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Report Critical of Top Pentagon Officials in Iraq Prisoner Abuse Scandal - 2004-08-24

A new report says the U.S. Defense Department's most senior civilian and military officials share a portion of the blame for the prisoner abuse scandal in Iraq. The finding was issued Tuesday by an independent panel.

At a Pentagon news conference former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger, the head of the four-person commission, said there was chaos at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

He characterized what occurred there as sadism on the night shift when U.S. military police took shocking and humiliating pictures and videos of detainees.

The panel blamed the conditions at the prison on a lack of proper supervision, training and sufficient personnel.

Another panel member, former Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, says at least partial responsibility must be taken by senior military and civilian officials at the Department of Defense.

"A degree of responsibility for failure to provide adequate resources to support the custodial and intelligence requirements throughout the theater and also for the confusion about permissible interrogation techniques, extends all the way up the chain of command to include the joint staff of the Joint Chiefs and to include the office of the Secretary of Defense," he said.

Commission members did not call on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld or top U.S. military officials to resign because of the abuse scandal.

Former congresswoman Tillie Fowler pointed out the panel found no Pentagon policy to abuse Iraqis being held in Abu Ghraib prison.

"We each feel strongly that we found no explicit U.S. government policy that called for the torture or inhumane treatment of detainees, but a series of failures across the Department of Defense, the Army and U.S. Central Command contributed to an atmosphere that allowed some of these abuses to occur," she added.

The report came at the same time criminal cases are being heard against six military police officers accused of abusing prisoners in Iraq.

Their defense attorneys have argued the soldiers were following orders from military intelligence officers and civilian contractors.

One soldier charged with abuse has pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to a year in prison.

During a hearing before the U.S. Congress in May, Secretary Rumsfeld took responsibility for what happened at Abu Ghraib and apologized to the Iraqis who were abused.