Yet another secret report on detainee abuse, this time in Afghanistan, slouches into view.
A recent classified assessment of U.S. military detention facilities in Afghanistan found that they have been plagued by many of the problems that existed at military prisons in Iraq, including weak or nonexistent guidance for interrogators, creating what the assessment described as an “opportunity” for prisoner abuse.
The inspection, conducted this summer by a one-star Army general, has not been publicly released by the Defense Department. But three government officials privy to its conclusions said this week that Army Brig. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr. had found a wide range of shortcomings in the military’s handling of prisoners in Afghanistan, including an unwarranted use of rectal exams instead of magnetic wands to search for contraband.
The report listed a range of abuses committed by members of the 377th and a battalion of military intelligence officers from Fort Bragg, N.C., during their deployment in Afghanistan, including slamming prisoners into walls, twisting handcuffs to cause pain, kneeing prisoners, forcing a detainee to maintain “painful, contorted body positions,” shackling the detainee’s arms to the ceiling, and forcing water into the mouth of the detainee “until he could not breathe.”
Of course Brig. Gen. Jacoby was not interested in investigating instances of wrongdoing or violations of the Geneva Conventions for this report.
Jacoby’s inspection tour occurred after the 377th had already moved to Iraq and looked mostly at procedures followed by other Army units. His 21-page report, completed in July, was not meant to be a probe of wrongdoing, according to Keeton; in fact, the officials said, he did not speak to detainees.
Also, Jacoby did not attempt to measure the compliance of U.S. units with the internationally accepted standards of the Geneva Conventions, which spell out protections for military detainees. Instead, following a Bush administration doctrine, the military has maintained that unlawful combatants in Afghanistan — who Keeton said make up the majority of the prison population — are not covered by the conventions’ strict protections.
They are subject, under current military rules, Keeton said, to a standard of “humane treatment” not spelled out in international laws but consistent with the spirit of the conventions. In his report, however, Jacoby concluded that the standards and compliance with them were not uniform throughout the country. He called for more properly trained corrections experts and interrogators.