Military Police at Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison dubbed him the Iceman; others used the nickname Mr. Frosty. Some even called him Bernie, after the character in the 1989 movie Weekend at Bernie's, about a dead man whose associates carry him around as if he were still alive. The prisoner is listed as Manadel al-Jamadi in three official investigations of his death while in U.S. custody, a death that was ruled a homicide in a Defense Department autopsy. Photographs of his battered corpse -- iced to keep it from decomposing in order to hide the true circumstances of his dying -- were among the many made public in the spring of 2004, raising stark questions about America's treatment of enemy detainees. For most of the horrors shown in those Abu Ghraib photographs, there has been some accounting. Although no officers were court-martialed, a soldier who held a prisoner on a leash got three years in prison; another who repeatedly hit detainees got 10 years. But those prisoners were held by members of the military, which has a relatively transparent system of punishing errant behavior. Al-Jamadi was a prisoner of the far more secretive CIA. That fact, for the moment, leaves unanswered the questions, If he was the victim of a homicide, who killed him? And will there be a trial?
Some clues as to how al-Jamadi died are contained in hundreds of pages of records of three inquiries into al-Jamadi's death conducted by the CIA, Army and Navy. While the documents, obtained by TIME, suggest a story more of recklessness than of outright savagery, the way al-Jamadi's death was handled after the fact raises questions about whether the CIA is under adequate legal oversight. This comes at a time when the government is hotly debating what restrictions to place on how U.S. security forces treat enemy detainees. Republican Senator John McCain has pushed through the Senate an amendment that would ban "torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" by any U.S. personnel, a measure President Bush has threatened to veto. Vice President Dick Cheney is lobbying to exempt the CIA from the amendment.
Al-Jamadi's story begins on the night of Nov. 4, 2003, when Navy Seals abducted him from his family's tiny apartment in a rundown Baghdad suburb. The CIA wanted to interrogate him because he was suspected of harboring two tons of high explosives and being involved in the bombing of a Red Cross center in Baghdad that killed 12 people. By the time the Seals overcame his violent resistance and dropped him off at Abu Ghraib as a "ghost detainee"--an unregistered prisoner--al-Jamadi had suffered damage to his left eye and facial cuts. He had also been roughed up in a way that may account for the fact that the autopsy revealed six broken ribs. His injuries, which the autopsy concluded could not have caused his death, did not prevent him from walking into the prison handcuffed and shackled, answering questions in English and Arabic.