Abu Ghraib: Accountability

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Accountability ... or the lack thereof ... regarding the alleged acts of brutality, abuse, and torture in the Enemy Prisoner of War Camps in Iraq is under scrutiny worldwide.

Eric Boehlert, in the May 18, 2004, issue of Salon asks "How High Does It Go?"

"For weeks the Pentagon has suggested that the prison abuse cases arose from too little oversight at Abu Ghraib. That was clearly the finding of Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, who investigated the abuse allegations for the Army. But what if the opposite were true and those overseeing Abu Ghraib initiated the unlawful treatment? The more that is exposed, the more the Abu Ghraib scandal looks less like a case of renegade soldiers. How high up the chain of command does it go?"

The May 20, 2004, The Nation Op-Ed "Orders to Torture" comments:

"Abu Ghraib prison scandal now implicates the highest levels of the Bush Administration in violating federal law and in war crimes. In barely two weeks, the story has shifted from horrific photographs of prisoners to intimations of homicide; from prison mismanagement blamed on the fog of war to the cool clarity of deliberate White House designs to protect torturers from prosecution; from 'the six morons who lost the war' to the Defense Secretary, the White House Counsel and the President himself."
"One revelation in particular should be sounding a constitutional emergency siren: The President has known for more than two years that his Administration has been pursuing policies that could qualify as war crimes under federal and international law."
  • Letter from Members of the House Judiciary Committee to Attorney General John Ashcroft "to request that you appoint a special counsel to investigate whether high ranking officials within the Bush Administration violated War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 2441, by approving the use of torture techniques banned by international law. May 20, 2004.

It Begins at the "Top"

"Pentagon officials say that beginning late last year, as it became clear that the postwar instability was congealing into an outright insurrection, [Secretary of Defense] Donald Rumsfeld instructed his senior Pentagon aides to find a way to 'dig out' information and get at the [Iraqi] insurrection's command structure.
"Two top aides led the effort, the officials say: the undersecretary of defense for policy, Douglas Feith, and the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, Stephen A. Cambone. ... 'The idea was to get a handle on what worked in Cuba and to apply it to Iraq,' says one of the officials. 'The trend [in Iraq] was negative, and they wanted that reversed, and they wanted Saddam Hussein's head on a platter.'
"Cambone tasked his deputy, Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, with traveling to Guantanamo Bay and assessing whether tactics employed there that had successfully produced 'actionable intelligence' might be transferred to Iraq.
"Within a few weeks, Boykin had dispatched Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the officer who had implemented [White House Counsel] Alberto R. Gonzales' 'new paradigm' interrogation rules at Guantanamo Bay, off to Baghdad to figure out how to crack captive insurgents."
"The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld's decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America's prospects in the war on terror.
"According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon's operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior CIA official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld's long-standing desire to wrest control of America's clandestine and paramilitary operations from the CIA."
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"General" Chain of Custody: Janis Karpinski to Geoffrey Miller

"According to information from a classified interview with the senior military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib prison, General Geoffrey Miller's recommendations prompted a shift in the interrogation and detention procedures there. Military intelligence officers were given greater authority in the prison, and military police guards were asked to help gather information about the detainees. ... Whether those changes contributed to the abuse of prisoners that grew horrifically more serious last fall is now at the center of the widening prison scandal."
  • Louis Meixler, posting for the Associated Press on May 9, 2004, reports that Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who was "named head of prisons [in Iraq] in April after Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the commander of Abu Ghraib, was suspended amid allegations of abuse by U.S. soldiers at the prison, ... said the United States does intend to cut the number of prisoners to help improve conditions but added that 'we will continue to conduct interrogation missions at the Abu Ghraib facility.'"
"Miller said he visited all 14 prison facilities in Iraq to review procedures and that an Army team of 31 specialists was in the country retraining prison guards, a process that would last until June 30."
"Miller said the 'alleged abuses and abuses we have discovered from the investigations appear to be due to leaders and soldiers not following the authorized policy and lack of leadership and supervision.' ... Miller insisted that Iraqi prisoners were now being treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and that interrogation teams were following Army guidelines while trying to get 'the best intelligence as rapidly as possible.'"
Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the "U.S. general who was in charge of running prisons in Iraq told Army investigators earlier this year that she had resisted decisions by superior officers to hand over control of the prisons to military intelligence officials and to authorize the use of lethal force as a first step in keeping order -- command decisions that have come in for heavy criticism in the Iraq prison abuse scandal. ... It places two of the highest-ranking Army officers now in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller and Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, at the heart of decision-making on both matters."

Accountability: Chain of Command

"Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, the top American intelligence officer in Iraq, was in charge of reviewing the status of the security detainees as a prelude to their release. But far more Iraqis were being arrested than freed; the average stay in the prison was approaching four to six months. The 320th Battalion was stretched thin; working in temperatures that regularly exceeded 120 degrees only added to the strain. ..."
"A few weeks later, on Nov. 19, 2003, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez made a surprising decision: he transferred formal command of Abu Ghraib to the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade under Colonel Thomas M. Pappas, a 32-year military veteran whose unit, based in Wiesbaden, Germany, had been assigned to the prison as the chief interrogators since it opened. Working with Colonel Pappas was Lt. Col. Steve L. Jordan, who headed the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center at the prison.
"General Karpinski, Colonel Jerry L. Phillabaum and the military police in the battalion contend that the military intelligence officers had, even before Nov. 19, essentially taken control of the prisoners in the Tier 1 cellblock and had encouraged their mistreatment. General Taguba concluded that the 372nd "was directed to change facility procedures to `set the conditions' " for interrogations..."
"The report by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, though limited to the conduct of the military police, said that the general suspected much of the fault, either directly or indirectly, should be attributed to military intelligence units under Colonel Pappas and Colonel Jordan. Through a spokesman, Colonel Pappas declined to comment, and Army officials would not even say which unit Colonel Jordan is currently assigned to. General Tabuga also blamed Mr. Stefanowicz and another contractor, John Israel, neither of whom could be reached for comment.
"In mid-August, a team of civilian interrogators led by Steven Stephanowicz, a former Navy petty officer and an employee of a Virginia company called CACI International, began work at Abu Ghraib under a classified one-year military contract. ... Their job was to conduct interrogations in conjunction with military police and military intelligence units, according to a company memorandum."
"General Taguba's inquiry also criticized commanders, including Colonel Phillabaum, for failing to supervise his troops and allowing a climate of abuse to take hold...
Battalion commander "Lt. Col. Phillabaum pinned the bulk of the blame on two of of the 372nd's soldiers, Staff Sergeant Ivan L. Frederick III and Specialist Charles A. Graner, Jr. who are both corrections officers in civilian life. Neither of the two have spoken publicly about the episode. ..."
Q General, there was a Colonel Pappas involved in the 215th Military Intelligence Unit. Can you tell us anything about what happened to him?
GEN. CASEY: Colonel Pappas was the military intelligence brigade commander. To the best of my knowledge, all of the military intelligence personnel who have been -- may have been part of this incident, their action is being held pending completion of what we call the Procedure 15 investigation, which is an investigation mandated by executive order when there is suspicions of intel misconduct or misconduct in the conduct of intel activities.
Q Well, can you say whether Colonel Pappas is still commanding the 205th MI Brigade?
GEN. CASEY: To the best of my knowledge, he is.
  • According to General Casey, "any action against the military intelligence personnel would await the outcome of an investigation led by the army's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, Major General George Fay." [1]
  • Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, the Army's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, as reported May 11, 2004, by the American Forces Press Service, "told senators that although some accused soldiers have said military intelligence personnel told them to 'soften up' prisoners for interrogation, no firm evidence to that effect has been uncovered as yet.
"Alexander said an investigation being conducted by" Maj. Gen. George Fay "is exploring whether the soldiers acted on implied or direct instructions from their military police leaders or military intelligence personnel.
"'We need to find out the specifics and the facts of that,' he said, 'wherever it may lead us.' Fay's investigation, he said, 'will identify and report questionable intelligence activities that may have violated law, executive order or presidential directive.'"
As Bush spoke in the White House rose garden [somehow appropriate], "two of the central figures named in a US Army report two months ago as most likely responsible for the abuses were still in their jobs. They are the head of the army's military intelligence unit in Baghdad, Colonel Thomas Pappas, and a shadowy private defence contractor who worked as an interrogator with that unit at the Abu Ghraib prison, Steven Stephanowicz.
"I can't believe that," said one of the lawyers defending a junior officer charged in the scandal when told by the Herald. But the Pentagon confirmed this week that Colonel Pappas was still commanding his unit even though he has been reprimanded over the scandal and there are reports he may soon be criminally charged."
  • Seymour M. Hersh, "Chain of Command," The New Yorker, posted May 9, 2004; May 17, 2004 (edition).

Accountability: The Buck Stops ... Where?

"There was a stunning moment in President Bush's State of the Union 2003 address when he said that more than 3,000 suspected terrorists 'have been arrested in many countries. And many others have met a different fate. Let's put it this way: They are no longer a problem for the United States.'
"In all these matters, there is a pervasive attitude: that to follow the law is to be weak in the face of terrorism. But commitment to law is not a weakness. It has been the great strength of the United States from the beginning. Our leaders depart from that commitment at their peril, and ours, for a reason that Justice Louis D. Brandeis memorably expressed 75 years ago.
"'Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher,' he wrote. 'For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for the law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself.'"
  • Scott D. O'Reilly, "Justice in Wonderland. The Bush Administration twists the Constitution like a pretzel, undermines and subverts the law, turning the pursuit of justice into a political tool," Intervention Magazine, May 6 2004.
"While there is plenty of blame to go around for the horrific handling of the Iraqi prisoners in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, President Bush bears the ultimate responsibility for what happened on his watch."
"'Secretary Rumsfeld's leadership of the Pentagon has unnecessarily jeopardized the safety of American troops, and it has seriously undermined our ability to prosecute the war on terrorism,' Nancy Pelosi said. 'The Pentagon Secretary Rumsfeld oversees has become an island of unaccountability, ignoring the Geneva Conventions, our allies, and common sense.'"
"Congressional Republicans, who have also been critical of Rumsfeld in recent days, refrained from blaming him directly for the abuse, waiting to hear his defense today before a joint hearing of the House and Senate Armed Services committees. But they have also criticized him for failing to tell them about graphic photos that became public last week of Iraqis being tied up, beaten, and forced to parade naked before cameras, sometimes in sexually explicit positions."
"The Bush administration and its Republican allies appear to have settled on a way to deflect attention from the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib: accuse Democrats and the news media of overreacting, then pile all of the remaining responsibility onto officers in the battlefield, far away from President Bush and his political team. That cynical approach was on display yesterday morning in the second Abu Ghraib hearing in the Senate, a body that finally seemed to be assuming its responsibility for overseeing the executive branch after a year of silently watching the bungled Iraq occupation."
The commander in Iraq, General Ricardo Sanchez, "did give some misguided orders involving the Abu Ghraib prison and prisoners in general. But the deeply flawed mission in which he participates is the responsibility of the Bush administration. It was Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld, not General Sanchez, who failed to anticipate the violence and chaos that followed the invasion of Iraq, and sent American soldiers out to handle it without the necessary resources, manpower and training."
"One thing to keep in mind: At the end of the day, ultimate responsibility lies with the Commander-in-Chief, George W. Bush. ...
"No, I don't think for an instant that Bush knew anything about this. That's the problem. Reports of prisoner abuse have been around since the war in Afghanistan and the opening of the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The president needs to explain why he wasn't more curious about what was happening, and whether his management style delegates so much authority that the White House could be caught so unprepared for this catastrophe."
President Bush "cannot continue the rhetoric that what we are doing in Iraq is for freedom and all of our actions in that land are inherently good. He cannot continue to come before the American people and say, 'They hate us for our freedom.'
"They have a whole host of other reasons to hate us, which now includes torture, humiliation and disrespect of Muslim sensibilities. Nothing is so simple as Bush believes, and the real shame is that our president is divorced from reality."

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