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Group: 'Ghost Detainees' likely in Iraq
Updated: 2004-09-10 08:42

Army generals said Thursday at least two dozen unregistered "ghost detainees" may have been held at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, but they don't know the number for certain because the CIA did not cooperate with their investigation into abuses.

Gen. Paul Kern, right, who oversaw an Army investigation of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade's actions at the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq, leads a panel testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2004. From left ot right: Maj. Gen. R. Steven Whitcomb, special assistant to the commander, US Central Command, Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, deputy commander, Army Intelligence and Security Command, and Gen. Paul J. Kern, commander, Army Materiel Command. [AP]
Senators said the CIA's lack of cooperation was unacceptable and that they would press the agency to provide the Army with the documents it needs.

"The situation with the CIA and ghost soldiers is beginning to look like a bad movie," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield declined to comment on the number of cases. He noted the agency's inspector general is reviewing the CIA's involvement in detention and interrogations in Iraq. "We take these matters very seriously and are determined to examine thoroughly any allegations of abuse," he said.

The presence of "ghost detainees" — prisoners held by the CIA outside of the military's usual system of registration and care — was a key finding of the Army generals' investigation, completed last month.

The generals and the authors of another report on prison abuses discussed their investigations in a series of hearings Thursday by the Senate and House armed services panels.

Army investigators had previously said they had information on eight "ghost detainees" at Abu Ghraib, but that there may have been more.

Responding to a question, Gen. Paul Kern, who oversaw the Army investigation of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, told the Senate panel that the number of ghost detainees was "in the dozens, perhaps up to 100."

But Kern said he couldn't be precise because he didn't have documentation and referred to fellow panelist Maj. Gen. George Fay, who investigated military intelligence officers at the prison.

Fay said he doubts the figure is as high as 100, "but I think it's somewhere in the area of maybe two dozen or so — maybe more."

Kern said that when the military permitted the CIA to bring detainees to Abu Ghraib, there was an expectation "the agency would abide by our rules in our facilities, not create another set."

"But somehow that didn't happen?" McCain said.

"That's correct, senator," Kern said.

Fay said the Army made several requests to the CIA station chief in Iraq for information about the detainees. After not receiving a response, Fay met with the CIA inspector general and explained what information he needed and why he needed it.

"At that point I was informed that CIA was doing its own investigation," Fay said. "And they said that they would not provide me with the information that I requested."

The committee's top Democrat, Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, said, "It's totally unacceptable that documents that are requested from the CIA have not been forthcoming" and urged the committee to "weigh in on the issue." McCain said President Bush's nominee to head the CIA, Republican Rep. Porter Goss of Florida, should be asked about the matter.

Chairman John Warner, R-Va., said the Senate committee may hold a hearing on the "ghost detainee" issue.

The generals' report, and a separate investigation led by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, found that abuses of prisoners went beyond the cases depicted in photographs that created a worldwide scandal. They identified some 300 allegations of detainee deaths, torture or other mistreatment. But they found no evidence that the abuse resulted from military policies, though they criticized Pentagon leadership and oversight.

Kern said that conditions at Abu Ghraib have improved since the scandal broke. Fay said intelligence reports coming from interrogations, after declining when the scandal broke, "have risen back up to approximately the same number they were before these abuses came to light."

Republicans stressed that the abuses reflected a tiny percentage of U.S. forces. But Democrats say the scope of the problem went beyond what Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials acknowledged.

Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., questioned if it is "fair to conclude that Secretary Rumsfeld and his aides misled this committee, and in turn misled the American people, when they claimed that only a few low-level soldiers were responsible for the abuses?"

Harold Brown, a former defense secretary and a member of the Schlesinger commission, told the House committee that the entire Bush administration bears some responsibility for the abuses, including for failing to send enough troops to handle the large prison population and sowing confusion over whether the Geneva Convention applied to prisoners in the war on terror.

"Clearly, responsibility for failing to plan for what actually happened after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein extends all the way to the top — obviously (to) the office of the secretary of defense," Brown said. "But it goes beyond that. It's true of the whole administration."

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