October 9, 2004

Inmates Were Reportedly Kept Off Books to Speed Transfer


New York Times

WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 - The actions of the Central Intelligence Agency in keeping inmates at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq off official rosters appeared to have been intended to speed their transfer to sites outside Iraq, where they would not be protected by the Geneva Conventions, the former commander of the joint interrogation center at the prison has told Army investigators.

The allegation by Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, in testimony in February, was included in hundreds of pages of secret documents released Friday by the Center for Public Integrity. Colonel Jordan said the approach had been authorized under an unwritten agreement between the C.I.A. and Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the top military intelligence officer at the prison. The center said it had obtained the documents from a journalist, Osha Gray Davidson, a contributor to Rolling Stone magazine.

Two Army generals told Congress last month that at the C.I.A.'s request, Army jailers had failed to register dozens of detainees at Abu Ghraib in order to hide them from Red Cross inspectors. But Colonel Jordan said in his testimony that the C.I.A.'s purpose had been to avoid anything that might have slowed moving them.

"They would not put them in the regular detainee process where you get fingerprinted, cause once a detainee did that, you're kinda in there three to six to eight months," Colonel Jordan said in his testimony, in Camp Doha, Kuwait, on Feb. 21.

He went on to use an abbreviation for "other government agency," a term used in military circles to refer to the C.I.A.: "The O.G.A. folks wanted to be able to pull somebody in 24, 48, 72 hours if they had to get 'em to Gitmo, do what have you."

In the past, American officials have insisted that no prisoners from Iraq were ever transferred to the American detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which is known as Gitmo. They have acknowledged two cases in which prisoners captured were transferred out of Iraq and then returned, but they have declined to comment on whether there might have been others.

The United States has said all prisoners captured in Iraq were covered under the Geneva Conventions. Prisoners held by the United States in Guantánamo and some other facilities, including those in Afghanistan and some secret locations, have not been granted the same protection.

A C.I.A. spokesman would not comment on Colonel Jordan's remarks, and a lawyer for Colonel Jordan also declined comment.

Colonel Jordan, an Army reservist, is among the military intelligence officers identified by Army investigators as sharing in responsibility for the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

An Army report by Gen. Paul J. Kern and others criticized Colonel Pappas in particular for failing to challenge the C.I.A. practice of keeping detainees off the books.

In 185 pages of testimony, Colonel Jordan also referred to the death at Abu Ghraib of an unregistered detainee who had been brought to the prison by C.I.A. officers. Colonel Jordan said he reminded Colonel Pappas at the time that it would have been better to have a written agreement with the C.I.A. about the handling of such prisoners, and he said the colonel had responded: "Well, if I go down, I'm not going down alone. The guys from Langley are going down with me."

The prisoner had been hit in the head by members of the Navy Seal team that captured him; four Navy personnel have been charged in his death. A C.I.A. inspector general is reviewing that case and others, as part of several reviews of the agency's interrogation practices in Iraq, including the handling of so-called ghost detainees, C.I.A. officials say.