Troop Abuse Reports Piling Up

generic for iraqi prisoner abuse, Iraqi flag in front of Abu Ghraib Prison guard tower, Baghdad, Iraq, on texture, partial graphic
Allegations of abuse by U.S. troops are more widespread than previously revealed and include incidents involving electric shocks and near asphyxiations, published reports indicate.

The New York Times says an Army Criminal Investigations Command report depicts alleged abuse running from April 2003 to the death of a man in Navy custody last month — in which "blunt force trauma to the torso and positional asphyxia" was blamed.

As the military has indicated, the CID report says nine deaths are still under investigations. But the report also notes that in some of the other deaths in custody, no autopsies were performed, so no cause of death is listed.

CID says members of a National Guard unit, the 223rd Military Intelligence Battalion beat detainees over a 10-week period, The Times reports. They "forced into asphyxiations numerous detainees in an attempt to obtain information," the report read.

The Times said the CID also reveals that three soldiers were fined and demoted for a sexual incident involving a female prisoner at Abu Ghraib, in which one soldier kissed the woman while another held her down and the third served as look-out.

The Denver Post, quoting Pentagon records, reports accusations that troops electrocuted two detainees suspected of trespassing on a base. An Army captain allegedly struck an Iraqi with a firearm, then handcuffed two Iraqi children and threw stones at them. A military policeman allegedly stuck a rifle in a detainees' mouth and "dry-fired" it.

Most offenders avoided jail time.

And according to The Washington Post, an Army officer has testified that the use of dogs at Abu Ghraib — which led to some of the most disturbing pictures of abuse — was encouraged by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller.

Miller is the one-time Guantanamo Bay commander who studied Iraqi prisons last year and recommended military police help "set the conditions" for interrogations — a proposal that some officers have said was inappropriate. Miller now heads U.S. prisons in Iraq.

Col. Thomas Pappas said Miller indicated "they used military working dogs at Gitmo, and that they were effective in setting the atmosphere for which, you know, you could get information."

Miller denied the claim.

In a related development, there are new questions about the private contractors who questioned detainees at Abu Ghraib. Some of them were working under a computer services contract managed not by the Pentagon, but by the Interior Department.

The Army hired interrogators from CACI International starting last August through a "blanket purchase agreement" overseen by the Interior Department. The agreement was to provide information technology services, Interior spokesman Frank Quimby.

The Interior Department's inspector general is investigating whether it was proper to hire interrogators under an information technology contract, Quimby told reporters in a conference call Tuesday.

Army contract officials are supposed to keep contract workers in line and recommend punishment, Quimby said. The Army told Interior last week, however, that it had had no problem with the way CACI International Inc. was handling the work, even though an internal Army report has accused at least one CACI interrogator of participating in abuses.

The Baltimore Sun has earlier reported that since the contractors were working for Interior rather than the Pentagon, they might escape punishment under a federal law covering defense contractors.

Meanwhile, the head of Iraq's Governing Council said Wednesday that President Bush's idea of demolishing the notorious Abu Ghraib prison was a waste of resources.

"We must not be sentimental," Ghazi Mashal Ajil al-Yawer told reporters. "Torture has taken place in every vault in Iraq. As the Governing Council, we do not agree with demolishing it and the matter will be left for the transitional government" which takes office June 30.

Mr. Bush told an audience Monday night at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., that Abu Ghraib prison, notorious for torture under Saddam Hussein and scene of prisoner abuse by U.S. troops, will be destroyed "as a fitting symbol of Iraq's new beginning."