Thursday, August 04, 2005

Intelligence Oversight Violation

Gregory Djerejian, John Cole, and Rick Moran blogged extensively about this article in the Washington Post and this article by the Salt Lake Tribune. The article detailed the interrogation of Abed Hamed Mowhoush, a former Iraqi General. Here is an excerpt from the Post’s article.

When he didn't answer or provided an answer that they didn't like, at first [redacted] would slap Mowhoush, and then after a few slaps, it turned into punches," Ryan testified. "And then from punches, it turned into [redacted] using a piece of hose."

"The indig were hitting the detainee with fists, a club and a length of rubber hose," according to classified investigative records.

Soldiers heard Mowhoush "being beaten with a hard object" and heard him "screaming" from down the hall, according to the Jan. 18, 2004, provost marshal's report. The report said four Army guards had to carry Mowhoush back to his cell. (WAPO)

Mowhoush died two days later in the following interrogation session. I have written about interrogation techniques here, both the controversial ones and the uncontroversial ones. The incident described above –if happened - is clearly torture. There is absolutely no moral justification for the action. It deserves the strongest condemnation. It was only seven days into the detainment that the beating began. What’s a bunch of impatient buffoons!

What I find most disturbing about the alleged incident is that it is not clear that the interrogation was being done by interrogator, and certainly not trained and qualified interrogator. There are too many amateurs in the story. It mentioned interrogation being done by ODA (Operation Detachment Alpha).

When Army efforts produced nothing useful, detainees would be handed over to members of Operational Detachment Alpha 531, soldiers with the 5th Special Forces Group, the CIA or a combination of the three. "The personnel were dressed in civilian clothes and wore balaclavas to hide their identity," according to a Jan. 18, 2004, report for the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division (WAPO)

The Post refers to “a combination of the three.” They are mistaken. There are only two; ODA and Special Forces Group is the same thing. But Special Forces soldiers are not trained and qualified interrogator. And I cannot speak to the qualification of the CIA in relation to interrogation. It was the interrogation session by either ODA or CIA (the Post is extremely unclear on the entity) that the alleged beating and torture occurred (November 24th).

There is a thing known as “Intelligence Oversight.” It is a Law. In short, it regulates intelligence collection activities by the US armed force. Not only does it prescribe the allowable and forbidden activities. It also explicitly states who can do what. In the matter of interrogation, only trained and qualified interrogator can conduct interrogation – not any garden variety Military Intelligence personnel. Outside of the CIA, it is not clear if any of the Army personnel involved in the death of Abed Hamed Mowhoush are qualified interrogators. The article mentions two days later, Warrant Officer Lewis E. Welshofer Jr. conducted another interrogation. We do not know if WO Welshofer is an interrogator, the article did not mention his MOS. But we know that other whose were involved are not. SPC Jerry L. Loper is a mechanic. SFC William Sommer is a linguist. And Warrant Officer Jeff William is an intelligence analyst. Where are the interrogators?

Intelligence Oversight also delineates clearly chain of command and authority concerning interrogation. Interrogators have separate and distinct chain of command from the maneuver units they attach to. They do not report to the field commander.

Intelligence Oversight was in violation in this case. At the preliminaries hearing:

Col. David A. Teeples, who then commanded the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, told the court he believed the "claustrophobic technique" was both approved and effective. It was used before, and for some time after, Mowhoush's death, according to sources familiar with the interrogation operation. (WAPO)

Colonel Teeples simply does not have the credential or the expertise to determine what are approved or what are effective. And by law, he is not allowed to make that kind of judgment or influence the interrogation process in any way. Colonel Teeples simply exceeded his authority and may have violated Intelligence Oversight Law. Furthermore, the defendant for WO William stated that,

"The interrogation techniques were known and were approved of by the upper echelons of command of the 3rd ACR," Cassara [the attorney] said in a news conference. "They believed, and still do, that they were appropriate and proper." (WAPO)

Let be clear. No one within the 3rd ACR chain of command has the authority to approve or authorize interrogation techniques. The only person who has the authority is the G2X, an officer at the divisional level who is in charge of all HUMINT activities which include interrogation. If anyone else within 3rd ACR chain of command approved any techniques, they are in clear violation of Intelligence Oversight.

The Salt Lake Tribune also mentions Intelligence Oversight violation. A Utah National Guard soldier who is a witness to the case reports.

Later, when he learned that unqualified soldiers were conducting interrogations, Pratt again logged a compliant. In response, he testified, he was investigated - and told by other soldiers it was for blackmail purposes.

Intelligence Oversight is a serious matter. For the same reason one would not want an unqualified medic to work on the wounded, one does not want an unqualified interrogator to conduct an interrogation. On both the Abu Ghraib scandal and this scandal, one similarity emerges – unqualified and untrained personnel with little supervision, or under supervision of equally unqualified and untrained personnel.

Colonel Teeples and the accomplices in his staffs deserve to be tried for violation of Intelligence Oversight. If the colonel does not understand the important of the law, does not care, or the combination of both; he does not belong in the position that he is currently in. He does far more harm than good. The Pentagon is not blameless either because of their weak enforcement on Intelligence Oversight. Furthermore, they create an environment that such violation is inevitable. With the chronic shortage of interrogators, as well as Military Polices, commanders are forced to use unqualified and untrained personnel to fill critical positions. This condition existed throughout the chain of command from top to bottom. Such a shortage existed long before we went to Iraq, yet Secretary Rumsfeld did absolutely nothing to remedy the situation. He fought with Congress when Congress want to increase the Army authorized strength. We are going to war with the army we have instead of the army we want because the Sec. Def. lack the foresight to see the obvious problem.

For those moral cretins who will say that I am too concern about a terrorist, a Ba’athist, and Saddam henchman. Mowhoush may be all those things. He is more likely than not an important terrorist leader. And being a key leadership of the insurgency, he has vast amount of information on the insurgency that could have saved lives – American and Iraqis. But now the information died with him because some unqualified idiots decide to play interrogators. Detainees like Mowhoush are gold mine to be exploited. This is an intelligence war and a large part of our current information comes from detainees. With some patience, a skilled interrogator can get a lot out of Mowhoush – cooperative or not. The information would have saved some lives and deal a serious blow to the terrorist networks. Explain that to the next fallen Marine because we let Mowhoush die.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Minh-Duc, thank you for this post...I think you are right on and your insights on interrogations are very enlightening. Assuming everything the WaPo article says is true, there should be some folks up the chain and down getting punished for this. I agree with you that it is vital that the military needs to police itself with regard to overreach in interrogations and hopefully we will see this over the coming weeks/months w/r/t this case. I thought, like you did after I read the article that it was a big mistake to kill such a high-ranking and influential guy who with some good interrogation over time might have been able to provide good intel, especially considering his location near to Syria. And just for the record, I 100% support this war and am myself a veteran of 8 years as a Naval Officer, married to an active duty officer.

8:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent analysis of the specific problem mentioned in the WaPo article - one of not following military law and procedure.

The conclusion I came to in my piece was based on reports from many, many detention centers where in addition to "qualified" interrogators, the CIA, private contractors, Iraqi interrogators, and Special Forces all participated in conduct that can only be described as extreme physical violence against a subject.

It's also clear that the guidelines set out to interrogate these prisoners was to blame in that there appears to be too many grey areas and not enough specificity in what is allowed and what isn't.

Even though the military has been investigating these charges, what bothers me is that I have little faith that they'll be able to address all the problems that are occurring. I also believe that only an independent commission of some sort can get to the bottom of this.

Rick Moran

8:01 AM  
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