Abu Ghraib convictions: spooks stay in the shadows

There has been a second conviction in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal–once again of a low-ranking MP, Army Spc. Sabrina Harman. The media have made much of her conviction in a court martial at Fort Hood, TX, playing up quotes expressing her contrition and even humiliation. “As a soldier I failed in my duties and in my mission,” Harman said (her voice cracking, as AP added). “Not only did I let down the people in Iraq, I let down every single soldier that serves today.” (AP, May 17)

Seemingly forgotten are news accounts from a year earlier, when the scandal was just breaking, implying that Harman and her fellow MPs were following the lead of higher-ups in subjecting the prisoners at Abu Ghraib to torture and ritual humiliation. “They would bring in one to several prisoners at a time already hooded and cuffed,” Harman wrote in an e-mail from Baghdad that was quoted in the Washington Post of May 8, 2004. “The job of the MP was to keep them awake, make it hell so they would talk.”

The Post also wrote:

Harman, a 26-year-old Army reservist from Alexandria, said members of her military police unit took direction from Army military intelligence officers, from CIA operatives and from civilian contractors who conducted interrogations.

As WW4 REPORT noted from brief media accounts last June, civilian contractors implicated in the torture have not faced charges. Personnel from Titan Corp. of San Diego and CACI International of Virginia were named at the time. Now they have disappeared from the news altogether.

A mistrial has been declared in the case of the most famous of the Abu Ghraib accused, Pfc. Lynndie England. Authorities at Fort Hood rejected her guilty plea, questioning whether she understood that her actions were illegal, and finding that her testimony conflicted with that of Pvt. Charles Graner, the first convict in the Abu Ghraib scandal. Military authorities are currently deciding whether she will stand trial again. (AP, May 4, 2005)

Brass, of course, have all been exonerated. Writes Marjorie Cohn in a May 2 commentary for TruthOut:

When the torture photographs began to emerge from Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison one year ago, Bush said, “Those mistakes will be investigated, and people will be brought to justice.” As fingers began to point up the chain-of-command, some prisoners were released and commanders were reassigned. Congress held hearings, investigations were undertaken, and some low-ranking soldiers were prosecuted. But those responsible for setting the policy that led to widespread and systemic torture of prisoners in United States custody remain uninvestigated and un-indicted.

Last week, the Army inspector general cleared four of the five top Army officers who oversaw prison policies and operations in Iraq. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who authorized the use of vicious dogs to exploit “Arab fear of dogs,” was exonerated, as was his deputy, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowki. Col. Marc Warren, the command’s top legal officer who failed to report abuses witnessed by the Red Cross to his boss for more than one month, escaped unscathed. And the report cleared Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, former chief intelligence officer in charge of the Abu Ghraib intelligence center, who failed to properly advise Sanchez about the management of interrogations.

Only Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski was reprimanded. Although she was in charge of the prison, Karpinski was discouraged from visiting the cellblock where most of the torture occurred.

See also our last blog post on the Abu Ghraib scandal.