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Gary Younge
CBS delayed report on Iraqi prison abuse after military chief's plea

The news network which broke the story of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers delayed its report for two weeks, in response to a personal request by the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

General Richard Myers called Dan Rather, the CBS anchor, eight days before the report was due to go on air, asking for time because it would inflame the situation in Falluja and could jeopardise hostages, Jeff Fager, executive producer of the US network's 60 Minutes II show told the Associated Press news agency. Last night the general confirmed that he had called.

Seven more soldiers were disciplined yesterday as the scandal at Abu Ghraib jail near Baghdad spread, triggering an inquiry into military intelligence. Six officers and sergeants were given formal reprimands, possibly ending their careers, for failing to stop the abuse of inmates. The seventh was given a lesser rebuke. Six military policemen already face criminal charges for assaulting and sexually humiliating prisoners.

Mr Fager agreed to hold off the CBS report, but broadcast it last Wednesday, as the New Yorker magazine was preparing to run a detailed report.

The broadcast showed images taken last year, allegedly of Iraqis being stripped naked, hooded and tormented at Abu Ghraib. Mr Fager said he had felt "terrible" at being asked to hold back."It's hard to just make those kinds of decisions. It's not natural for us; the natural thing is to put it on the air. But the circumstances were quite unusual."

Yesterday, Brig Gen Janis Karpinski - a reservist who was removed from her job supervising US military prisons in Iraq after soldiers blew the whistle- claimed that Gen Ricardo Sanchez, who commands US land forces in Iraq, should bear some of the blame. "There is a shared responsibility for this," she said.

A command decision to give military intelligence officers authority over military policemen was criticised in a report. According to details of the report published by the Los Angeles Times, a team from Guantánamo Bay visited Iraq in September 2003 to advise on how to extract more information from Iraqi detainees.

It recommended policemen could be "an enabler for interrogation" - which appears to have led to orders from intelligence officers to guards at Abu Ghraib to "soften up" inmates for questioning. The head of the delegation that made the suggestion was Maj Gen Geoffrey Miller, who was sent to Iraq a month ago to overhaul the prison system in light of the scandal.

In Iraq, the chief coalition spokesman, Brig Gen Mark Kimmitt, confirmed that the role of intelligence at Abu Ghraib was being investigated, but argued it did not detract from the responsibility of the policemen who inflicted beat ings, as shown in photos. "They made the choice to do that, and now seem to be concerned about being caught."

"The first investigation, a criminal investigation ... went after individual conduct of soldiers you see in those photos. The second, an administrative investigation, looked into command policies and procedures. From that there appeared to be issues with military intelligence as well."

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