ACLU: Task force threatened personnel over prisoner abuse
December 7, 2004
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – U.S. special forces accused of abusing prisoners in Iraq threatened Defense Intelligence Agency personnel who saw the mistreatment and once confiscated photos of a prisoner who had been punched in the face, according to U.S. government memos released Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The special forces also monitored e-mails sent by defense personnel and ordered them “not to talk to anyone” in the United States about what they saw, said one memo written by the Defense Intelligence Agency chief, who complained to his Pentagon bosses about the harassment.
Prisoners arriving at a detention center in Baghdad had “burn marks on their backs” as well as bruises and some complained of kidney pain, according to the June 25, 2004, memo.
FBI agents also reported seeing detainees at Abu Ghraib subjected to sleep deprivation, humiliation and forced nudity between October and December 2003 – when the most serious abuses allegedly took place.
The release of the ACLU documents comes a day after The Associated Press reported that a senior FBI official wrote a letter to the Army’s top criminal investigator complaining about “highly aggressive” interrogation techniques at the U.S. prison camp in Guantanamo Bay dating back to 2002.
The memos reveal behind-the-scenes tensions between the FBI and U.S. military and intelligence task forces running prisoner interrogations at Guantanamo and in Iraq as the Bush administration sought better intelligence to fight terrorists and the deadly Iraq insurgency.
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“These documents tell a damning story of sanctioned government abuse – a story that the government has tried to hide and may well come back to haunt our own troops captured in Iraq,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director.
The documents were released only after a federal court ordered the Pentagon and other government agencies to comply with a year-old request filed under the Freedom of Information Act.