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Memo Cites Captive Abuse Cover-Up

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U.S. special operations forces accused of abusing prisoners in Iraq warned defense intelligence personnel not to talk about the alleged mistreatment they saw, according to a government memo to a top adviser of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

In the memo written June 25 after the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal had gone public, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency complained about the harassment of DIA personnel, including one case where special forces confiscated photos of a prisoner they punched.

Defense intelligence workers also had their e-mails monitored and were ordered by a special operations task force "not to talk to anyone" about what they saw, said the memo, which was among internal documents released Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Prisoners arriving at a detention center in Baghdad had "burn marks on their backs" as well as bruises and some complained of kidney pain, Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, the defense intelligence chief, wrote to Stephen Cambone, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence.

Jacoby also told Cambone that special operations task force members also confiscated the car keys of defense intelligence personnel and ordered them not to leave the base.

In another memo released by the ACLU, an unidentified FBI tells his superior that two generals cited Rumsfeld as giving them their "marching orders" on how to conduct harsh interrogations at Guantanamo Bay.

The e-mail, written to Thomas Harrington, an FBI counterterrorism expert who led a team of investigators at the Guantanamo prison, says "heated discussions" took place with DIA officers over interrogation techniques that the FBI considered impermissible and ineffective.

The officers admitted that the harsher techniques did not produce any information the FBI had not already obtained. Even so, "It still did not prevent them from continuing the [censored] methods," the FBI agent reported.

In other memos, FBI agents also reported seeing detainees at Abu Ghraib subjected to sleep deprivation, humiliation and forced nudity between October and December 2003 — when the most serious abuses allegedly took place in a scandal that remains under investigation.

The memos reveal behind-the-scenes tensions between the FBI and U.S. military and intelligence task forces running prisoner interrogations at Guantanamo and in Iraq as the Bush administration sought better intelligence to fight terrorists and the deadly Iraq insurgency.

"These documents tell a damning story of sanctioned government abuse — a story that the government has tried to hide and may well come back to haunt our own troops captured in Iraq," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the New York-based ACLU.

The documents were released only after a federal court ordered the Pentagon and other government agencies to comply with a year-old request filed under the Freedom of Information Act filed by the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace.

A spokesman for U.S. Central Command in Tampa, Florida, which directs special military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, declined to comment on specific allegations.

"We take all issues of detainee abuse very seriously and where there is the potential that these abuses could have taken place, we investigate them," Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nick Balice said.

Balice refused to describe the task force, which could include Army Rangers, Delta Force, Navy SEALs and other special operations forces soldiers working with CIA operatives.

Joe Navarro, a retired FBI agent who teaches interrogation techniques to the military and is familiar with interrogations at Guantanamo, said using threats only stands to taint information gleaned from the sessions.

"The only thing that torture guarantees is pain," Navarro told the AP Tuesday. "It never guarantees the truth."

Other memos released by the ACLU detail FBI interviews with detainees at Guantanamo who described CIA officer Johnny "Mike" Spann's death in Afghanistan Nov. 25, 2001.

One detainee said Spann was "was jumped by an Arab or Pakistani male, but the armed man (Spann) shot the prisoner. People began running and chaos ensued." Another detainee said "There was an explosion ... from a grenade."

There have been scant details so far of Spann's death at the prison riot in Mazar-e-Sharif.

Many memos refer to Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, whose mission as head of the Guantanamo prison from October 2002 was to improve the intelligence gleaned from terror suspects. In August 2003, Miller was sent to Iraq to make recommendations on interrogation techniques there. He was posted to Abu Ghraib in March 2004.

One FBI e-mail released by the ACLU said Miller "continued to support interrogation strategies (the FBI) not only advised against, but questioned in terms of effectiveness."

Miller left Iraq on Tuesday for a new assignment in Washington, with responsibility for Army housing and other support operations, and could not be reached for comment.

The Pentagon said the government "condemns and prohibits torture."

"There have been eight major reviews, investigations, inspections and assessments based on more than 950 interviews and 15,000 pages of information," Pentagon spokesman Maj. Michael Shavers said. "Three more reports still remain to be completed. There have been more than 18 congressional hearings and 39-plus congressional staff briefings."

Air Force Lt. Col. John A. Skinner, a Pentagon spokesman told the Washington Post that the department is committed to a "transparent investigation" of all allegations. However, he declined to answer questions on any specific allegation or to say why the government fought to prevent the release of the documents.

It was not clear what cases mentioned in the documents, if any, were under investigation or had been part of congressional briefings.

On Monday, The Associated Press reported that a letter sent by Harrington to the Army's top criminal investigator said FBI agents witnessed "highly aggressive" interrogations and mistreatment of terror suspects at the U.S. prison camp in Cuba starting in 2002.

In the July 14, 2004, letter, Harrington suggested the Pentagon didn't act on FBI complaints about the incidents, including a female interrogator grabbing a detainee's genitals and bending back his thumbs, another where a prisoner was gagged with duct tape and a third where a dog was used to intimidate a detainee who later was thrown into isolation and showed signs of "extreme psychological trauma."

One Marine told an FBI observer that some interrogations led to prisoners "curling into a fetal position on the floor and crying in pain," according to the letter.

The letter was sent to Maj. Gen. Donald J. Ryder, the Army's chief law enforcement officer who's investigating abuses at U.S.-run prisons in Afghanistan, Iraq and at Guantanamo.