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What went wrong at Abu Ghraib

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Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, senior administration officials and legal experts have argued that terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda are not protected by international or US laws governing detainees held by US forces. Senior officials frequently argue that terrorist tactics earn them a lesser level of treatment.

"What kind of incentives would we send if we allow the full treatment under the Geneva Conventions to be extended to enemy combatants who deliberately and purposely violate them?" said deputy assistant secretary of defense Paul Butler in February, arguing the pacts did not apply to inmates at the US military detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, then commanded by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller.

Frustrated by restrictions on how much stress to place on detainees possessing potentially valuable information on terrorist networks, military intelligence officials in Guantanamo lobbied for and used harsher methods there in late 2002, according to senior Pentagon officials. After military lawyers raised objections, some methods were stopped and a working group devised a policy that got Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's OK in 2003.

Although Pentagon officials have recently stressed that the Geneva Conventions do apply in Iraq, they also acknowledge that they sent General Miller to Iraq in August 2003 and encouraged the transfer of interrogation methods from Guantanamo. This included using military guards to "set the conditions" for interrogation. In November, command of Abu Ghraib was shifted from the military police to Col. Thomas Pappas, who led the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade.

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