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Rumsfeld admits secret detentions { June 18 2004 }

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Rumsfeld admits secret detentions
Friday, June 18, 2004

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted yesterday that he ordered the secret detention of at least two prisoners captured in Iraq so they could be interrogated by the Central Intelligence Agency, a move that some legal experts say may have violated the Geneva Conventions.

The Geneva Conventions, which outline proper treatment of prisoners of war, forbid holding prisoners incommunicado and require that their identities be registered with the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Rumsfeld said CIA Director George Tenet asked him to hold a member of the Islamic militant group Ansar al Islam without notifying the Red Cross.

"We were asked not to immediately register the individual and we did that," Rumsfeld said. He refused to explain why the prisoner wasn't identified to anyone for more than seven months.

He said he remembered one other similar detention and that officials were investigating to determine whether there were more.

"It is clearly conduct in violation of international law," said Deborah Pearlstein, the director of the U.S. Law and Security Program of Human Rights First, a New York-based advocacy group formerly known as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights.

A report written by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba denounced the Pentagon's practice of holding "ghost detainees."

Yesterday, Rumsfeld insisted the prisoner he had accepted from Tenet was not a "ghost detainee" and he asserted the prisoner "has been treated humanely."

According to news reports, the prisoner was taken into custody by Kurdish fighters last summer and turned over to the CIA for questioning outside of Iraq. Tenet made his request to Rumsfeld, in writing, in October, after CIA lawyers advised that the prisoner be returned to Iraq.

Rumsfeld denied news accounts that the prisoner had gotten "lost in the system" after he was detained at Camp Cropper, at the Baghdad airport. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that the CIA sought to question the prisoner in January but that military prison officials couldn't find him.

In a sworn statement to Army investigators obtained by USA Today, Army Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, the top military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib when abuses occurred, said he was under intense pressure from the White House, Pentagon and CIA last fall to get better information from detainees. He also said he had worked out a procedure with CIA interrogators to hide five or six inmates from Red Cross inspectors in October, the newspaper reported today.

Jordan's statement said he was reminded of the need to improve intelligence "many, many, many times" and the pressure included a visit to the prison by an aide to White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, the paper reported.

To rebut Jordan's account, the White House arranged an interview with White House homeland security adviser Fran Townsend before -- but in anticipation of -- the newspaper's publication. Townsend, who last fall was Rice's deputy for combating terrorism, told the Associated Press she visited Abu Ghraib and even walked through a cellblock but "we never discussed interrogation. We never discussed interrogation techniques. That wasn't the focus."

"I did not go there to pressure them to do anything they weren't doing," Townsend added. "I really wanted to understand how they were taking the information they had and what they were doing with it so that I could ... think through how we could make that dissemination of information most effective."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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