Abu Ghraib: private military contractors

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The issue of the selection of personnel to operate prison facilities by Private Military Corporations (i.e. private military contractors) at Abu Ghraib in particular, one of more than ten Enemy Prisoner of War Camps in Iraq, is currently under scrutiny.

  • In the May 21, 2004, New York Times, Fox Butterfield and Eric Lichtblau, write in "Screening of Prison Officials Is Faulted by Lawmakers" that the "use of American corrections executives with abuse accusations in their past to oversee American-run prisons in Iraq is prompting concerns in Congress about how the officials were selected and screened."
On May 20th, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, sent a letter "to Attorney General John Ashcroft questioning what he described as the 'checkered record when it comes to prisoners' rights' of John J. Armstrong, a former commissioner of corrections in Connecticut." The letter "requested that the Justice Department conduct an investigation into the role of American civilians in the Iraqi prison system." [1]
Armstrong is now "assistant director of operations of American prisons in Iraq" and is "apparently working under contract" for the Department of State. [2]
Armstrong "resigned last year after Connecticut settled lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and the families of two Connecticut inmates who died." Armstrong had sent the inmates "to a supermaximum security prison in Virginia," where one "of the inmates, a diabetic, died of heart failure after going into diabetic shock and then being hit with an electric charge by guards wielding a stun gun and kept in restraints." [3]
Lane McCotter, "another official" who "was dispatched" by Ashcroft to "reopen" Iraq's prisons, "was forced to resign as director of the Utah Department of Corrections in 1997 after an incident in which a mentally ill inmate died after guards left him shackled naked to a restraining chair for 16 hours." [4]
Following "his resignation in Utah," McCotter "became an executive of a private prison company, the Management and Training Corporation, one of whose jails was strongly criticized in a Justice Department report just a month before the Justice Department sent him to Iraq." McCotter was the first to identify Abu Ghraib "as the best site for America's main prison." McCotter "helped rebuild the prison and train Iraqi guards, according to his own account, given to Correction .com, an online industry magazine." [5]
Butterfield and Lichtblau write: "Speaking of the two cases in an interview, Mr. Schumer said: 'One might be an aberration. Two is getting awfully close to a pattern. ... Of all the people who have experience running prisons in this country and haven't run into trouble, how did they pick these guys?'" [6]
According to the "Justice Department official, ... McCotter's role in overseeing prison operations in Baghdad was limited to what are regarded as civilian prisoners, rather than military ones. But the unclear chain of command at Abu Ghraib has made it difficult to distinguish between the two groups." [7]
"'What is the civilian side?' Mr. Schumer asked. 'Many of the people who were abused were civilians.'" [8]

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