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Washington foresees prisoner abuse probe

By Adam Entous

12/21/04: WASHINGTON (Reuters)
- The White House says it expects a full investigation of prisoner abuses in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after new FBI memos described detainees facing beatings and having lit cigarettes placed in their ears.

"If there is abuse that occurs, we expect it to be investigated fully and people to be held accountable, and measures taken to make sure that it doesn't happen again," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

He said the Defence Department was investigating "a number of allegations that have been made," and added: "We expect them to get to the bottom of it."

The White House was responding to newly released FBI emails that reported some military interrogators, posing as FBI agents to avoid being held accountable, used torture techniques. One told of an interrogation at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in which a detainee was wrapped in an Israeli flag and bombarded with loud music and strobe lights.

The emails also described detainees at Guantanamo being shackled hand and foot in a foetal position on the floor. They were kept in that position for 18 to 24 hours at a time and most had urinated or defecated on themselves.

On one occasion, an FBI agent reported having seen a detainee left in an unventilated, non-air conditioned room at temperatures probably well over 100 degrees (38 degrees Celsius). "The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night," the agent noted.

The memos covered a two-year period that ended in August, well after a scandal erupted in April about abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. Photographs from Abu Ghraib, showing U.S. soldiers taunting and humiliating naked prisoners, sparked worldwide condemnation.

The Bush administration has also been accused of abusing prisoners in Afghanistan. A number of military personnel have been charged.

The FBI memos were made public on Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained them under the Freedom of Information Act.

One heavily redacted June 25 FBI memo, titled "URGENT REPORT" to the FBI director, provided details from someone "who observed serious physical abuses of civilian detainees" in Iraq.

"He described that such abuses included strangulation, beatings, placement of lit cigarettes into the detainees ear openings, and unauthorised interrogations," the document stated. The memo also mentioned "cover-up of these abuses."

Copyright: Reuters

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