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Army Major General Taguba Story Part 3 of 4 Sort by:
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Posted on Sat, Jun 23, 2007 12:43

The General's Report by Seymour M. Hersh (NewYorker June 25, 2007) DENIABILITY A dozen government investigations have been conducted into Abu Ghraib and detainee abuse. A few of them picked up on matters raised by Taguba's report, but none followed through on the question of ultimate responsibility. Military investigators were precluded from looking into the role of Rumsfeld and other civilian leaders in the Pentagon; the result was that none found any high-level intelligence involvement in the abuse. An independent panel headed by James R. Schlesinger, a former Secretary of Defense, did conclude that there was "institutional and personal responsibility at higher levels" for Abu Ghraib, but cleared Rumsfeld of any direct responsibility. In an August, 2004, report, the Schlesinger panel endorsed Rumsfeld's complaints, citing "the reluctance to move bad news up the chain of command" as the most important factor in Washington's failure to understand the significance of Abu Ghraib. "Given the magnitude of this problem, the Secretary of Defense and other senior DoD officials need a more effective information pipeline to inform them of high-profile incidents," the report said. Schlesinger and his colleagues apparently were unaware of the early e-mail messages that had informed the Pentagon of Abu Ghraib. The official inquiries consistently provided the public with less information about abuses than outside studies conducted by human-rights groups. In one case, in November, 2004, an Army investigation, by Brigadier General Richard Formica, into the treatment of detainees at Camp Nama, a Special Forces detention center at Baghdad International Airport, concluded that detainees who reported being sodomized or beaten were seeking sympathy and better treatment, and thus were not credible. For example, Army doctors had initially noted that a complaining detainee's wounds were "consistent with the history [of abuse] he provided.... The doctor did find scars on his wrists and noted what he believed to be an anal fissure." Formica had the detainee reexamined two days later, by another doctor, who found "no fissure, and no scarring.... As a result, I did not find medical evidence of the sodomy." In the case of a detainee who died in custody, Formica noted that there had been bruising to the "shoulders, chest, hip, and knees" but added, "It is not unusual for detainees to have minor bruising, cuts and scrapes." In July, 2006, however, Human Rights Watch issued a fifty-three-page report on the "serious mistreatment" of detainees at Camp Nama and two other sites, largely based on witness accounts from Special Forces interrogators and others who served there. Formica, asked to comment, wrote in an e-mail, "I conducted a thorough investigation... and stand by my report." He said that "several issues" he discovered "were corrected." His assignment, Formica noted, was to investigate a unit, and not to conduct "a systematic analysis of Special Operations activities." The Army also protected General Miller. Since 2002, F.B.I. agents at Guantanamo had been telling their superiors that their military counterparts were abusing detainees. The F.B.I. complaints were ignored until after Abu Ghraib. When an investigation was opened, in December, 2004, General Craddock, Rumsfeld's former military aide, was in charge of the Army's Southern Command, with jurisdiction over Guantanamo -he had been promoted a few months after Taguba's visit to Rumsfeld's office. Craddock appointed Air Force Lieutenant General Randall M. Schmidt, a straight-talking fighter pilot, to investigate the charges, which included alleged abuses during Miller's tenure. "I followed the bread-crumb trail," Schmidt, who retired last year, told me. "I found some things that didn't seem right. For lack of a camera, you could have seen in Guantanamo what was seen at Abu Ghraib." Schmidt found that Miller, with the encouragement of Rumsfeld, had focussed great attention on the interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Saudi who was believed to be the so-called "twentieth hijacker." Qahtani was interrogated "for twenty hours a day for at least fifty-four days," Schmidt told investigators from the Army Inspector General's office, who were reviewing his findings. "I mean, here's this guy manacled, chained down, dogs brought in, put in his face, told to growl, show teeth, and that kind of stuff. And you can imagine the fear." At Guantanamo, Schmidt told the investigators, Miller "was responsible for the conduct of interrogations that I found to be abusive and degrading. The intent of those might have been to be abusive and degrading to get the information they needed.... Did the means justify the ends? That' fine.... He was responsible." Schmidt formally recommended that Miller be "held accountable" and "admonished." Craddock rejected this recommendation and absolved Miller of any responsibility for the mistreatment of the prisoners. The Inspector General inquiry endorsed Craddock's action. "I was open with them," Schmidt told me, referring to the I.G. investigators. "I told them, 'I'll do anything to help you get the truth.'" But when he read their final report, he said, "I didn't recognize the five hours of interviews with me." Schmidt learned of Craddock's reversal the day before they were to meet with Rumsfeld, in July, 2005. Rumsfeld was in frequent contact with Miller about the progress of Qahtani's interrogation, and personally approved the most severe interrogation tactics. ("This wasn't just daily business, when the Secretary of Defense is personally involved," Schmidt told the Army investigators.) Nonetheless, Schmidt was impressed by Rumsfeld's demonstrative surprise, dismay, and concern upon being told of the abuse. "He was going, 'My God! Did I authorize putting a bra and underwear on this guy's head and telling him all his buddies knew he was a homosexual?'" Schmidt was convinced. "I got to tell you that I never got the feeling that Secretary Rumsfeld was trying to hide anythianything," he told me. "He got very frustrated. He's a control guy, and this had gotten out of control. He got pissed." Rumsfeld's response to Schmidt was similar to his expressed surprise over Taguba's Abu Ghraib report. "Rummy did what we called 'case law' policy -verbal and not in writing," Taguba said. "What he's really saying is that if this decision comes back to haunt me I'll deny it." Taguba eventually concluded that there was a reason for the evasions and stonewalling by Rumsfeld and his aides. At the time he filed his report, in March of 2004, Taguba said, "I knew there was C.I.A. involvement, but I was oblivious of what else was happening" in terms of covert military-intelligence operations. Later that summer, however, he learned that the C.I.A. had serious concerns about the abusive interrogation techniques that military-intelligence operatives were using on high-value detainees. In one secret memorandum, dated June 2, 2003, General George Casey, Jr., then the director of the Joint Staff in the Pentagon, issued a warning to General Michael DeLong, at the Central Command: CIA has advised that the techniques the military forces are using to interrogate high value detainees (HVDs)... are more aggressive than the techniques used by CIA who is [sic] interviewing the same HVDs. DeLong replied to Casey that the techniques in use were "doctrinally appropriate techniques," in accordance with Army regulations and Rumsfeld's direction.


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