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Sunday, September 12, 2004

And the Justice Dept. Will Release Its Formal Response to Kitty Kelley on Monday 

Dept. of Pre-Emptive Ass-Covering: via Steven Clemons of The Washington Note, a highly unusual Department of Defense press release intended to short-circuit allegations in a book that hasn't even been published yet:
Based on media inquiries, it appears that Mr. Seymor Hersh’s upcoming book apparently contains many of the numerous unsubstantiated allegations and inaccuracies which he has made in the past based upon unnamed sources.

Detainee operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere have been examined extensively – both within the Department of Defense and by an independent panel led by former Secretary of Defense Jim Schlesinger. The U.S. military itself -- not Mr. Hersh or any other reporter – first publicized the facts of the abuses at Abu Ghraib in January 2004, four months before Mr. Hersh “broke” the story.

To date the Department has conducted 11 investigations, of which eight reports have been completed and released, additionally:
  • Over 13,000 pages of reports have been compiled thus far.
  • Investigators have completed 950 interviews.
  • 43 Congressional briefings and hearings have been conducted (not to mention 39 additional briefings for Congressional staff).
Those responsible for criminal activities at Abu Ghraib or other detention facilities are being held accountable.
  • 45 individuals have been referred for courts-martial
  • 12 for General Officer Letters of Reprimand
  • 23 Soldiers have been administratively separated
There are ongoing investigations, and there will be more information disclosed. Thus far these investigations have determined that no responsible official of the Department of Defense approved any program that could conceivably have authorized or condoned the abuses seen at Abu Ghraib.

If any of Mr. Hersh’s anonymous sources wish to come forward and offer evidence to the contrary, the department welcomes them to do so. There are several open investigations, and we would certainly investigate their allegations without prejudice or hesitation.
And what was the occasion again? From the NYT:
Senior military and national security officials in the Bush administration were repeatedly warned by subordinates in 2002 and 2003 that prisoners in military custody were being abused, according to a new book by a prominent journalist.

Seymour M. Hersh, a writer for The New Yorker who earlier this year was among the first to disclose details of the abuses of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, makes the charges in his book "Chain of Command: The Road From 9/11 to Abu Ghraib" (HarperCollins), which is being released Monday. The book draws on the articles he wrote about the campaign against terrorism and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mr. Hersh asserts that a Central Intelligence Agency analyst who visited the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in the late summer of 2002 filed a report of abuses there that drew the attention of Gen. John A. Gordon, a deputy to Condoleezza Rice, the White House national security adviser.

But when General Gordon called the matter to her attention and she discussed it with other senior officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, no significant change resulted. Mr. Hersh's account is based on anonymous sources, some secondhand, and could not be independently verified . . . .

Mr. Hersh also says that a military officer involved in counterinsurgency operations in Iraq learned of the abuses at Abu Ghraib in November and reported it to two of his superiors, Gen. John P. Abizaid, the regional commander, and his deputy, Lt. Gen. Lance Smith.

"I said there are systematic abuses going on in the prisons," the unidentified officer is quoted as telling Mr. Hersh. "Abizaid didn't say a thing. He looked at me - beyond me, as if to say, 'Move on. I don't want to touch this'" . . . .

Mr. Hersh also says that F.B.I. agents complained to their superiors about abuses at Guantánamo, as did a military lawyer, and that those complaints, too, were relayed to the Pentagon.
Regarding the DoD's assertion that "no responsible official . . . approved any program that could conceivably have authorized or condoned the abuses," the Times story drily notes:
That is essentially the same reaction issued by the Pentagon when Mr. Hersh first reported, in May, that Mr. Rumsfeld, with White House approval, established a secret program under which commandos would capture and interrogate suspected terrorists with few if any constraints, and that eventually that program's reach extended into the Abu Ghraib prison.

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