Despite abundant evidence that Gen. Ricardo Sanchez did indeed authorize interrogators in Iraq to torture detainees, late yesterday the Army reported that it had cleared Sanchez and all other high-ranking officers of any wrongdoing.
A high-level Army investigation has cleared four of the five top Army officers overseeing prison policies and operations in Iraq of responsibility for the abuse of detainees there, Congressional and administration officials said Friday.
Among the officers was Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, who was the top commander in Iraq from June 2003 to July 2004. He was the highest-ranking officer to face allegations of leadership failure in connection with the scandal, but he was not accused of criminal misconduct.
Today Human RIghts Watch responded by demanding the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Don Rumsfeld and George Tenet’s role in America’s shame.
A human rights group issued a report on Saturday calling for a special prosecutor to examine the conduct of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and the former director of central intelligence, George J. Tenet, in issues related to the abuse of detainees.
Drawing largely on news reports and publicly available military reviews, the group, Human Rights Watch, concluded that there was “overwhelming evidence that U.S. mistreatment and torture of Muslim prisoners took place not merely at Abu Ghraib, but at facilities throughout Afghanistan and Iraq as well as at Guantnamo and at ‘secret locations’ around the world in violation of the Geneva Convention and the laws against torture.”
The report found no indication that Mr. Rumsfeld warned those under his command to halt abusive treatment of detainees and said that he should be investigated for abuses under a doctrine of “command responsibility.” Mr. Rumsfeld has said he made it clear to subordinates that he did not condone mistreatment.
The report found that Mr. Tenet had been responsible for policies that sent detainees to countries where they were tortured, which made him potentially liable as an accomplice to torture. Mr. Tenet has not addressed the issue publicly, but C.I.A. officials have long said that Mr. Tenet insisted that agency personnel carefully follow the law.
A special prosecutor was needed to investigate these matters, the report said, because Alberto R. Gonzales, the attorney general, had a conflict of interest because he “was himself deeply involved in the policies leading to these alleged crimes.”
“This pattern of abuse across several countries did not result from the acts of individual soldiers who broke the rules,” said a statement by Reed Brody, special counsel for Human Rights Watch. “It resulted from decisions made by senior U.S. officials to bend, ignore or cast the rules aside.”
Last week, the vice chairman of the senate intelligence committee, John D. Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia, said that Congress had “largely ignored the issue” and offered an amendment to an appropriations bill that would require an inquiry into the treatment of detainees.