Abu Ghraib's message for the rank and file
Six lower-level enlistees have been punished, though Lynndie England's fate is unsettled.
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Moreover, a former high school psychologist who worked with England said that because of her physical disabilities, he wasn't sure she could in all cases distinguish right from wrong or refrain from peer pressure. The judge took issue with that testimony as well.Skip to next paragraph
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That may not provide new grounds for military courts-martials of superiors. But it may provide more grist for the Senate Armed Services Committee, which has held hearings and plans to hold more looking at the Pentagon's investigations into the abuses. It may also further embolden the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has doggedly pursued the release of government documents relating to the abuses and has tried to hold higher-level officials responsible for creating the atmosphere in which they took place.
According to one retired Army general, there are clear-cut rules for accountability in the military.
"The lowest level would be the military guards and intelligence officers in this case. They are held accountable for their personal actions," says the retired general, who asks that his name not be used because he still works for the Pentagon.
"The second level is supervisory - those people can be held responsible for not only things they've done, but for things they've failed to do.
"The third level is ... the ones who might create an environment that encourages, permits, or tolerates these kinds of activities," he says.
So far, of course, only those on the lowest level have been charged. But it is clear other groups - including the Senate Armed Services Committee and the ACLU - have more questions about the environment created by higher-ups in Iraq. The Senate panel is planning at least one more round of hearings to study the Pentagon's internal investigations.
"We're continuing to press very aggressively on getting disclosure of documents under the Freedom of Information Act, and we are pursuing four civil lawsuits," says Lucas Guttentag, lead counsel in the lawsuits and director of the Immigrants' Rights Project at the ACLU.
The ACLU filed four separate civil suits earlier this year, charging that four high-level officials should be held accountable for the abuses. Those include secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who at the time of the Abu Ghraib scandal oversaw US military operations in Iraq; Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who had direct responsibility for the military police at Abu Ghraib; and Col. Thomas Pappas, who oversaw military interrogations at Abu Ghraib. All four cases await pretrial hearings.
Meanwhile, the Army is rewriting its interrogations manual. The new rules of conduct are expected to ban the types of procedures that were used - and photographed - at Abu Ghraib. But many experts note that those practices were not permitted in the previous manual. In fact, during a congressional hearing last week, Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona sparred with Stephen Cambone, undersecretary of Defense for intelligence, over the new manual.
"So we didn't do anything wrong, but we won't do it again," McCain said.