Pentagon creates new office to deal with prisoner abuse reports
July 17, 2004
ARLINGTON, Va. — Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed an order Friday creating the Office of Detainee Affairs, a Pentagon-level office to deal primarily with the International Committee of Red Cross and their reports of alleged prisoner abuse.
“The key element here will be the relationship with the International Red Cross,” said Ryan Henry, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for Policy.
The ICRC reportedly has filed many reports of prisoner abuse and currently is accusing the Defense Department and CIA of hiding detainees.
“We want to have a system that can elevate their concerns to keep policymakers as responsively [sic] as possible,” Henry told Pentagon reporters. The office will be the “single focal point” in talks between the ICRC and the Pentagon.
Who will head the new office and who will make up the committee looking into the reports has yet to be determined, he said, but the office will fall under the Undersecretary for Policy, Doug Feith.
The office’s creation also is an attempt to repair relations with the international committee, which intercedes on U.S. servicemembers’ behalf if they are taken prisoner.
The department “appreciates the work by the International Red Cross,” Henry said.
“Not only do they help us understand how we can do a better job, but they do a very critical job in protecting our soldiers.”
Reports from the ICRC will now be “brought from the field” to the centralized Pentagon office, Henry said.
“In the past, they’ve been left at the field level, but now they will be forwarded up” to be reviewed by a joint committee, make up of members from the policy office, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and service departments.