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Sunday, January 16, 2005

U.S. Conducting Secret Missions Inside Iran-Report

One former high-level intelligence official told The New Yorker, "This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign."

The United States has been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran to help identify potential nuclear, chemical and missile targets, The New Yorker magazine reported on Sunday.

The article, by award-winning reporter Seymour Hersh, said the secret missions have been going on at least since last summer with the goal of identifying target information for three dozen or more suspected sites.

Hersh quotes one government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon as saying, "The civilians in the Pentagon want to go into Iran and destroy as much of the military infrastructure as possible."

One former high-level intelligence official told The New Yorker, "This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we're going to have the Iranian campaign."

The White House said Iran is a concern and a threat that needs to be taken seriously. But it disputed the report by Hersh, who last year exposed the extent of prisoner abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

"We obviously have a concern about Iran. The whole world has a concern about Iran," Dan Bartlett, a top aide to President George W. Bush, told CNN's "Late Edition."

Of The New Yorker report, he said: "I think it's riddled with inaccuracies, and I don't believe that some of the conclusions he's drawing are based on fact."

Bartlett said the administration "will continue to work through the diplomatic initiatives" to convince Iran -- which Bush once called part of an "axis of evil" -- not to pursue nuclear weapons.

"No president, at any juncture in history, has ever taken military options off the table," Bartlett added. "But what President Bush has shown is that he believes we can emphasize the diplomatic initiatives that are underway right now."


Bush has warned Iran in recent weeks against meddling in Iraqi elections.

The former intelligence official told Hersh that an American commando task force in South Asia is working closely with a group of Pakistani scientists who had dealt with their Iranian counterparts.

The New Yorker reports that this task force, aided by information from Pakistan, has been penetrating into eastern Iran in a hunt for underground nuclear-weapons installations.

In exchange for this cooperation, the official told Hersh, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has received assurances that his government will not have to turn over Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, to face questioning about his role in selling nuclear secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea.

Hersh reported that Bush has already "signed a series of top-secret findings and executive orders authorizing secret commando groups and other Special Forces units to conduct covert operations against suspected terrorist targets in as many as 10 nations in the Middle East and South Asia."

Defining these as military rather than intelligence operations, Hersh reported, will enable the Bush administration to evade legal restrictions imposed on the CIA's covert activities overseas.

16 Jan 2005 17:27:39 GMT
Source: Reuters
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Higher Officials Unlikely to Be Tried

There has been little indication that the White House plans to hold top civilian officials in the Defense Department responsible for abuses at the prison.

WASHINGTON - The jail term meted out to Army Spc. Charles A. Graner Jr. for abuses at Abu Ghraib prison may prove to be the stiffest criminal punishment that emerges from the entire scandal, according to experts on military justice.

To some, the low-level Army reservist may look like the fall guy in a debacle that embarrassed the United States throughout the world and tainted the image of American forces in Iraq. Yet analysts said that for now, at least, it was doubtful that higher-level officials would be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of criminal wrongdoing at the Iraqi prison where Graner ran a notorious, late-night guard shift.

"This is the guy that it seems easiest for us to blame," said Beth Hillman, a specialist on military justice at Rutgers University School of Law in Camden, N.J., of the low-level reservist who was sentenced to 10 years in prison. "That doesn't mean there aren't other people who should pay a price for their role in making this possible."

The question of responsibility for sadistic behavior at Abu Ghraib leads to murky distinctions between foot soldiers such as Graner, who committed the abuses, and senior officials who failed to prevent them and denied specific knowledge.

More broadly, some point out, the crimes at Abu Ghraib occurred as U.S. policy became increasingly tolerant of rough interrogation practices that were previously forbidden. Approved practices, such as forcing detainees to wear hoods or creating extreme physical discomfort - though controversial - did not include the sexual humiliation and other tactics captured in photographs.

"I've seen no convincing evidence that higher-ups authorized the forms of abuse that made Abu Ghraib the story it is," said Peter D. Feaver, a political scientist at Duke University and author of "Armed Servants: Agency, Oversight and Civil-Military Relations."

"That doesn't mean there aren't failures up the chain of command," he said.

To be sure, the saga continues to unfold, and it is too soon to predict with certainty where ongoing investigations might lead and who might face future punishment. The Justice Department recently began investigating FBI reports of abusive interrogations by the military of prisoners at the naval facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Iraq.

Brig. Gen. Richard Formica, meanwhile, has been conducting a Pentagon investigation of abuse of prisoners by U.S. Special Forces in Iraq. Three other soldiers at Abu Ghraib - including Pfc. Lynndie R. England who was photographed holding an Iraqi prisoner on a leash - have yet to face court-martial proceedings.

Another four have pleaded guilty and been sentenced for crimes at Abu Ghraib.

Although the United States has little tradition of holding senior commanders criminally accountable for abuses committed by their subordinates, one example involved an enemy general.

U.S. officials charged Japanese Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita with failing in his duty as a commander to prevent atrocities committed by Japanese troops in the Philippines in 1944 and 1945. Yamashita was executed in 1946.

"It was never clear - at least in my mind - that Yamashita ordered the things that went wrong," Hillman said Saturday.

In the case of Abu Ghraib, some observers say that the acts for which Graner and other soldiers are being held accountable should be understood in the context of broader U.S. policy directives. Starting in Afghanistan, American officials established new rules for interrogation designed to soften up prisoners more harshly than in the past.

The approach continued at Guantanamo Bay, where for example, the use of intimidating guard dogs was among approved procedures.

In August 2004, a report by an independent panel headed by former Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger found that such practices "migrated" to Iraq. While finding institutional and personal responsibility "at higher levels," the report stopped short of accusing top military and civilian leaders of condoning the abuses committed by Graner and others.

There has been little indication that the White House plans to hold top civilian officials in the Defense Department responsible for abuses at the prison.

"Stuff like this doesn't happen in a prison in Iraq out of the blue," said Kevin J. Barry, a retired military judge and co-founder of the National Institute of Military Justice. "Surely, you can throw Graner in jail. But it would be a horrible injustice if Graner goes to jail for a long period of time and nobody higher than him is ever held accountable."

In an attempt to ease his sentence, Graner on Saturday sought to make a similar point, noting that military intelligence officials had been given authority over Abu Ghraib and arguing that he was abiding by their instructions.

"If [military intelligence] asks you to do this, it needs to be done," he said during the sentencing hearing at Ft. Hood, Texas. "They're in charge. Follow their orders."

Although the low-level guards so far have faced the brunt of criminal charges, higher-level officials may be paying a less severe, if personally painful, price.

For example, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, whose responsibilities included detention facilities in Iraq, was cruising toward a prestigious fourth star until revelations about Abu Ghraib stalled his rise and jeopardized any future promotion.

"The military has various ways to punish people," said Eugene R. Fidell, a Washington lawyer and expert on military justice. It may be different for a senior officer than for a junior one. "An admiral or general may be forced into retirement or lose a pay grade," he said.

To many, such an allocation of justice may seem less than satisfying. But given the high burden of proof for criminal convictions, it may be what is in store.

"Are we asking the system to undo the public relations disaster of Abu Ghraib? That can't happen," Feaver said. "But we can ask the system to demonstrate that when U.S. soldiers misbehave there are consequences. That goal is achievable."

Jonathan Peterson
The Los Angeles Times
Sunday 16 January 2005

"The Tent of Occupation"

Fallujah's Refugees Won't Return Home, Won't Vote

They live beneath old fly-blown tents in the car-park of the Mustafa mosque and their canvas-roofed kitchen stands next to a pool of raw sewage, but the refugees from Fallujah will not return home.

First, because many have no homes to go to; second, because they are - with the encouragement of local clerics - listing a series of demands that include the withdrawal of all American soldiers from the city, the maintenance of security by Fallujans themselves, massive compensation payments and the return of money and valuables which those who have just visited Fallujah say were stolen by American troops.

And they are very definitely not going to vote in the 30 January elections. Squatting on the floor of his concrete-walled office in his black robes to eat a lunch of chicken and rice, Sheikh Hussein - he pleads with me not to print his family name - insists that his people are not against elections.

"We are not rejecting this election for the sake of it," he says. "We are rejecting it because it is the 'tent' of the occupation. It is the vehicle for the Americans to ensure that [interim President Iyad] Allawi gets back in. And we are still under occupation."

A bearded and bespectacled academic is sitting beside the sheikh, Dr Abdul-Kader of the department of Islamic Science at Baghdad University, who gravely reminds me of the civilian dead of Fallujah. "There were hundreds," he says. "We found bodies in homes and graves in the gardens of homes."

The sheikh's closest relatives live in Fallujah; his own Sunni mosque lies at the centre of the camp in Baghdad where 925 of Fallujah's 200,000 refugees are living. But he says he has travelled twice to his family's homes and tells a disturbing story of what he found. "The first time I visited after the Americans occupied the city, our main house was standing. It had survived. All the things inside, beds, furniture, rugs, were safe. But when I went back a week later, it had been destroyed. Many other houses were in the same state.

"They survived the American-resistance battles intact but were then destroyed afterwards. Why? People there told me they saw movie cameras and that the Americans fired shells into the empty houses and that they were making some kind of film."

Tales of American theft in Iraqi cities are not new. Amnesty International has listed numerous incidents in which US troops took money from homes or from the clothes of arrested men. The US authorities acknowledged one case of large-scale pilfering by a young American officer south of Baghdad in 2003 but said that he had been moved out of Iraq and would be "too difficult" to trace.

The stories of looting in Fallujah are only adding to the refugees' sense of grievance. And to the over-enthusiastic demands for compensation. "We will settle for $5bn (£2.7bn) to $10bn," Sheikh Hussein says. "This is for the destruction in Fallujah, the shedding of blood and the killing of innocents; history will write of this. The Americans started off by killing native Americans and still they kill people they look down on." Everyone in the room, including a student of computer sciences from Fallujah who has so far listened in total silence, vigorously nod their heads.

"One day," the sheikh continues, "I was stopped and taken to an American base and questioned by the CIA, and they said, 'You are a religious man and we want advice'. I said, 'What I want to tell you is not to enter the cities because the people are waiting for a chance to attack you. They will make you suffer in different ways. Pull out your troops to the deserts, far away from the gunfire of the resistance, though that stretches a long way'. But they were very, very stupid. They didn't take the chance to go out. They stayed to force us to have elections so they could get out and leave their agents in power. I say this; the American troops will retreat suddenly, or they will find themselves prisoners inside the trap of Iraq.

"You know, you Westerners laugh at us Easterners, especially when we say, 'If Allah wills'. But the Prophet - peace be upon him - once said that the Iraqis would be scourged, that they would not receive a single dirham or a grain of rice in the hand, and this happened in the economic embargo of the 1990s.

"Then America came here after 9 April, 2003, with all its power and soldiers, so proud of getting rid of Saddam Hussein. But now the morale of these soldiers is rotting each day. They have psychological problems. My advice to them is to leave. They have a choice to make: they must leave or they will be forced out."

Fighting continues each night in Fallujah despite American claims of victory and to be "breaking the back" of the insurgency. As the sheikh puts it, not without some humour: "The Americans move in the streets during the day from 6am to 6pm but they do not move when the muqawama (resistance) imposes its own curfew on them between 6pm and 6am."

Outside in the windy car-park, the tents flap and the refugees queue to take soup from a 4ft-deep cauldron of yellow, scummy soup. Bags of dates have broken open and spilled on to the concrete.

It is Fallujah in miniature. Twenty teachers from the city are now running a camp school for 120 children. Doctors see patients in the sheikh's private home. A great-grandfather in the camp says he cannot go back to his city while the Americans are there. And when I ask him if he will vote, he laughs at me. "The Americans must leave Fallujah unconditionally," the sheikh says. "They have done too much harm there to be accepted."

I suggest that Fallujah's troubles started the day the 82nd Airborne killed 18 protesters outside a local school just after the fall of Baghdad in 2003. Dr Abdul-Kader admonishes me. "It started even before that," he says. "Fallujah people suffered under Saddam and they liberated their own city. They did not do so to live under occupation."

The Independent