US officials ‘ignored warnings of abuse’

THE US Government is facing fresh claims that Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior officials ignored warnings about the abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

However, the US National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice denied assertions that she and other officials ignored such warnings about the Cuban naval base.

At the launch of his book Chain of Command: The Road From 9/11 to Abu Ghraib, New Yorker writer Seymour Hersh yesterday said senior military and national security officials received warnings from subordinates in 2002 and 2003 about mistreatment.

Mr Hersh, who uncovered the torture of prisoners at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison, said Ms Rice held meetings on the issue and it was brought to the attention of Mr Rumsfeld before it “disappeared”.

Ms Rice said that in 2002, the White House “was made aware that there were some concerns that people might have been held at Guantanamo who didn’t meet the definition of unlawful combatant”.

“There were also early on... some concerns about conditions of overcrowding. But nothing that suggested, to my recollection, that there were abuses going on at Guantanamo and certainly nothing that would suggest the kind of thing that went on in Abu Ghraib,” she said.

Ms Rice told CNN’s Late Edition that when the administration learned there might be people at Guantanamo who did not meet the standard of unlawful combatant: “We looked at the cases, put together a process to try and make sure that the right people were being held.”

Before the release of Chain of Command: The Road From 9/11 to Abu Ghraib, the Pentagon issued a statement about the book by Mr Hersh, who is credited with disclosing the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

“It appears that Mr Seymour Hersh’s upcoming book apparently contains many of the numerous unsubstantiated allegations and inaccuracies which he has made in the past based upon unnamed sources,” the Pentagon said.

However, extracts from the book printed in The Guardian newspaper allege that an officially “unacknowledged” programme to capture and interrogate “high value” suspects was eventually transferred wholesale from Guantanamo to the Abu Ghraib prison.

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