Politics & Policy

Detainee Details

Accountability and progress.

The United States Army remains heavily engaged in fighting and winning the global war on terrorism. Today, there are almost 270,000 soldiers simultaneously conducting combat and reconstruction operations in two theaters, maintaining our worldwide security commitments, and securing the homeland. Our Army remains the preeminent land power in the world today, and will remain so, primarily because of the courageous men and women who proudly wear the uniform of the American soldier–the vast majority of whom continue to serve with great honor and skill. Our soldiers live the Army values and the warrior ethos every day under the most difficult of circumstances. They have answered the call to duty and we as a nation are grateful for their willingness to sacrifice everything so that others might live in peace and freedom.

Against this backdrop of honor, service and sacrifice, a small number of our soldiers have not lived up to the Army values. Their actions, or failures to act, have brought discredit to our great institution, and worse, led to the injury or deaths of detainees in military custody. While the actions of these few soldiers were clearly reprehensible, they are not representative of Army values; nor were they in any way, shape, or form authorized by Army policy, doctrine, or training.

The Army is committed to ensuring all of its soldiers live up to the Army values and the law of war, regardless of the environment or circumstances, and we are equally committed to ensuring that those responsible for detainee abuse are held accountable. Indeed, over the past two and a half years of intense domestic and international public scrutiny, no other institution in the world has taken a more critical look at itself, or been more transparent in pursuit of the truth, than the United States Army. It is important to remember that the abuses at Abu Ghraib were first brought to light by a soldier who wanted to do the right thing. Our efforts to determine what happened at Abu Ghraib and in other cases of detainee abuse have been comprehensive and deeply probing. Virtually all of the information that has appeared in the media was generated and provided by the Army through the various investigations, reviews and inspections.

The Army has investigated every credible allegation of detainee abuse. The mere fact that an investigation has been initiated is, in itself, an act of determining accountability–regardless of the rank or position of those who might have been involved. Each of these investigations is complex and has taken significant time to complete. Our professional investigators go where the evidence leads, and throughout the investigative and judicial process, the Army has steadfastly protected the rights of the accused and potential witnesses. When the evidence indicates wrongdoing, commanders have taken appropriate action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and established policy, regulation, and procedure. Based on the adverse findings of criminal and other investigations, commanders have charged 74 soldiers at courts-martial, issued non-judicial punishment to 82 soldiers, and taken 68 other adverse administrative actions. Of the approximately 410 CID criminal investigations examining allegations of detainee abuse, approximately 66 percent were complete as of August 19, and more than a quarter of these completed investigations did not find criminal misconduct on the part of any soldier.

The Army, the Department of Defense, and Combatant Commanders have conducted 12 separate investigations, inspections, and reviews. Each report has established that the abuses did not result from promulgated interrogation policies and procedures, nor were they directed, sanctioned, or encouraged by senior leadership. Nonetheless, approximately 18 percent of the punishments to date have been imposed on commissioned officers, who, as a category, make up about 13 percent of the force in theater.

In addition to disciplinary actions, one should remember that the Army began to address the new and unique challenges of conducting detainee and interrogation operations in the global war on terrorism well before the abuses at Abu Ghraib became public. In October 2003, six months before the Abu Ghraib story broke, the Army created the new position of the Provost Marshal General, a two-star general who serves as the lead for the Department of the Army’s Executive Agent responsibilities in detainee operations. As such, this general officer is responsible for policy, procedures, and oversight across all military police functions.

In addition to examining allegations of detainee abuse, the 12 reports identified numerous ways the Department of Defense can improve detainee and interrogation operations. In response to these reports, the Army chartered a senior Detainee Operations Oversight Council to conduct a comprehensive review of detainee operations, including interrogation procedures, across the force at every level–from the headquarters of the Department of the Army to tactical units in the field. As part of its charter, the Council, chaired by the two-star Provost Marshal General, provides oversight for the implementation of detainee operations and interrogation policy initiatives and maintains long-term focus and direction.

In its review of the findings of the 12 reports, the Detainee Operations Oversight Council identified 204 corrective actions that fall within the scope of the Army’s statutory responsibilities for detainee operations policy and interrogation procedures. To ensure this effort was comprehensive, it incorporated the efforts of hundreds of senior Army leaders and their staffs working full-time to assess doctrine, organization, training and leadership. These corrective actions comprise the Army’s Action Plan for Detainee and Interrogation Operations. Published on September 17, 2004, this comprehensive action plan produced a host of forward-thinking institutional changes that will enable the Army to better meet Combatant Commander requirements while providing enhanced safeguards for detainees and our soldiers.

In many cases, these corrective actions cross multiple areas such as policy, doctrine, training and force structure, and require significant time to implement. To date, the Army has initiated work on 100 percent of the corrective actions with about 30 percent already completed. Each has been assigned to an office of primary responsibility within the Army staff and given a timeline for accomplishment. The Detainee Operations Oversight Council continually reviews the status of each corrective action and provides guidance and direction to ensure its completion.

In the area of force structure, the action plan resulted in the creation of 35 new Military Police Internment/Resettlement units, with the first units already fielded at Guantanamo in October 2004. The Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence soldiers will also increase from current levels by over 2,100 authorizations over the next four years.

In the areas of doctrine and training, implementation of the action plan has expanded the mission of detainee operations at the Military Intelligence, Military Police and Medical Schools, and since April 2004, has trained over 16,000 personnel from all services. Since January 2004, specific detainee operations lessons learned have been incorporated into all unit rotations at each of the Army’s three maneuver combat training centers and are continually updated. Mobile Training Teams, using the most current doctrine and lessons learned, provide expert instruction during pre-deployment training and at the combat training centers. Army combat arms maneuver brigades and associated combat support and combat service support units undergo intensive, pre-deployment mission rehearsal exercises at the combat training centers in which detainee operations are an important component of the training scenarios. As an additional measure, specific training packages focus on Internment/Resettlement units and other MP units that will be performing the tactical mission.

Among other significant changes in doctrine and training, the Army’s Basic Combat Training now includes additional, enhanced training on the handling of enemy personnel; Reserve Component soldiers now receive expanded training on the Law of War at mobilization stations; interrogation doctrine has been expanded to take into account the enemy’s ability to adapt to U.S. techniques and procedures; and advanced interrogation courses are now being taught at the U. S. Army Intelligence Center and School.

Improvements have also been made in the area of medical care. Detainees in U. S. custody receive virtually the same quality of medical care as U. S. personnel. Additionally, on-site medical treatment facilities have been built at both Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca, the largest detention facilities in Iraq.

Each of these changes is significant and will better prepare our soldiers for the tough environment of conducting detainee operations. Nonetheless, as the Army’s senior leaders, we cannot overstate the challenges our soldiers face in confronting a ruthless, immoral enemy in a complex and asymmetrical environment.

The issue for our nation is equally challenging. The enemy is very adept at exploiting the totally unacceptable actions of a few soldiers in a wider campaign to discredit the United States, our partners in the global war on terrorism, and the road to freedom and democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Through steadfast enforcement of Army values–including treating all detainees with dignity and respect–and continuously adapting our capability to conduct detainee operations and interrogations in a manner consistent with these values, we can more fully demonstrate the inherent goodness of democracy and, in the process, help defeat the enemy’s messages of hate and intolerance.

Francis J. Harvey is the secretary of the Army, and Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker is the Army chief of staff.

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