Abu Ghraib: 'Ghost Detainees'

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The issue of ghost detainees at Abu Ghraib, the largest of the Enemy Prisoner of War Camps in Iraq, was reported by Douglas Jehl in the May 17, 2004, New York Times article "Iraqis Held Outside Control of Top General":

"About 100 high-ranking Iraqi prisoners held for months at a time in spartan conditions on the outskirts of Baghdad International Airport are being detained under a special chain of command, under conditions not subject to approval by the top American commander in Iraq, according to military officials."
  • The Washington Post's Josh White reported March 12, 2005, that The Post had obtained documents showing that "Top military intelligence officials at the Abu Ghraib prison came to an agreement with the CIA to hide certain detainees at the facility without officially registering them ... Keeping such 'ghost' detainees is a violation of international law." [See below.][1]
"Army Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, second in command of the intelligence gathering effort at Abu Ghraib while the abuse was occurring, told military investigators that 'other government agencies' and a secretive elite task force 'routinely brought in detainees for a short period of time' and that the detainees were held without an internment number, and their names were kept off the books.
"Guards who worked at the prison have said that ghost detainees were regularly locked in isolation cells on Tier 1A and that they were kept from international human rights organizations.
"Jordan, in a statement that was included in the abuse investigation of Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, said that it was difficult to track ghost detainees and that he and other officers recommended that a memorandum of understanding be drafted between his 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, the CIA and the 800th Military Police Brigade 'to establish procedures for a ghost detainee.' An Army major at the prison 'suggested an idea of processing them under an assumed name and fingerprinting them,' but Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the top military intelligence officer there, 'decided against it.'
"Instead, Jordan's statement said, Pappas 'began a formalized written MOU [memo of understanding] procedure' in November 2003, with the CIA and members of Task Force 121, 'and the memorandum on procedures for dropping ghost detainees was signed.'
"In his statement to investigators, also obtained by The Post, Pappas said that in September 2003, the CIA requested that the military intelligence officials 'continue to make cells available for their detainees and that they not have to go through the normal inprocessing procedures.' Pappas also said Jordan was the one who was facilitating the arrangement with the CIA.
"Defense Department officials have said that there were as many as 100 ghost detainees held in prisons in Iraq but that the detainees slipped through the cracks and were not part of any official agreement. A Navy report issued yesterday said there was evidence of about 30 ghost detainees, but Pentagon officials said they could find no evidence of a signed agreement.
"The Army has resolved not to allow ghosting at its detention facilities. The American Civil Liberties Union yesterday released edited versions of some of the documents, but the names of the officers were omitted from them."

  • "Indeed, holding innocent civilians hostage in order to induce their relatives to surrender is a plain violation of Articles 31, 33, and 34 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, signed at Geneva, August 12, 1949: [2]
Art. 31. No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons, in particular to obtain information from them or from third parties.
Art. 33. No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited. ...
"Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.
Art. 34. The taking of hostages is prohibited.
Described as a "battlefield interrogation facility" (BIF), a "top-secret site near Baghdad's airport ... is the scene of the most egregious violations of the Geneva Conventions in all of Iraq's prisons. A place where the normal rules of interrogation don't apply, Delta Force's BIF only holds Iraqi insurgents and suspected terrorists -- but not the most wanted among Saddam's lieutenants pictured on the deck of cards."
  • Jehl and Eric Schmitt wrote in the May 25, 2004, New York Times article "C.I.A. Bid to Keep Some Detainees Off Abu Ghraib Roll Worries Officials" that the Times had obtained an "undated copy" of a memorandum, "described as an agreement between the Army intelligence unit assigned to the prison and 'external agencies,' a euphemism for the CIA to halt practices that bypassed both military rules and international standards."
"Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, the Army officer who first investigated the prison abuses [at Abu Ghraib], concluded in his classified report that the practice of allowing what he called 'ghost detainees' at the prison was 'deceptive, contrary to Army Doctrine, and in violation of international law.' He complained that military guards were being enlisted to hide the prisoners from the Red Cross," they wrote.
Jehl and Schmitt state that "The memorandum provides the clearest indication to date that military officials were troubled by the practice even before General Taguba wrote his report."
  • Mohamad Bazzi reported May 25, 2004, in Newsday on "a little-noticed development amid Iraq's prison abuse scandal, the U.S. military is holding dozens of Iraqis as bargaining chips to put pressure on their wanted relatives to surrender, according to human rights groups. These detainees are not accused of any crimes, and experts say their detention violates the Geneva Conventions and other international laws. The practice also risks associating the United States with the tactics of countries that it has long criticized for arbitrary arrests."
"Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, acting at the request of George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, ordered military officials in Iraq last November to hold a man suspected of being a senior Iraqi terrorist at a high-level detention center there but not list him on the prison's rolls, senior Pentagon and intelligence officials said Wednesday.
"This prisoner and other 'ghost detainees' were hidden largely to prevent the International Committee of the Red Cross from monitoring their treatment, and to avoid disclosing their location to an enemy, officials said.
"Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, the Army officer who in February [2004]investigated abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison, criticized the practice of allowing ghost detainees there and at other detention centers as 'deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine, and in violation of international law.'
"This prisoner, who has not been named, is believed to be the first to have been kept off the books at the orders of Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Tenet. He was not held at Abu Ghraib, but at another prison, Camp Cropper, on the outskirts of Baghdad International Airport, officials said.
"Pentagon and intelligence officials said the decision to hold the detainee without registering him - at least initially - was in keeping with the administration's legal opinion about the status of those viewed as an active threat in wartime.
"Seven months later, however, the detainee - a reputed senior officer of Ansar al-Islam, a group the United States has linked to Al Qaeda and blames for some attacks in Iraq - is still languishing at the prison but has only been questioned once while in detention, in what government officials acknowledged was an extraordinary lapse."

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