By CHARLES J. HANLEY, AP Special Correspondent
The U.S. Army in Iraq has at least twice seized and jailed the wives of
suspected insurgents in hopes of "leveraging" their husbands into surrender,
U.S. military documents show.
In one case, a secretive task force locked up the young mother of a
nursing baby, a U.S. intelligence officer reported. In the case of a second
detainee, one American colonel suggested to another that they catch her husband
by tacking a note to the family's door telling him "to come get his wife."
The issue of female detentions in Iraq has taken on a higher profile
since kidnappers seized American journalist Jill Carroll on Jan. 7 and
threatened to kill her unless all Iraqi women detainees are freed.
The U.S. military on Thursday freed five of what it said were 11 women
among the 14,000 detainees currently held in the 2 1/2-year-old insurgency. All
were accused of "aiding terrorists or planting explosives," but an Iraqi
government commission found that evidence was lacking.
Iraqi human rights activist Hind al-Salehi contends that U.S.
anti-insurgent units, coming up empty-handed in raids on suspects' houses, have
at times detained wives to pressure men into turning themselves in.
deputy justice minister, Busho Ibrahim Ali, dismissed such claims, saying
hostage-holding was a tactic used under the ousted Saddam Hussein dictatorship,
and "we are not Saddam." A U.S. command spokesman in Baghdad, Lt. Col. Barry
Johnson, said only Iraqis who pose an "imperative threat" are held in long-term
U.S.-run detention facilities.
But documents describing two 2004 episodes tell a different story as
far as short-term detentions by local U.S. units. The documents are among
hundreds the Pentagon has released periodically under U.S. court order to meet
an American Civil Liberties Union request for information on detention
In one memo, a civilian Pentagon intelligence officer described what
happened when he took part in a raid on an Iraqi suspect's house in Tarmiya,
northwest of Baghdad, on May 9, 2004. The raid involved Task Force (TF) 6-26, a
secretive military unit formed to handle high-profile targets.
"During the pre-operation brief it was recommended by TF personnel that
if the wife were present, she be detained and held in order to leverage the
primary target's surrender," wrote the 14-year veteran officer.
He said he objected, but when they raided the house the team leader, a
senior sergeant, seized her anyway.
"The 28-year-old woman had three young
children at the house, one being as young as six months and still nursing," the
intelligence officer wrote. She was held for two days and was released after he
complained, he said.
Like most names in the released documents, the officer's
signature is blacked out on this for-the-record memorandum about his
Of this case, command spokesman Johnson said he could not judge, months
later, the factors that led to the woman's detention.
The second episode, in June 2004, is found in sketchy detail in e-mail
exchanges among six U.S. Army colonels, discussing an undisclosed number of
female detainees held in northern Iraq by the Stryker Brigade of the 2nd
The first message, from a military police colonel, advised staff
officers of the U.S. northern command that the Iraqi police would not take
control of the jailed women without charges being brought against them.
second e-mail, a command staff officer asked an officer of the unit holding the
women, "What are you guys doing to try to get the husband — have you tacked a
note on the door and challenged him to come get his wife?"
Two days later,
the brigade's deputy commander advised the higher command, "As each day goes by,
I get more input that these gals have some info and/or will result in getting
He went on, "These ladies fought back extremely hard during the
original detention. They have shown indications of deceit and misinformation."
The command staff colonel wrote in reply, referring to a commanding
general, "CG wants the husband."
The released e-mails stop there, and the
women's eventual status could not be immediately determined.
episode, Johnson said, "It is clear the unit believed the females detained had
substantial knowledge of insurgent activity and warranted being held."
On the Net:
First document: http://www.aclu.org/torturefoia/released/t2614_2616.pdf
E-mail exchange: http://www.aclu.org/projects/foiasearch/pdf/DOD044843.pdf
This adminstration has much to answer for. And the best way to get those answers is a trial of impeachment.