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ACLU: Records show Marines tortured Iraqi prisoners

Offenders have been punished, Pentagon says

• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
Justice and Rights

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The abuse of naked Iraqi prisoners received the bulk of publicity, but those incidents were just some of many clandestine occurrences in which detainees endured shock, burns and mock executions, newly released Pentagon records reveal.

In response to a Freedom of Information request from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Defense Department turned over documents that detail torture U.S. Marines inflicted on Iraqis during interrogations.

A Defense Department spokesman said military justice officials were not trying to keep the cases secret, but to quickly investigate the charges.

The Reuters news agency reported that one file contains specifics about 10 "substantiated" acts of abuse that involved 24 Marines and date back to May 2003. Thirteen of the Marines, after their convictions, received prison sentences up to 15 months.

The ACLU has posted many of the documents on its Web site. ACLU staff attorney Amrit Singh said the specifics about the abuse indicate the misdeeds "did not appear to come from a few bad apples."

"This material reveals that the abuses that took place were widespread and systemic and operated within a culture of secrecy," he said.

Not requested, not disclosed

Among those records was an e-mail from a Navy criminal investigator dated June 14, Reuters reported. It read: "... caseload is exploding, high visibility cases are on the rise."

Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU lawyer, told Reuters that "the Defense Department has insisted from the outset that abuse, to the extent that it occurs at all, is aberrational. I think we now have overwhelming evidence that that's not true, but that abuse was widespread and that it was systemic in the sense that it was the result of policies adopted by the Defense Department."

Defense Department spokesman Larry DiRita said the department is being efficient, not secretive. The cases the ACLU cited, he said, were adjudicated and demonstrated the military resolves issues quickly. He said there is a difference between hiding information and releasing it only upon request.

"In many cases, we are holding people accountable, prior to people even knowing that there was a case," DiRita said. "And that's not anybody's fault. That's just the way the military justice system operates."

Air Force Lt. Col. John Skinner, a Pentagon spokesman, told Reuters, "We've never denied that misconduct sometimes occurs. But in all instances, we thoroughly investigate cases to determine the facts and hold responsible individuals accountable."

Burned and shocked

A June 16 document listed 26 unknown abuse incidents, 10 of which were unsubstantiated, Reuters reported.

One of the substantiated events involved Marines placing live electrical wires on a detainee's shoulder and the man dancing as he received jolts, Reuters reported. Four Marines received prison sentences ranging from 2 months to 15 months for convictions of assault, cruelty and false statements, Reuters reported.

Reuters also reported that in June and July of 2003, Marine forced four juvenile looters to kneel next to shallow holes and then fired pistols in a mock executions. The Marines also locked looters in abandoned tanks and sprayed them with a fire extinguisher.

Another detainee received second-degree burns on his hands after a Marine at an Al Mumudiyah base put an alcohol-based cleaner on the Iraqis hands and then struck a match, Reuters reported. The Marine got a 90-day sentence for that incident.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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