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Like a Sieve: Prisoner Abuse Documents Keep Leaking
Intelligence personnel swear they carried out the wishes of senior military and administration officials.
By Leon Worden
Signal City Editor
Sunday, June 20, 2004
ne by one, sworn statements from all four military intelligence officers and contractors identified as "responsible" parties in the Taguba report have now been leaked to the press and each to a different news organization.
Army officials don't know the sources of the leaks but say they must be springing in several places.
"I wish I knew, so I could have a private talk with them," Lt. Col. Pamela Hart told The Signal.
The signed statements are among the estimated 6,000 pages that comprise Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba's investigation of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.
Technically, the Army still considers the entire report classified even the widely disseminated 53-page summary that was leaked in late April, around the time CBS broke the initial story on "60 Minutes II."
One of the first signed statements from intelligence personnel to be reported was that of John B. Israel, a 48-year-old Iraqi-American translator from Canyon Country.
The New York Times obtained his testimony around May 26. In it, Israel, a private contractor, simply answered, "No I have not," when asked by an Army investigator if he had witnessed any abuses, the newspaper said.
Among the latest to leak was the statement of Lt. Col. Steve L. Jordan, the No. 2 intelligence officer at the prison. USA Today said Thursday it had received a copy.
According to USA Today, Jordan told of "instances where I feel that there was additional pressure" to extract information from detainees.
Jordan named nearly everyone above him as a source of that pressure, and he even described a visit in November from an aide to National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice. Jordan said Rice's aide told him "many, many, many times" to make interrogators work harder to "pull the intelligence out" of prisoners.
The aide, Fran Townsend, told USA Today this week that she had gone to Iraq to learn more about the escalating insurgent attacks, and to make sure intelligence units were sharing information effectively. She said she spent about 15 minutes in the cell blocks at Abu Ghraib and saw no abuse. She termed it "ridiculous" to think she hounded Jordan to squeeze more from detainees.
In his statement, Jordan discussed the intelligence value of a female detainee with ties to Saddam Hussein, who was then at large. Jordan claimed the woman told one of his interrogators that Saddam "had a big white beard, that he was basically living in a hole, that he was driving a taxi." Indeed, when Saddam was found in a hole Dec. 13 he had a long beard, and a taxi was parked nearby.
* * *Jordan testified that he worked out a "joint venture" with CIA operatives to hide "ghost detainees" from Red Cross inspectors when they visited in October. (Some Arab news organizations have faulted the International Committee of the Red Cross for hiding its findings from the public until they, too, were leaked in early May.)
In his report, Taguba determined that MP guards, acting on behalf of "OGAs" a common euphemism for the CIA had indeed shuffled six or eight "ghost detainees" around the facility so Red Cross officials wouldn't find out about them. "This maneuver was deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine, and in violation of international law," Taguba wrote.
He may not have checked with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld before he denounced the practice.
In a press conference Thursday, Rumsfeld said he made good on a request from former CIA Director George Tenet to hide one such "ghost detainee" last fall. Rumsfeld acknowledged that the detainee, a suspected leader of a Kurdish militant group, was hidden from Red Cross inspectors at a detention center for high-value prisoners near Baghdad International Airport.
"I was requested by the director of Central Intelligence to take custody of an Iraqi national who was believed to be a high-ranking member of Ansar al-Islam, and we did so," Rumsfeld said.
The detainee was held in secret for more than seven months before he was released into the regular prison population. Rumsfeld wouldn't say why Tenet wanted him hidden.
The remaining statements from accused intelligence personnel are those of Thomas M. Pappas, commander of the military intelligence brigade, and Steven A. Stefanowicz, a hired interrogator.
Pappas' statement was "provided to" the Washington Post in late May, the newspaper said, and The Associated Press came up with a copy of Stefanowicz's testimony on Monday. Only The Associated Press has shared its prize on the Internet.
In his testimony, Pappas told Taguba that the peculiar interrogation protocols at Abu Ghraib, including the use of military working dogs as an intimidation tactic, "were enacted as a specific result of a visit" in early September from Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, then-commander of the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay. Miller, who now heads all U.S. prisons in Iraq, denied through a spokesman that he gave Pappas any such notions.
Pappas further testified that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, approved the protocols once they were drawn up. Sanchez said last month that he never even saw them.
Meanwhile, Stefanowicz described routines where interrogators would supply MP guards with written and verbal instructions that contravened Army policy, and he outlined sleep and meal deprivation regimens that likely violated Geneva conventions.
* * *Taguba incorporated some of the men's testimony into his final report but felt they understated their own culpability. Now all four Pappas, Jordan, Stefanowicz and Israel are presumed targets of a second Army inquiry that is designed to delve deeper and higher.
Army officials worry that the leaking of the sworn statements, collected by Taguba's people in January, could impinge on the new inquiry.
"Any time you have the investigation being tried in the press, it does have some bearing on the outcome," the Army spokeswoman said. "It can't help but have an influence on the investigators or on the people who may eventually sit on a jury."
Hart said there are "any number of places (the leaks) could come from," but she wouldn't speculate on how many government hands have legitimately passed over the documents.
Unlike the seven MP guards who have been charged with crimes, the four members of the intelligence brigade haven't been charged so they don't have defense attorneys who could rightfully obtain or distribute their classified testimony.
Nor are the four men themselves the likely source, because they wouldn't have received copies, Hart said.
All the leaks make it "harder and harder to maintain the purity of the case," she said.
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