'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Abu Ghraib in Their Own Words 

The Center for Public Integrity has posted hundreds of pages of interviews with the actors involved in the crimes committed in Iraq's infamous prison. These documents were the basis of Antonio Taguba's report on the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Of particular interest, of course, are annexes 25 and 26 of the Taguba report which contain the testimony of those directly involved in the crimes as well as statements from several abused detainees.

However, given that the charges are now well-known, the interviews with higher-ranking officers are arguably more illuminating than the statements of the grunts with blood on their hands, even though the higher-ups deny all knowledge of the crimes that occurred under their watch. These interviews provide a taste of the atmosphere that pervaded Abu Ghraib during the time the crimes occurred in a way that news reports can't. The picture painted is of a Kafka-esque bureaucracy in which no one is clearly in charge and in which a low-boil power struggle simmers between various military factions.

If the source texts of the Taguba report were a story, the central plotline would concern the relationship between Lt. Col. Steven Jordan and Col. Thomas Pappas, both of whom were interviewed by Taguba. Jordan says that it was Pappas who was truly in charge of Abu Ghraib, that he and Pappas had a poor working relationship, and that he (Jordan) was just a pawn, Pappas' functionary. Pappas, on the other hand, called Jordan "a loner who freelances between military intelligence and military police" and asserted that "I must admit I failed in not reining him in."

Here's the text of Lt. Col. Jordan's allegation of the existence of ghost detainees. OGA is an acronym meaning Other Government Agency which is a euphemism for the CIA, and I think MOU is Memorandum of Understanding: (from here, page 131)

A. I had limited access when it came to interrogations and monitoring detainees. But I was Colonel Pappas' liaison, Deputy if [you] want, in this case with OGA there was an 'agreement' between Colonel Pappas and the OGA folks that ran their detainees----

Q. Yeah, but was that agreement conveyed to 320th MP Battalion?

A. Yes, sir, and I'll explain the consternation, if you just give me a minute. I know we're getting short on time. The deal was that they could bring detainees in, they would not put them in the regular screening process or the BATS where you get fingerprinted. Cause once a detainee did that, you're kinda in there three to six to eight months. The OGA folks wanted to be able to pull somebody in 24, 48, 72 hours if they had to get 'em to GITMO, [and] do what have you.

Q. Was that agreement in writing?

A. No, sir, it wasn't. And again---

Q. Boy, isn't that kind of strange?---

A. Sir, I asked for an MOU or something like that, because what I said sir -- sir, I'm telling you, Chief Rivas, Captain Wood, Chief Graham, everybody that was there initially when this came up, said, "Sir we need an MOU because even the MPs." Major Dinenna said, "Hey, we can't be responsible for the if they don't exist." And the 'term' that was used for these kind of detainees was ghost detainees because they hadn't been brought in. All right, sir. So because of my clearance level back at Langley and some of the folks that I've worked with in civilian life, Colonel Pappas said, "I want you to work with these guys, but here's the rules. They gotta leave somebody there, they're going to conduct interrogations. If they want to use linguists, these kind of things,"--

Q. So that portends then that Colonel Pappas was indeed directly involved with detainee operations.

A. Especially when it came to the OGA ones. That one, sir, I will say is a true statement.

Q. Okay.

A. On top of that, sir, what happened was we had a detainee death out there under the OGA. You may have been aware of it.

Q. Yeah, a little bit.

A. All right, sir. And, again, I highlighted the fact, sir, had we had an MOU, we would be protected. At this Colonel Pappas said, "Well if I go down, I'm not going down alone. The guys from Langley are going with me."

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