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U.S. denies widespread abuse at prison in Iraq

Journalist: Report says military intelligence ordered torture

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Myers denies reports of widespread abuse of inmates. CNN's Kathleen Koch reports.

CPA spokesman vows a "robust investigation" into the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

CNN's Ben Wedeman reports on Iraqi outrage over photos that apparently show U.S. soldiers abusing prisoners.
Amnesty: Torture pattern in Iraq
• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
Military Intelligence
Richard Myers
Human Rights

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, denied reports of widespread and systematic abuse of inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison Sunday.

But in an article published Sunday, The New Yorker magazine reported that an American general found evidence of "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" of Iraqis held at the prison west of Baghdad that was infamous under Saddam Hussein's reign.

And in an interview with The New York Times, the military police commander there said most of the problems occurred in a cell block under the control of Army intelligence officers.

Citing a report by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, New Yorker writer Seymour Hersh said the mistreatment of prisoners was done "to break down somebody before interrogation" at the direction of U.S. military intelligence. One Iraqi was killed during an interrogation, he said.

"Interrogation became the mantra, the thing that was essential, and that was not run by the people of the military police running the prisons," Hersh said on "Late Edition."

"That was run by the intelligence community, not only military [but also] CIA and private contractors."

Photographs broadcast Wednesday on the CBS program "60 Minutes II" showed Iraqis apparently stripped, hooded and tormented by their U.S. captors at Abu Ghraib. (Full story)

The images sparked anger among Muslims around the world, and President Bush condemned the mistreatment shown in them. Other photographs purporting to show prisoners in British custody being abused drew condemnation from Prime Minister Tony Blair and Gen. Michael Jackson, the British chief of staff. (Full story)

Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor vowed Sunday that the U.S. government would "get to the bottom of this."

"Whole careers are going to be ended," Senor said on CNN's "Late Edition." "There are going to be criminal repercussions for the people involved. This will not be tolerated."

Six soldiers assigned to the prison were charged with criminal offenses in March after an investigation that began in January when soldiers reported allegations of abuse to superiors. (Full story)

In February, senior military officials said 17 troops -- including a battalion commander, a company commander and 12 military police assigned to guard prisoners -- had been relieved of duty until an investigation could be completed.

A spokesperson for Amnesty International said Sunday that the human rights organization had uncovered evidence of widespread torture by coalition troops. (Full story)

Appearing Sunday on ABC's "This Week," Myers said that was not his understanding.

Myers said the military's theaterwide investigation has suggested the abuse apparently depicted in the photographs was isolated.

"There is no -- no -- evidence of systematic abuse in this system at all. We've paid a lot of attention, of course, in Guantanamo, as well," Myers said, referring to the U.S. detention facility in Cuba for suspects captured in connection with the war on terror. "We review all the interrogation methods.

"Torture is not one of the methods that we're allowed to use and that we use. I mean, it's just not permitted by international law, and we don't use it.

"That is not how the American military acts or should act," Myers said. "And it's really a shame that just a handful can besmirch maybe the reputations of hundreds of thousands of our soldiers and sailors, airmen and Marines who've been over there."

Intelligence officers blamed

The military police commander at Abu Ghraib, Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, was among those suspended from duty because of the investigation.

In an interview published Sunday in The New York Times, Karpinski, a reservist, said she was "sickened" by pictures of prisoners being abused.

"The suggestion that this was done with my knowledge and continued with my knowledge is so far from the truth," she told the newspaper. "I wasn't aware of any of this. I'm horrified by this."

But Karpinski said she suspected the troops implicated in the probe were acting at the encouragement of intelligence officers.

She said U.S. intelligence officers at the prison went "to great lengths" to keep Red Cross officials from visiting the cellblock.

One of the six soldiers facing criminal charges blamed U.S. military intelligence officers for the mistreatment.

In journal entries provided to CNN by his uncle, William Lawson, Staff Sgt. Chip Frederick said he raised concerns about Iraqi prisoners being handcuffed to their cell doors, either naked or wearing women's underwear.

"I questioned this and the answer I got was this is how military intelligence wants it done," he wrote.

Lawson said Frederick and his comrades were being singled out by investigators.

"The United States government is trying to sacrifice and use these six soldiers as scapegoats," Lawson said.

U.S. intelligence officials said Friday that the CIA's inspector general is cooperating with a Defense Department probe. Myers said Taguba's report was "working its way to me," but he has yet to see it.

Death allegedly hidden

Hersh said many of those being held at Abu Ghraib are civilians "picked up at random checkpoints and random going into houses." He said Taguba's report found that more than 60 percent of the prisoners "have nothing to do with anything."

"There's no processing," Hersh said. "It's sort of a complete failure of anything the Geneva Convention calls for."

The New Yorker published a photograph of a dead Iraqi prisoner on its Web site Sunday, saying the man had died during an interrogation by U.S. officials. He had never been registered as a prisoner there and his body was taken out of the building and dumped, Hersh said.

"They packed him in ice until it was the appropriate time," he said. "They put him on a trolley, like a hospital gurney, and they put a fake IV into him, and they walked out as if he was getting an IV -- walked him out, got him in an ambulance, drove him off, dumped the body somewhere."

Jalal Talabani, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, said he believed any abuse was "very small and very limited."

"According to our knowledge and information all over Iraq, especially in those places who are in direct contact with American soldiers dealing with the people, they are very friendly," said Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan told reporters Sunday he was "encouraged that the U.S. is taking this seriously and investigating. The images around the world are damaging."

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