The report, issued by a commission appointed by Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, briefed him on its findings and recommendations before a Pentagon news conference on Tuesday.

"There was indirect responsibility at higher levels in that the weaknesses at Abu Ghraib were well known and that corrective action could have been taken and should have been taken," said former secretary of defence James Schlesinger, who headed the commission.

The report cited the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the military command in Iraq for leadership failures that resulted in naked detainees being abused and humiliated.

"The abuses were not just the failure of some individuals to follow known standards, and they are more than the failure of a few leaders to enforce proper discipline," the report said.

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"The abuses were not just the failure of some individuals to follow known standards, and they are more than the failure of a few leaders to enforce proper discipline" 

Commission's report

Schlesinger also described Abu Ghraib as an "animal house" where the abuse was "sadistic".

The army report, initially headed by Major-General George Fay, said at least two dozen lower-ranking military intelligence soldiers as well as civilian contractors employed by the military were responsible for the abuses which were depicted in dehumanising photographs and videos taken by US soldiers.

It also criticises Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez who was the top US commander in Iraq when the abuse occurred between October and December last year.

Sanchez was criticised "for not paying close enough attention to worsening conditions at Abu Ghraib, [and of] delegating oversight of prison operations to subordinates".

Critics slam whitewash 

But rights groups said the panel's investigation did not go far enough.

Rights groups have said the report
did not address Rumsfeld's role

"They're talking about passive management failures when they should be talking about who in the Pentagon and the military command ordered, approved, or tolerated the torture of detainees," Human Rights Watch spokesman Reed Brody said.

"The report does not seem to examine the relationship between Secretary Rumsfeld's approval of interrogation techniques designed to inflict pain and humiliation and the widespread abuse of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo," Brody said.

The panel is the only inquiry that has interviewed Rumsfeld, his deputy Paul Wolfowitz and other senior officials.

Using police dogs

Meanwhile, the Washington Post said a separate US a
rmy report, also due to be released this week, "will show that MPs (military police officers) were using their animals to make juveniles as young as 15 years old urinate on themselves as part of a competition".

Investigators were told the use
of dogs for torture was allowed

Prison guards, referred to as "handlers", have told investigators the use of military police dogs was sanctioned by top military officers.

The reports come as hearings and trials of several MPs implicated in the abuse at Abu Ghraib continue and amid different ongoing inquiries.

A hearing for Private Lyndie England at Fort Bragg in North Carolina has heard claims that military intelligence officers were also involved in the abuse, although no intelligence officers have yet been formally charged.

England, 21, was photographed smiling for the camera next to a line of hooded detainees masturbating.

US President George Bush was forced to apologise after these degrading photographs were made public. 

Both reports will be reviewed by the Senate Armed Services Committee in hearings scheduled for 9 September.