WASHINGTON — A top investigator ordered by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to look into abuses at Abu Ghraib and other military detention facilities laid blame at the feet of individual troops and their commanders, but not top-level officials and policy-makers.

Reporting to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Vice Adm. Albert Church reported his key finding was that “clearly, there was no policy written or otherwise at any level that directed or condoned torture or abuse.”

After more than 800 interviews and reviewing thousands of pages of documents, Church said that while officials in Washington could learn from “missed opportunities” in providing better guidance to field commanders, no specific blame could be cast.

“Nevertheless,” he added, “we did identify problems.”

Among his findings:

Leadership breakdown: Citing a “breakdown of good order and discipline” among some units, Church wrote in the unclassified version of the report’s executive summary, “This breakdown implies a failure of unit-level leaders.”Heat of combat: “The nature of the enemy, and the tactics it has employed in Iraq (and to a lesser extend in Afghanistan) may have played a role in this abuse,” wrote Church, explaining that 23 out of 70 documented cases of abuse occurred at the “point of capture” when emotions are running high.Ignored warning signs: Writing that he could not provide unclassified details, “there was a failure to react to early warning signs of abuse” by local commanders. Church testified that the Red Cross in particular had repeatedly raised red flags at Abu Ghraib, but that leadership reaction was “not as swift as it could have been.”Church, who until recently was the Navy Inspector General and now heads the Navy staff at the Pentagon, took fire from various corners of the committee, however, for not delving deeper into some areas of concern.

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, the ranking Democrat on the committee, was quick to take Church to task.

“There has been no assessment of accountability of any senior officials,” Levin told Church. “The failure of accountability of senior leaders sends the wrong signal to our troops and the American people. It harms the United States’ standing as a nation of laws, and undermines the high standards of our armed forces.

And, he added, “it places our military men and women in jeopardy when they become prisoners.

“The bland label of ‘missed opportunities’ does not explain the absence of policies,” added Levin. “These are failures of command at high level.”

Church, who earlier said he was ordered to review the investigations completed so far and fill in the gaps not covered by those reports, responded he was not tasked with delving into the question of leadership accountability.

Virginia Republican and committee chairman John Warner said leadership accountability would be the topic of an upcoming hearing. “There is still much work left to be done,” he said.

In a heated exchange with Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, Church defended the Bush administration’s decision to withhold Geneva Convention protections from captured Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan.

“You know the North Vietnamese made the same determination about American prisoners,” said McCain, who, as a naval aviator spent five years at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” after getting shot down during the Vietnam war.

“I worry very much that if we decide in certain countries military personnel are not eligible for treatment under conventions that we’ve signed, would it not be logical to expect them to declare that American prisoners are not eligible for protection under the Geneva Convention?” said McCain.

“It’s a good debate,” responded Church.

“Well sir, I think it’s a little more than a good debate,” McCain said. “I am very concerned about what will happen to Americans who are taken prisoner unless we have clear and specific guidelines that we adhere to.”

Recent investigations into allegations of prisoner abuse

¶ Taguba Report— An internal Army “15-6 Investigation” ordered by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez on Jan. 31, 2001, and completed May 11, 2004. Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba accused soldiers in the 800th Military Police Brigade at Abu Ghraib of “sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses.” Responding to a senator’s question about how such actions were possible, he responded:

“Failure in leadership, sir, from the brigade commander on down. Lack of discipline, no training whatsoever and no supervision. Supervisory omission was rampant.”

¶ Mikolashek Investigation — Army Inspector General Lt. Gen. Paul Mikolashek was ordered to look into training and prison operations throughout U.S. Central Command in February 2004. He issued his report in July, finding 94 confirmed cases of abuse, but no evidence of leadership failure.

¶ Jones-Fay Report— In another 15-6 (informal) investigation, Lt. Gen Anthony Jones and Maj. Gen. George Fay were ordered in April 2004 to look into alleged misconduct by members of the 205th MI Brigade and operations at Abu Ghraib. Their findings, released in August, accused the 205th’s commander Col. Thomas Pappas and commander of the 800th MP Brigade of wrongdoing. Their investigation also said Sanchez and his deputy Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski failed to provide proper oversight at Abu Ghraib and the units there.

¶ Schlesinger Report — An independent panel led by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger commissioned by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in May. Findings released in August largely corroborated the Jones-Fay report.

“Commanding officers and their staffs at various levels failed in their duties and that such failure contributed directly or indirectly to detainee abuse,” reads the report, singling out Sanchez, Wojdakowski, Karpinski, Pappas and Jordan, among others.

¶ Church Report — Tasked by Rumsfeld in May 2004, Navy Inspector Gen. Vice Adm. Albert Church was ordered to provide the broadest look at the scandal so far, assessing previous investigations and while delving into gaps not covered by them.

Still pending

¶ Army IG— The Army Inspector General’s office, overseen by the Defense Department IG, is looking into specific accusations of misconduct by senior officers. Most of those investigations are wrapping up with the results of some now being briefed to members of Congress.

¶ Formica Report — Brig. Gen. Richard Formica has been tasked with looking at Special Operations units and their role in possible detainee abuse.

¶ Jacoby Report — Launched in May 2004, Brig. Gen. Charles Jacoby was ordered to look into detainee operations in Afghanistan.

— Jon R. Anderson

Others involved in the investigation

The fates of several senior officers still hang in the balance as officials wrap up investigations. While some have been cleared, others are expected to face disciplinary action even as civil lawsuits are being filed. Among those waiting:

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez— Leader of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq from April 2003 to July 2004. An internal Army investigation and independent panel found Sanchez failed to provide proper oversight at Abu Ghraib and issued confusing policies on interrogations.

Status:Under investigation. Remains commander of V Corps. Recently named in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit under charges of war crimes.

Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski— Sanchez’s deputy commander in Iraq and, until recently, at V Corps. Responsible for overseeing support to detention facilities as well as direct oversight of the 205th MI Brigade and 800th MP Brigade at Abu Ghraib. Previous investigations determined he failed to provide proper leadership.

Status:Recently reassigned as special assistant to the commander of Army forces in Europe. Remains under investigation.

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski— Commander of 800th Military Police Brigade. Harshly criticized by investigators for weak and ineffectual leadership that created a climate at Abu Ghraib that led to the abuses. One investigation also accused her of “material misrepresentations” during questioning.

Status:Suspended from command duties. Recently issued a letter of reprimand by Army Chief of Staff Dick Cody. Named in ACLU lawsuit.

Col. Thomas Pappas— Commander of 205th Military Intelligence in Iraq. Accused of multiple leadership failures, including improperly authorizing the use of dogs in interrogations.

Status:Remains commander of 205th MI Brigade, now redeployed home to Germany. Under investigation. Named in ACLU lawsuit.

Lt. Col. Stephen L. Jordan— Director of Joint Interrogation Debriefing Center. Accused of multiple leadership failures, including properly training and supervising his troops and for being deceitful during abuse investigations. Failure to obey direct orders to not talk about the case with others. “He conducted an e-mail campaign soliciting support from others involved in the investigation.”

Status:Under investigation.

— Jon R. Anderson

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