At a Senate committee hearing on abuses of Iraqi prisoners on Thursday, Gen Paul Kern, commander of the US Army Materiel Command, said he believed the number of ghost detainees held in violation of Geneva Convention protections was "in the dozens to perhaps up to 100," far surpassing the eight people identified in an Army report.

 

But Kern and Maj Gen George Fay, deputy commander at the US Army Intelligence and Security Command, said the CIA did not give Army investigators information for a more precise estimate.

 

"We were not able to get documentation from the Central Intelligence Agency to answer those types of questions. So we really don't know the volume," Fay said.

"But I believe it's probably in the dozens," he added.

 

Disclosure

 

Information on prisoners needs
to be disclosed

The Geneva Conventions require countries to disclose information on prisoners to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which monitors their treatment.

 

The Senate and House of Representatives Armed Services Committees held hearings on an Army investigation on the role of military intelligence in prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, as well as broader findings on US mistreatment of prisoners by an independent panel headed by former Defence Secretary James Schlesinger.

 

The reports depicted far more widespread and systematic mistreatment of detainees than the acts of a handful of soldiers accused when the images of horrific sexual and physical humiliation and torture at the Abu Ghraib prison first came to light last spring.

 

Environment

While the panel led by Schlesinger blamed top Pentagon civilian and military leaders for setting an environment that lead to the sadistic treatment of detainees, Schlesinger told a House committee that US forces in Iraq had behaved far better overall than in previous wars, including World War II, Korea and Vietnam.   

"The situation with the CIA and ghost soldiers is beginning to look like a bad movie"

Senator John McCain,
an Arizona Republican

"The vast majority of that force has behaved in Iraq with extraordinary forbearance and including countless acts of kindness," he said.

 

Senators called the CIA's failure so far to turn over information sought by Army investigators unacceptable.

 

"The situation with the CIA and ghost soldiers is beginning to look like a bad movie," said Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican.

 

Fay said he made repeated requests for documents from the CIA, "and they said that they would not provide me with the information that I requested."

 

Investigation

 

In June, the CIA inspector general said the agency would conduct its own investigation, Fay said.

 

"Well, I think that this is something that needs to be asked, Mr Chairman, of the incoming director of the CIA," McCain said, referring to Representative Porter Goss, a Florida Republican tapped by President George Bush to run the CIA.

Donald Rumsfeld is accused of
misleading Congress

Warner said the Senate Intelligence Committee was pressing the CIA for information, and said the Armed Services Committee may hold a hearing specifically on ghost detainees.

 

The findings of the Army investigation, headed by Fay and Lt Gen Anthony Jones and released in August, listed 44 instances of prisoner abuse, 13 directly involving interrogations.

 

It said 27 military intelligence personnel, 23 soldiers and four contractors, directly took place in abuse or induced others to do so, while another eight, six soldiers and two contractors, failed to report abuse they had witnessed.

All have been recommended for possible criminal charges.

 

Sen Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, said Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld misled the country about how many were responsible when he testified before Congress in May.