WASHINGTON -- Army investigators concluded that soldiers who photographed American-born Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh in captivity in Afghanistan with an obscenity written on his blindfold were guilty of ''barracks humor" but not intentional wrongdoing, according to documents released yesterday.
The investigators also found no evidence to support allegations that members of the 5th Special Forces Group, based at Fort Campbell, Ky., intentionally destroyed evidence or impeded a Justice Department investigation of the wartime treatment of Lindh, who denies having fought against US forces in Afghanistan.
Lindh, a California native now in his early 20s, was captured in Mazar-e-Sharif on Dec. 2, 2001, and held there initially by 5th Special Forces soldiers. He later pleaded guilty in US civilian court to supplying services to the Taliban government and carrying explosives for them. He received a 20-year prison sentence in 2002.
The documents released yesterday are part of a package of materials related to detainee treatment that have been provided to the American Civil Liberties Union in response to a federal suit under the Freedom of Information Act. Many names and other personal information were blacked out by Army censors.
In a memorandum dated Feb. 2, 2003, Brigadier General David P. Burford, deputy commander of US Army Special Forces Command, wrote that he agreed with investigators' findings of no intentional wrongdoing by 5th Special Forces soldiers.
''I would add momentary lapse of 'mature' good judgment and propose that it was a sophomoric idea that quickly grew unsavory in its own right," Burford wrote.
''There is no evidence to support the allegation that [Special Forces] members or any soldier of the 5th Special Forces Group intentionally or maliciously acted to hide the existence of the photograph" once the Justice Department made it known in April 2002 that it wanted any and all evidence the group could provide, Burford wrote.