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Newly Released Army Documents Point To Agreement Between Defense Department And CIA On “Ghost” Detainees, ACLU Says

The latest chapter in the torture and abuse of detainees held in U.S. custody includes a report of a formal agreement between the Army and the CIA to hide “ghost detainees” and an atmosphere of “release-a-phobia” that prevented innocent detainees from being freed.

The American Civil Liberties Union and New York Civil Liberties Union released the 800-plus pages of documents today as a Senate Committee convened this morning to hear a report from Vice Admiral Albert T. Church III on detainee abuses that is largely expected to absolve top officials of responsibility.

“It seems the military can only look down the chain of command, not up, when it comes to holding people accountable,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “An outside special counsel is the only way to ensure that all civilians who violated, or conspired to violate, the laws are held responsible for their crimes.”

The documents were released in response to a federal court order that directed the Defense Department and other government agencies to comply with a year-old request under the Freedom of Information Act filed by the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace. The New York Civil Liberties Union is co-counsel in the case.

Included in the documents the ACLU released today are previously classified annexes to an August 2004 report by Major General George Fay that blamed top Pentagon officials and senior military commanders for creating conditions that led to “acts of brutality and purposeless sadism” at Abu Ghraib. The report references some of the incidents described in the annexes. The annexes, however, were not released until today.

The ACLU has posted the new government documents on its website, along with the more than 20,000 pages it has received to date, at Among the facts disclosed in the documents released today are:

  • Memorandum of Understanding Between Military and CIA on “Ghost Detainees.” Two separate sworn statements refer to an arrangement regarding these detainees, who were kept “off the records” for CIA interrogation. According to one statement, Col. Thomas Pappas met with CIA and Task Force 21 officials and “the memorandum on procedures for dropping ghost detainees was signed.” In a deposition, Brig. Gen. Karpinski also confirms orders to hide a prisoner “and to not allow the [International Committee of the Red Cross] to see him.” The text of the Fay report states, in reference to ghost detainees, that “no memorandum of understanding on detainee accountability or interrogation practices between the CIA and CJTF-7” was created. The documents released today do not include the Memorandum of Understanding.
  • Death of Ghost Detainees in Custody. Several statements refer to “ghost detainees” who died in custody, including one who died after being chained up in a shower area. Interrogators packed the body in ice and “paid a local taxi driver to take him away.” (Note: this report may refer to Manadel a-Jamadi, whose death in Abu Ghraib has been widely reported in the news media.)
  • Majority of Detainees “Of No Intelligence Value” or Innocent. One statement refers to “a lot of pressure to produce reports regardless of intelligence value.” Brig. Gen. Karpinski’s deposition also cited the comments of another official, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, who told her, “I don’t care if we’re holding 15,000 innocent civilians! We’re winning the war!” A former commander of the 320th Military Police Battalion notes in a sworn statement, “It became obvious to me that the majority of our detainees were detained as the result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and were swept up by Coalition Forces as peripheral bystanders during raids. I think perhaps only one in ten security detainees were of any particular intelligence value.”
  • “Releasaphobia” Keep Innocent Detainees Jailed. One member of the Detainee Assessment Board said people were afraid to recommend release of detainees, “even when obviously innocent.” Similarly, Brig. Gen. Karpinski spoke of “releaseaphobia” on the part of a review board. According to another report, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez allegedly said of the detainees, “Why are we detaining these people, we should be killing them.” The unidentified solider who reported the comment added that it “contributed to a command climate” where “deeds not consistent with military standards would be tolerated if not condoned.”
  • Use of Dogs on Juveniles. According to the statement of an Army interrogator with the 2nd Military Intelligence Battalion, a dog handler entered the cell of two juveniles and allowed the animal to “go nuts on the kids, barking and scaring them.” The interrogator said he heard the dog handler say “he had a competition with another Handler to see if they could scare detainees to the point that they would defecate. He mentioned that they had already made some urinate, so they appeared to be raising the competition.” (As referenced in the Fay report.)
  • Brutal Interrogation Techniques. Reports include a Military Intelligence soldier “choking and beating a detainee.” Another account describes how MPs threw a detainee to the ground “and pour [sic] dirt all over him. He said he was diabetic and was trying to tell the MPs and he went into diabetic shock.”

“These documents provide a horrifying account of the dehumanizing treatment of thousands of innocent civilians swept up and imprisoned indiscriminately by U.S. forces in Iraq,” said ACLU attorney Amrit Singh. “They also demonstrate the collaboration between the military and the CIA in torturing detainees while hiding them from the Red Cross.”

Last Tuesday, the ACLU and Human Rights First filed a lawsuit charging Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with direct responsibility for the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody. The action was the first federal court lawsuit to name a top U.S. official in the ongoing torture scandal in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ACLU has also filed separate lawsuits naming Brig. Gen. Karpinski, Col. Thomas Pappas and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. Details about the Rumsfeld lawsuit are online at

The lawsuit is being handled by Lawrence Lustberg and Megan Lewis of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, P.C. Other attorneys in the case are Singh, Jameel Jaffer, and Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU; Arthur N. Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the NYCLU; and Barbara Olshansky and Jeff Fogel of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

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