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Context of 'June 25, 2004: DIA Officers Witness Severe Abuse of Detainees'

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In October 2001, the Pentagon establishes what is later known as the Strategic Support Branch (SSB), or Project Icon, to provide Rumsfeld with tools for “full spectrum of humint [human intelligence] operations” in “emerging target countries such as Somalia, Yemen, Indonesia, Philippines and Georgia.” It become functional in April 2002. It is said that Rumsfeld hopes the program will end his “near total dependence on CIA.” According to Assistant Secretary of Defense Thomas O’Connell, a possible scenario for which the Strategic Support Branch might be called to action would be if a “hostile country close to our borders suddenly changes leadership… We would want to make sure the successor is not hostile.” When SBB’s existence is revealed in early 2005 (see January 23, 2005), the Pentagon denies that the program was established to sideline the CIA, insisting that its sole purpose is to provide field operational units with intelligence obtained through prisoner interrogations, scouting and foreign spies, and from other units in the field. (Starr 1/24/2005; White and Gellman 1/25/2005) As an arm of the Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA) Defense Human Intelligence Service, SSB operates under the Defense Secretary’s direct control and consists of small teams of case officers, linguists, interrogators and technical specialists who work alongside special operations forces. (Gellman 1/23/2005) However some SBB members are reported to be “out-of-shape men in their fifties and recent college graduates on their first assignments,” according to sources interviewed by the Washington Post. (Gellman 1/23/2005) When the SSB’s existence is revealed in 2005, its commander is Army Col. George Waldroup, who reports to Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). SSB’s policies are determined by Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone. (Starr 1/24/2005) Critics say Waldroup lacks the necessary experience to run SSB and note that he was once investigated by Congress when he was a mid-level manager at the INS. SSB includes two Army squadrons of Delta Force; another Army squadron, code-named Gray Fox; an Air Force human intelligence unit; and the Navy SEAL unit known as Team Six. According to sources interviewed by the Washington Post, the branch is funded using “reprogrammed” funds that do not have explicit congressional authority or appropriation. (Gellman 1/23/2005) However, this will be denied by the Pentagon when the unit’s existence is revealed. (Starr 1/24/2005)

In a two-page “info memo,” Vice Adm. Lowell E. Jacoby, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), reports to Stephen A. Cambone, under secretary of Defense for Intelligence, an incident involving abuse in Iraq that happened after the Abu Ghraib photographs were publicly revealed. The day before, Jacoby received a report from two members of his agency, describing mistreatment of detainees by Task Force (TF) 6-26, the successor to TF-121, and composed of members of Special Forces units. Earlier that month, two members of the DIA observed that prisoners were brought into the “Temporary Detention Facility in Baghdad” who had burn marks on their backs and bruises and complained of pain in their kidneys. One of the DIA officials then witnessed an interrogator from TF-6-26 “punch a prisoner in the face to the point the individual needed medical attention.” When this intelligence official subsequently took pictures of the victim, the photos were confiscated. When the two intelligence personnel objected to the treatment, they were threatened and told to keep quiet. The keys to their vehicles were confiscated and they were instructed “not to leave the compound without specific permission, even to get a haircut.” They were told their e-mail messages would be screened. Their witnessing had apparently been a mistake on the part of the Special Forces soldiers. The two witnesses nevertheless persevered in reporting the incident to their superiors and their account found its way to Adm. Jacoby. (Lewis 12/8/2004; Gellman and Smith 12/8/2004) The Pentagon will report on December 8, 2004 that four members of the Task Force were disciplined in connection with this incident and reassigned to other duties. (Goldenberg 12/9/2004)

Responding to questions about a June 25 memo (see June 25, 2004) to Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen A. Cambone revealing prisoner abuse by clandestine Task Force 6-26, Lt. Col. John A. Skinner, a Pentagon spokesman, says, “There have been more than 50,000 detainees and only around 300 or so allegations of abuse,” many of which “turn out to be unsubstantiated once investigated.” (Gellman and Smith 12/8/2004)

Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the agency believes Iran will probably have the capability to produce a nuclear weapon “early in the next decade.” (Scarborough 2/21/2005; US Congress. Senate Armed Services Committee 3/17/2005)


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