Friday, April 11, 2008

Pentagon Delays Report on FBI Role in Detainee Abuse

Pentagon Delays Report on FBI Role in Detainee Abuse

By Marisa Taylor

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Washington - The release of a report on the FBI's role in the interrogations of prisoners in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and Iraq has been delayed for months because the Pentagon is reviewing how much of it should remain classified, according to the Justice Department's watchdog.

Glenn Fine, the Justice Department's inspector general, told McClatchy that his office has pressed the Defense Department to finish its review, but officials there haven't completed the process "in a timely fashion."

"Why that happened, I don't know," Fine said in an interview this week.

"It's been slower than we would like, and it's taken a long time. We provided our report to them months ago, and we are pushing hard to conclude this process."

Fine is investigating whether FBI employees participated in detainee abuse, whether they witnessed or reported incidents of abuse, and how such reports were handled by the bureau.

Fine launched his investigation into the FBI's role in the interrogations in early 2005 amid disclosures that FBI agents had witnessed and complained about harsh interrogation practices of detainees, including seeing Guantanamo Bay detainees who had defecated and urinated on themselves and who had been chained on the floor for more than 24 hours without food or water in more than 100 degree temperatures.

Government agencies that provide information during inspector generals' investigations are routinely asked to review drafts of reports for accuracy and to determine what information in the reports should remain classified.

Fine said the Pentagon now appears to be moving on his request.

"My sense is they are working hard on it now, and I believe we're going to reach a resolution one way or another in the not-too-distant future," he said.

The Defense Department didn't immediately respond to questions about the delay.

Fine's comments are a rare critique of a government agency's handling of one of his inquiries. His office has conducted a series of probes of the administration's anti-terrorism tactics, but since he took office, Fine has taken pains to appear impartial and never speaks publicly about the contents of a report before its release.

The delays come as the Bush administration is under fire for its legal justifications of harsh interrogation practices, which critics say equated to an endorsement of torture prohibited by U.S. and international laws.

The allegations that FBI agents witnessed the abuse of prisoners were outlined in internal government documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union as part of a Freedom of Information lawsuit. The documents raised questions about whether the bureau's top officials did enough to investigate allegations of detainee abuse by military interrogators and whether military interrogators were impersonating FBI agents to avoid liability against allegations of torture.

Fine has no jurisdiction to investigate the actions of employees of the Defense Department, which has its own inspector general. Fine said his office hasn't encountered similar problems with the FBI.

"There are issues we are working through regarding the FBI's comments, but not to the same extent as the delay from the Department of Defense," he said.

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