Senators want to know more on 'ghost' detainees

By Peter Eisler and Blake Morrison,USA TODAY

WASHINGTON The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee called Thursday for Congress to examine lingering questions about the abuse of detainees in Iraq and elsewhere by U.S. forces, including the practice of keeping secret the whereabouts and identities of some prisoners.

Sen. John Warner, R-Va., said lawmakers expressed concerns about such "ghost" detainees during a closed briefing Thursday that included a review of reports by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

U.S. officials have acknowledged that the names of some detainees captured by military and intelligence forces during the war on terrorism have not been logged in official records. In some cases, they say, keeping secret the locations or names of detainees has been crucial to gathering intelligence.

But the Red Cross fears that the practice could result in the abuse of detainees and make it impossible to monitor the conditions in which they're held. It has called on U.S. officials to account for any ghost detainees and make them available for interviews about their treatment. Armed Services Committee members say they want more information from the Bush administration on the issue, and others related to the abuse scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

Concerns about ghost detainees also are raised in sworn statements that are among more than 6,000 pages of still-classified documents about misconduct at Abu Ghraib.

The documents, obtained by USA TODAY, indicate that several military officers at Abu Ghraib raised questions about ghost detainees there.

The detainees typically were brought to the prison by CIA personnel, who would skip the prisoner-registration process, the records say. After a few days of interrogation, the captives would be moved to other, undisclosed locations, according to statements by two Army officers who questioned the practice.

The documents were submitted to the Pentagon and Congress in April as supplements to a report by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba on abuse at Abu Ghraib.

A transcript in the report indicates that Army Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, a senior officer at the prison, told investigators that he had pushed for some sort of official documentation of ghost detainees. Military police officers, who were responsible for guarding prisoners at Abu Ghraib, said, "Hey, we can't be responsible for them if they don't exist," Jordan said.

The documents quote Jordan as saying there was a verbal "agreement" between the CIA agents and the military intelligence officer in charge of the prison, Col. Thomas Pappas. Jordan said Pappas once told him to hide ghost detainees before a Red Cross team came to inspect the prison.

On Thursday, Warner's panel was updated about several Defense Department investigations into the abuses. Warner said he learned of new instances of possible mistreatment of detainees. "Each day that comes along, new incidents" are revealed, he said.

Among other questions raised by the supplements to the Taguba report:

How much pressure top White House and Pentagon officials put on military intelligence officers to get information from Iraqi detainees. A sworn statement by the military intelligence officer who oversaw interrogations mentioned a visit by an aide to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. But Taguba asked for no details of the visit.

Whether a translator and another soldier had sexual intercourse with detainees. Sworn statements suggest both might have raped prisoners. No one has been charged with rape.

"There are some serious crimes here," committee member Lindsey Graham, R-S.C, said this week. "The command culture that led to this has to be addressed."

The documents, which make up the 106 attachments to Taguba's report, include transcripts of dozens of interrogations. They show that Taguba stuck closely to his charge: to investigate whether military police acting as prison guards had been properly taught how to treat prisoners, and whether the guards were supervised properly.

Seven soldiers have been charged with misconduct. Some have said they were told by military intelligence officers to "soften up" prisoners for interrogations.

Besides Taguba's inquiry, the Pentagon has launched five other investigations into abuses at Abu Ghraib, including probes into the role of military intelligence officers and a broader look at U.S. treatment of all detainees in Iraq. The Army also is investigating allegations of prisoner abuse and suspicious prisoner deaths.

An Army inspector general report on the treatment of detainees in Iraq is likely to be completed this month. Another Army probe into the role military intelligence played in abuse at Abu Ghraib is due this summer.

Contributing: Dave Moniz and the Associated Press