are only to be used for "external security" purposes in detention facilities.

  • Adding extra training on how soldiers should handle and report what they believe to be illegal orders or requests from superiors or people from other agencies.
Ryder said he believes it's important for people to understand the Army began to take these actions before allegations of detainee abuse began to surface.

"The actions that are being taken and have been taken are actions that the Army takes every single day whether on operations or in training," he said. "Every single day the Army views what they are doing; they take lessons learned from operations, good or bad. They then bring those back, they analyze them and say, 'How are we going to improve our ability to support combatant commanders with trained soldiers and leaders?'"

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