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Key documents missing in version of abuse probe given to Congress

WASHINGTON—The Pentagon still hasn't provided Congress with a complete version of its first investigation into abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, even though another version of the report has been delivered, according to congressional aides.

The aides discovered three weeks ago that the copy of the report by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba that was given to Congress was missing 2,000 pages of supporting documents. The Defense Department said the omission was inadvertent and that a certified copy would be sent.

But while additional pages were in the copy received by the Senate Armed Services Committee last week, aides said, many key documents were still missing, including a draft memo to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that may shed light on what interrogation techniques Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller suggested be used at Abu Ghraib. At the time, Miller was in charge of the U.S. prison camp for suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and had been asked for advice on interrogation procedures in Iraq.

Also still missing are reports from the International Committee for the Red Cross, which complained about the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other U.S.-run prison facilities in Iraq. Those reports were given to U.S. authorities in Iraq, though Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the U.S. military commander in Iraq, told the Senate Armed Services Committee he hadn't seen them.

"It appears that the Department of Defense is dragging its feet and that's unfortunate," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a member of the Senate Armed Services panel, said about the missing pages.

Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, Republican leaders squashed an effort Monday to expand Congress' role into the prison abuse scandal.

On a vote largely along party lines, the House Armed Services Committee defeated a measure, 28 to 21, that would have called on the Department of Defense to provide it with documents related to the U.S. prison system in Iraq. Those documents would have included data on the training of military police in detention and prisoner treatment, the reports from the Army's Criminal Investigation Division and transcripts of exit interviews with detainees detailing their allegations of mistreatment while in U.S. custody.

House Republican leaders have opposed expanding congressional examination of the prison scandal, saying it distracts from the war effort. Military commanders should focus on the war on the ground, not on providing testimony and documents to Congress, said committee Chairman Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.

In addition, Hunter said, only four House members have read the Taguba report. "We're getting more information than we can digest," he added. When members finish reading the Taguba report, Hunter said, he'd be happy to ask for more documents.

But Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., a co-sponsor of the measure, disagreed with that strategy. "I am one of the four and I feel I need more information," she said.

The Senate Armed Services Committee has already asked the Defense Department for "all relevant" documents pertaining to prisons and detainees at Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan, said a staff member. The request included orders from Sanchez on rules of engagement on interrogations and a recently disclosed Defense Department memo on the possible legal justifications of torture.

Meanwhile, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has asked the Defense Department to turn over videotapes of actions taken by "immediate reaction forces," in which soldiers are called to a prisoner's cell at Guantanamo when he refuses an order. Leahy recently met with Gen. James Hill, the head of the Southern Command, which is responsible for Guantanamo, to discuss complying with the congressional request, Leahy's spokesman said.

McCain and other committee members also are seeking more information from the Pentagon about who controlled private contractors who participated in interrogations at Abu Ghraib. The civilians can't be prosecuted under code of military justice nor are they subject to legal constraints in Iraq.

Taguba singled out contractors who worked for Titan Corp. and CACI Inc. and named two, Steven Stephanowics and John Israel, who were "either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuses." Another, translator Adel Nakhla, is suspected of raping a teenage boy. And a fourth is cited as a witness to the abuses.

McCain said he's interested in why these civilian contractors were a part of sensitive interrogation duty and who they reported to.


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