April 23, 2005
WASHINGTON - Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, faulted by some for leadership failures in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, has been cleared by the Army of all allegations of wrongdoing and will not be punished, officials said.
Three officers who were among Sanchez's top deputies during the period of the prisoner abuse in the fall of 2003 also have been cleared. An Army Reserve one-star general has been reprimanded, and the outcome of seven other senior Army officer cases could not be learned Friday.
Sanchez, who became the senior U.S. commander in Iraq in June 2003, two months after the fall of Baghdad, has not been accused of criminal violations. It is unclear, however, whether the controversy surrounding his role in Iraq will stand in the way of his earning a fourth star. He is nearing the end of his tenure as commander of the Army's 5th Corps, based in Germany.
After assessing the allegations against Sanchez and taking sworn statements from 37 people, the Army's inspector general, Lt. Gen. Stanley E. Green, concluded that the allegations were unsubstantiated, according to officials familiar with the details of Green's probe.
Green reached the same conclusion in the cases of two generals and a colonel who worked on Sanchez's staff.
The officials who disclosed the findings spoke only on condition of anonymity because the results on Sanchez and 11 other officers who were the subject of Green's scrutiny have not yet been publicly released and Congress has not been fully briefed.
The question of accountability among senior Army and Defense Department officials who were in positions of responsibility on Iraq detention and interrogation policy has been hotly debated in Congress. Some Democrats accuse the Pentagon of foisting all the blame onto low-ranking soldiers.
In a statement issued Friday that did not mention Sanchez or other specific cases, Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that as soon as all Pentagon assessments of accountability are complete he will hold a committee hearing "to examine the adequacy of those reviews" and to hear senior civilian and military officials address the issue.
Warner, R-Va., said he strongly agrees with one investigation report that concluded last year that commanders should be held accountable for their action or inaction and that military as well as civilian leaders in the Pentagon "share this burden of responsibility."
The office of Michigan Sen. Carl Levin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, declined to comment on the matter.
Asked about public expectations of punishment for senior officers associated with Abu Ghraib, the Army's chief public affairs officer, Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, said the Army went to great lengths to make its investigations thorough and fair.
In addition to clearing Sanchez, the Army inspector general has determined that there should be no punishment given to Sanchez's former top deputy, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski; to Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, who was Sanchez's intelligence chief in Baghdad; or to Col. Mark Warren, Sanchez's top legal adviser at the time.
In an interview Friday, three senior defense officials associated with the Green investigations cited mitigating circumstances in the Sanchez case, including the fact that his organization in Iraq, known as Combined Joint Task Force 7, initially was short of the senior officers it required. They also cited the upsurge in insurgent violence shortly after Sanchez took command and the intense pressure the military faced in hunting down Saddam Hussein.
The three officials spoke on condition of anonymity.
A separate investigation by a panel headed for former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger concluded that Sanchez should have taken stronger action in November 2003 when he realized the extent of problems among the military intelligence and military police units running Abu Ghraib.
A subsequent Army investigation, made public last summer in what was called the Kern-Fay-Jones report, concluded that although Sanchez and his most senior deputies were not directly involved in the bases at Abu Ghraib, their "action and inaction did indirectly contribute" to some abuses.
Sanchez and Wojdakowski were cited in the Kern-Fay-Jones report for failure to "ensure proper staff oversight of detention and interrogation operations" in Iraq, specifically at the Abu Ghraib prison where Iraqi detainees were physically abused and sexually humiliated by military police and intelligence soldiers in fall 2003.