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Senate committee still missing key documents in prisoner abuse case

WASHINGTON—The Senate Armed Services Committee is still missing key documents from the Army investigation into the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, including information on interrogation procedures that could clarify whether soldiers thought they were acting under orders.

Among the missing documents is a report to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld from Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the head of prison operations in Iraq, on rules for interrogating prisoners. Miller toured the prisons in Iraq last summer, when he was commander of the prison camp at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and recommended changes to interrogation procedures.

Among Miller's recommendations was using military police "to support interrogations," said a Senate aide who had access to the classified Army report and who spoke on condition of anonymity. It's unclear what Miller's other recommendations were or whether Rumsfeld ever received them.

Also missing are a report by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which concluded that U.S. soldiers were systematically violating Iraqi detainees' human rights, and a document that interrogators were to sign attesting that they understood and would abide by rules of engagement on interrogations, according to the Senate aide.

The Bush administration has said the abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib was the result of a few rogue soldiers acting on their own and that neither Rumsfeld nor other senior Pentagon officials approved any of the tactics that have brought worldwide criticism of the U.S. military.

But military police officers told Maj. Gen. Anthony Taguba, who headed the Army investigation, that they were acting under orders from intelligence commanders.

Senate committee staff members discovered last month that about 2,000 pages were missing from the committee's copy of the 6,000-page report.

The Pentagon called the omission an oversight. Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Joseph Yoswa said Taguba, who's in Kuwait, would send Congress a certified copy.

Committee Chairman Sen. John Warner, R-Va., said he believed the Pentagon had cooperated fully. "Nobody is trying to hide, duck or evade the congressional request," he said.

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said he hoped the omission was unintentional but added the administration's history of secrecy and "an unwillingness to share information with Congress" make him skeptical.

The Senate aide who's seen the report said the key missing material related to the testimony of Col. Thomas Pappas, the commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, which conducted the interrogations at Abu Ghraib. A written statement Pappas gave Feb. 11 referred to six attachments that weren't in the committee's copy, the aide said.

Levin said the Pentagon's handling of the Red Cross report, in particular, could reveal whether Pentagon officials knew of the abuse or attempted to cover it up.

The agreement the interrogators signed might also outline the rules for interrogations.

The Senate committee held three televised hearings in May on the abuse allegations and has heard about a third of the witnesses that it expects to call.

The date of the next hearing hasn't been set but probably will coincide with the release of a report from Maj. Gen. George Fay into military-intelligence management and practices at Abu Ghraib and throughout Iraq. Pentagon spokesman Yoswa said Fay's report was due later this month.


(c) 2004, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.