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Details of Army's abuse investigation surface

Pentagon source: Photos may show soldiers, Iraqi detainees

From Barbara Starr
CNN Washington Bureau


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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sources have revealed new details from the Army's criminal investigation into reports of abuse of Iraqi detainees, including the location of the suspected crimes and evidence that is being sought.

U.S. soldiers reportedly posed for photographs with partially unclothed Iraqi prisoners, a Pentagon official told CNN on Tuesday.

A second source confirmed that the Army's Criminal Investigation Division has focused on these pictures, which may depict male and female soldiers.

Investigators have not determined whether any photographs had been taken or had been seen by anyone, but several military police have been removed from duty until the matter is resolved, the source said.

In addition, a senior Pentagon official said the investigation is focused on Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, which had been notorious for torture of Iraqis during the regime of captured Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

"If it happened, it's criminal activity," the official said. It is not clear, he said, if there were witnesses to the alleged events.

The official also confirmed there are "credible reports" that there may be photographs of the alleged abuse.

The official said it is not believed that the reports indicate widespread criminal abuse, but that the "nature" of the reports have caused concern in the Pentagon and at U.S. Central Command.

"There is zero tolerance" for abuse, he said. "One case is one too many."

Prisoners held by the United States in Iraq are held in accordance with guidelines established by the Geneva Conventions.

Those guidelines include the right of dignity and to be kept from public ridicule.

One source indicated that taking pictures of the prisoners would be considered criminal activity unless it could be demonstrated they were taken for official reasons related to the processing and handling of detainees.

The Pentagon official said computer hard drives have been seized by the Criminal Investigation Division in its search for photographs and additional evidence of abuse.

The official underscored what others in the Pentagon and Baghdad have said in recent days, which is that the matter is considered serious.

The official that the Army is deeply concerned about possible problems of "poor discipline, poor leadership, and a need for re-training," in the military police community.

Several officials say they cannot come to any conclusion about the matter until the investigation is complete but reiterate that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, head of coalition forces in Iraq, is taking the matter seriously and is concerned.

The investigation has drawn attention in the military since it came to light January 16.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been briefed on the investigation, officials said.

Sanchez ordered the Army's Criminal Investigation Division to probe the matter as soon as he was told about the reports, sources said.

The official described Sanchez as "plunging in" when he learned of the matter.

The criminal investigations commander, Maj. Gen. Donald Ryder, also serves as the provost marshal general of the Army. That position makes him the most senior Army military police officer.

Ryder may have to investigate those police as part of the probe.

Ryder traveled to Baghdad late last year, according to aides, to review the treatment of detainees.


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