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Report Clears Leaders In Prison Abuse

The Pentagon on Friday released a 2005 military review of prisoner interrogation policies that concluded that no uniformed or civilian leaders directed or encouraged the prisoner abuses committed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

But the report, which was largely disclosed more than a year ago, found there were a number of "missed opportunities" in the development of detainee policies, including the failure to provide commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan with specific and early guidance on interrogation techniques.

Had that guidance been provided earlier, "interrogation policy could have benefited from additional expertise and oversight," wrote Vice Adm. Albert T. Church in the report.

A declassified version of the review was made public Friday, but its conclusions and other details were released in March 2005, and were the subject of a Congressional hearing.

Church's review also found, in the cases of detainee operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, that the dissemination of approved interrogation policy to commanders in the field was generally poor. And in Iraq in particular it found that compliance with approved policy guidance was also generally poor.

He also suggested that in some cases interrogations that occurred right after an enemy was captured may have been more abusive because troops allowed insurgents' violence to erode their own standards of conduct. In a more specific example, the report said one Army lieutenant colonel, during an interrogation in the field, fired his weapon near a detainee's head to get information about a plot to assassinate U.S. service members.

The report was released under a freedom of information request by the American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU attorney Amrit Singh said Friday that "it's notable that even the Church report said there were missed opportunities and that sufficient guidance was not given."

Singh added that the ACLU still believes that there should be an independent investigation into whether high-level military officials should be held accountable for detainee abuses.

Church concluded that there was no single explanation for the mistreatment of Iraqi, Afghan and other prisoners under the control of U.S. military personnel.

"The fundamental finding of the report was that there was no policy that condoned or authorized abuse of detainees," said Lt. Col. Mark Ballesteros, a Pentagon spokesman.

He said the report is one of 12 reviews into detention operations, which have led to nearly 500 recommendations for changes and improvements in the system. The vast majority have been implemented, he said.

The Church probe was among several triggered by disclosures last spring of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison complex in Iraq. Church, formerly the Navy's chief investigator, was directed to look at how interrogation policies were developed and implemented from the start of the terror war in the fall of 2001.

Church examined the 187 Pentagon investigations of alleged prisoner abuse that had been completed as of Sept. 30, 2004, of which 70 he counted as having substantiated actual abuse. Six of the 70 involved prisoner deaths. Of the 70, only 20 were related to interrogations; the other 50 were not associated in any way with questioning.
LOLITA C. BALDOR