FBI chief says agency did not witness abuse of Iraqi prisoners

PTI | ByAssociated Press, Washington
May 25, 2004 08:01 PM IST

FBI agents who interviewed detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq did not witness any abuse or take part in any mistreatment, FBI Director Robert Mueller said .

FBI agents who interviewed detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq did not witness any abuse or take part in any mistreatment, FBI Director Robert Mueller said .

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Mueller said Thursday that FBI rules prohibit agents from taking part in interrogations involving force, the threat of force or coercion and they are obligated to report any such incidents they see.

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"In the cases where we have been handling interviews, particularly over in Iraq, it has been done according to our standards and there has been no waiver of that," Mueller said in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Also Thursday, officials confirmed that newly unearthed photos from Abu Ghraib show the body of a detainee whose death is the subject of a Justice Department inquiry. And Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld lamented that the multiple investigations were diverting attention from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. "An awful lot of us are spending an enormous amount of time on the subject," Rumsfeld told reporters after a private Capitol Hill briefing on Iraq for all senators. He hastened to add, however, that "the situation needed to be addressed" and that criminal inquiries were the proper method.

More details of prisoner abuse emerged Thursday night with the release of more photos of abuse and previously secret statements of prisoners by The Washington Post on its Web site. In that secret testimony, prisoners said they were ridden like animals at the prison, fondled by female soldiers and forced to retrieve their food from toilets.

The Post reported it has obtained hundreds more pictures and several digital videos of the abuse. In one photo, a cornered inmate is cowering as a soldier tries to restrain a large black dog with both hands. In another photo, a naked prisoner covered with a brown substance is ordered to walk in a straight line with his ankles cuffed.

In his testimony Thursday, Mueller said the FBI's standards for interrogations differ from those of the CIA and Defense Department. When agents determine that those agencies' methods conflict with FBI rules, they do not participate, he said.

Although no agents witnessed abuse in Iraq, Mueller said that "upon occasion" agents have raised objections about the way certain interrogations overseas are handled.

"Where we have seen that, we have brought it to the attention of the authorities who were
responsible for that particular individual," Mueller said.

He declined to say how many FBI agents were stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The FBI, Mueller added, subscribes to the theory that an interrogation technique of developing rapport with a suspect or witness "may be as effective or more effective than other ways." In addition, use of coercion can get a statement thrown out in a U.S. court if a judge finds the person did not make it voluntarily. Mueller also said the FBI was not yet involved in any investigations of handling of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan or the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. He confirmed that the CIA inspector general has referred cases for possible criminal prosecution to the Justice Department.

One of those cases is documented in new photos, first shown by ABC-TV on Wednesday, of a dead Abu Ghraib detainee whose body is packed with ice in a body bag. The photos also show Army Sgt. Charles A. Graner Jr. and Spc. Sabrina Harman posing with the body, smiling and giving the thumbs-up sign.

Graner and Harman have already been charged in the Iraqi prison abuse. A U.S. government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, identified the dead detainee as Manadel al-Jamadi. The official said al-Jamadi's death was among those referred to the Justice Department by the CIA inspector general for possible criminal prosecution.

At least three such CIA cases have been referred to the Justice Department, the official said.

In addition, another U.S. official said a detainee died of hypothermia in 2002 while in capitivity in Afghanistan. The Justice Department reviewed the role of CIA personnel in the death and decided not to prosecute. This official also spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Attorney General John Ashcroft has said that civilian contractors or others not under military legal jurisdiction could be prosecuted under U.S. law for crimes committed overseas, including prohibitions against torture.

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