Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Abu Ghraib Picture Begins to Fill in ; Reports Due out This Week and Two Court Cases Reveal More about Who's to Blame for Prison Scandal and How High It Goes

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Abu Ghraib Picture Begins to Fill in ; Reports Due out This Week and Two Court Cases Reveal More about Who's to Blame for Prison Scandal and How High It Goes

Article excerpt

The Abu Ghraib prison scandal was partly caused by chaos and inattention.

Iraqi insurgents created the chaos, which occupied the US command structure's time - leading to inattention about the methods used by guards and interrogators desperate to wring intelligence from detainees under their control.

Those, at least, are preliminary conclusions drawn from a series of US investigations into the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. Reports from two such probes are due to be released this week.

Legal proceedings against low-level soldiers charged in the case are also moving ahead, revealing more bits of data about a scandal that rocked the world when pictures of some of the sordid practices at Abu Ghraib were published earlier this year.

A key point all this action may address: How high does responsibility for abuses go?

"The key now will be ... to look back and see what sort of atmosphere allowed this to happen. It's hard to believe it was just a few rotten apples," says Hurst Hannum, an international law professor at Tufts University's Fletcher School in Medford, Mass.

The abuses at Abu Ghraib became public this past April, when several news organizations published photos of soldiers posing with Iraqi prisoners who had been forced into embarrassing or painful positions, sometimes adjacent to laughing US military personnel.

Of US personnel charged with wrongdoing to this point, one - Spc. Jeremy Sivits of the 372nd Military Police Company - has pleaded guilty and been sentenced to a year in prison.

But six others soldiers from the 372nd have contested similar charges. Of those, four face preliminary hearings at US military bases in Germany this week.

In these cases, defense lawyers argue that their low-level clients were simply following orders to soften up inmates for interrogation.

One key suspect, Spc. Charles Graner, told investigators searching his quarters this spring that he feared he would be made a scapegoat, according to testimony at his hearing on Monday.

But a military judge still ruled that computer discs and other evidence seized from Spc. Graner are admissible.

Against this background, the members of a panel appointed by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to investigate Pentagon detention operations are scheduled to deliver their final report Tuesday morning.

This panel, headed by former Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger, was charged with looking at how high up the chain of command responsiblity for abuse went.

A second report due to be finished this week, conducted by an Army group headed by Maj. Gen. George Fay, will reportedly blame at least two dozen military servicemembers and five civilian contractors for committing Abu Ghraib abuses. It will not charge military leaders, sources say, but it will recommend that commanders be faulted for inadequate supervision.

"These are comprehensive reports," says a Pentagon official who requested anonymity. …

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