General tied to Abu Ghraib torture briefed Rumsfeld aides

The general who “Gitmoized” Abu Ghraib briefed Rumsefled’s top aides, it is now revealed—contradicting his own earlier testimony. From the Chicago Tribune July 15 via TruthOut:

General Contradicted Abu Ghraib Testimony
Transcripts reveal he briefed top officials.
Washington – An Army general who has been criticized for his role in the treatment of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention center and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has contradicted his sworn congressional testimony about contacts with senior Pentagon officials.

Gen. Geoffrey Miller told the Senate Armed Services Committee in May 2004 that he had only filed a report on a recent visit to Abu Ghraib, and did not talk to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld or his top aides about the fact-finding trip.

But in a recorded statement to attorneys three months later, Miller said he gave two of Rumfeld’s most senior aides – then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary for Intelligence Steve Cambone – a briefing on his visit and his subsequent recommendations.

“Following our return in the fall, I gave an outbrief to both Dr. Wolfowitz and Secretary Cambone,” Miller said in the Aug. 21, 2004, statement to lawyers for guards accused of prisoner abuse, a transcript of which was obtained by the Tribune.

“I went over the report that we had developed and gave them a briefing on the intelligence activities, recommendations, and some recommendations on detention operations,” Miller added.

Specific interrogation techniques, he said, were not discussed.

Miller’s statement about the meeting, if true, suggests that officials at the very top of the Pentagon may have been more involved in monitoring activities at the prison than previously disclosed. Abu Ghraib was later at the center of a scandal surrounding prisoner abuse, which has led to punishments for soldiers.

Miller, Cambone and Wolfowitz, who is now acting director of the World Bank, each declined to respond to written questions about Miller’s contradictory statements. Rumsfeld, Cambone, Wolfowitz and Miller have denied knowledge of prisoner abuse.

In the Aug. 21 statement, Miller says that he never spoke directly to Rumsfeld about his Abu Ghraib visit or his subsequent recommendations for new, tougher interrogation tactics there.

Miller’s name came up again this week, when he was named in a military investigation made public Wednesday on FBI claims that detainees held by the US at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were being mistreated. The report recommended that Miller be reprimanded for not monitoring the interrogation tactics used on one detainee, Mohamed al-Qahtani, who allegedly intended to be the 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11 plot.

Reprimand Overruled

Miller’s superior officer, Gen. Bantz Craddock, overruled the reprimand, arguing that there was no evidence that laws had been broken.

Cambone has asserted that he was not briefed by Miller after the general returned from Abu Ghraib. During his own appearance on May 11, 2004, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Cambone said he and Miller did not speak about Abu Ghraib after Miller’s return from the September 2003 fact-finding mission.

“I was not briefed by Gen. Miller,” Cambone testified. Instead, Cambone said, a military aide, Gen. William Boykin, briefed Cambone on Miller’s trip.

Wolfowitz, who also testified before Congress in May 2004 about prisoner abuses, was not asked during the hearings if he was briefed by Miller.

Miller’s role at Abu Ghraib has come under scrutiny since news reports first revealed that US personnel within the prison abused inmates. The mistreatment occurred from the fall of 2003 until January 2004, when a soldier reported the abuses.

Miller was sent to visit the prison in late summer 2003 at the suggestion of Cambone, who had dealt previously with Miller on issues related to the detention of terror suspects at Guantánamo. At the time, the insurgency in Iraq was growing more violent, and US commanders were keen to get intelligence from the growing number of Iraqi men detained by US troops.

The abuses at Abu Ghraib began to occur after Miller’s visit, according to Pentagon inquiries, and after the arrival of so-called Tiger Team interrogation units from Guantánamo that Miller said in the August 2004 statement that he helped select.

“We tried to pick the best 10 people that we could send,” Miller said.

The abuses also took place after new military police and intelligence units arrived at Abu Ghraib, and after the then-US commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, approved a set of interrogation practices recommended by Miller. Those tactics were later scaled back at the recommendation of the US Central Command.

Pentagon officials and several investigative reports conducted by the Army and a civilian panel chosen by Rumsfeld have concluded that the abuses were the actions of lower-ranking soldiers, and were not ordered by senior officers.

7 GIs Convicted in Scandal

So far, seven soldiers have been convicted on charges related to the abuses. Two senior officers, an Army colonel and an Army Reserve brigadier general, have been reprimanded.

When he appeared before the Armed Services Committee on May 19, 2004, to explain his role at Abu Ghraib, Miller said that he had no contact with Cambone or others in Rumsfeld’s office after he returned from Iraq in September 2003.

“I submitted the report up to SOUTHCOM [US Southern Command, where Miller was attached in 2003],” Miller told the committee. “I had no direct discussions with Secretary Cambone.”

Miller made the same claim in a signed, sworn statement he gave to Army investigators on June 19, 2004. In his Aug. 21, 2004, statement to defense attorneys, though, Miller said he and Cambone discussed “how we could improve the flow of intelligence from Iraq through and in interrogations.”

Also present, he told the attorneys, were two top Army officers, Gens. Ron Burgess, the head of intelligence for the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, and William Caldwell, the military aide to Wolfowitz.

Miller said there was one other participant in the briefing, but he could not recall who it was.

A spokeswoman for Caldwell, who is now commander of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, said, “All the meetings and briefs that our commanding general took part in during a previous assignment he considers private and confidential.”

Burgess also declined to respond to written questions about Miller’s statements.

See our last post on the ongoing torture scandal.

  1. US soldiers charged with assaulting detainees
    On a related note, also via TruthOut:

    11 American Soldiers Charged With Abuse
    The Associated Press

    Saturday 16 July 2005

    Baghdad – Eleven US soldiers have been charged with assaulting detainees in Iraq, the military said Saturday, while three British soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in a rare attack in the relatively stable southern part of the country.

    Also Saturday, suicide attackers killed at least nine Iraqi forces in separate attacks in Baghdad and just south of Mosul as insurgents kept up their campaign against the nation’s US-trained security force.

    Iraqi police also arrested a would-be suicide bomber in the capital before he could detonate an explosive belt among a crowd mourning the victims of an attack earlier this week that killed 27 people, mostly children, an official said. It was the second thwarted attack this week.

    The US military said in a statement that the charges against the 11 troops, who served in the Baghdad area but were not otherwise identified, were filed Wednesday after another soldier complained about the alleged assaults.

    “None of the insurgents required medical treatment for injuries related to the alleged assault,” the statement added. “Only one of the suspected terrorists remains in custody of coalition forces at this time.”

    The soldiers had been assigned to the Army’s Task Force Baghdad but were taken off-duty pending the investigation, the military said, adding that the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division would determine whether they should face trial by court-martial.

    “Allegations of illegal activities will always be thoroughly investigated,” said Lt. Col. Clifford Kent, a Task Force Baghdad spokesman.

    US commanders have been especially sensitive about alleged mistreatment of detainees since the abuse of inmates at Abu Ghraib prison resulted in a major scandal involving America’s handling of prisoners both here and in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

    The attack against the British occurred as the troops were on patrol about 2:30 a.m. in the city of Amarah in Maysan province, 180 miles southeast of Baghdad. Three British troops were killed and two wounded, according to Britain’s Ministry of Defense.

    British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a staunch US ally, expressed his condolences for the dead soldiers.

    “The bravery of our armed forces was yet again underlined as they help Iraq and its people towards the democracy they so desperately want,” Blair said Saturday.

    The fatalities brought to 92 the number of British servicemen who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003. Britain has about 8,500-troops in the country, mostly based in the largely Shiite south, where support for the Shiite-led government in Baghdad is stronger.

    British losses have been far fewer than those suffered by the larger US force, which is bearing the brunt of the fight against Sunni Arab insurgents in northern, western and central Iraq. At least 1,763 members of the US military have died since the war started.

    In other violence Saturday, a suicide attacker detonated an explosive belt inside a police station 10 miles south of the northern city of Mosul, killing six policemen and wounding 20 others, Brig. Gen. Saeed Ahmed said.

    A suicide car bomber also struck an Iraqi police patrol in the Baghdad subdivision of Dora, killing three commandos and wounding five civilians, hospital and police officials said.

    Elsewhere in the capital, a suicide car bomber struck near a US military convoy in the southeast of the city, setting a Humvee ablaze, police Lt. Col. Hassan Salloub said. No US casualties were reported.

    The attacks came a day after a wave of suicide car bombs and explosions targeting US and Iraqi security forces rocked the capital, killing at least 33 people and wounding at least 111, including seven American soldiers.

    One of the bombings hit after sundown on a bridge over the Tigris River near the home of President Jalal Talabani. Four security guards were killed and nine people were wounded in that attack. Talabani was at home at the time, aides said, but the target may have been a US convoy.

    Al-Qaida’s wing in Iraq claimed responsibility in Internet statements for several of the attacks, but the authenticity could not be confirmed.

    The would-be bomber arrested Saturday in Baghdad said he was Libyan, according to police Lt. Mohammed Jassim.

    Jassim said police grew suspicious of the man, stopped him and discovered the explosives belt.

    On Thursday, Iraqi and US forces captured another suicide bomber before he could detonate his explosives belt as part of coordinated assaults just 150 feet from the Green Zone, the site of the US Embassy and major Iraqi government offices.

    A car bomb exploded successfully. But one pedestrian bomber was killed after an Iraqi policeman shot him, setting off his explosive vest. Five policemen and four civilians were wounded by the blasts and gunfire.

  2. More on Gen. Miller
    More from TruthOut:

    Abu Ghraib Tactics Were First Used at Guantánamo
    By Josh White
    The Washington Post

    Thursday 14 July 2005

    Interrogators at the US detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, forced a stubborn detainee to wear women’s underwear on his head, confronted him with snarling military working dogs and attached a leash to his chains, according to a newly released military investigation that shows the tactics were employed there months before military police used them on detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

    The techniques, approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld for use in interrogating Mohamed Qahtani – the alleged “20th hijacker” in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks – were used at Guantánamo Bay in late 2002 as part of a special interrogation plan aimed at breaking down the silent detainee.

    Military investigators who briefed the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday on the three-month probe, called the tactics “creative” and “aggressive” but said they did not cross the line into torture.

    The report’s findings are the strongest indication yet that the abusive practices seen in photographs at Abu Ghraib were not the invention of a small group of thrill-seeking military police officers. The report shows that they were used on Qahtani several months before the United States invaded Iraq.

    The investigation also supports the idea that soldiers believed that placing hoods on detainees, forcing them to appear nude in front of women and sexually humiliating them were approved interrogation techniques for use on detainees.

    A central figure in the investigation, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who commanded the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay and later helped set up US operations at Abu Ghraib, was accused of failing to properly supervise Qahtani’s interrogation plan and was recommended for reprimand by investigators. Miller would have been the highest-ranking officer to face discipline for detainee abuses so far, but Gen. Bantz Craddock, head of the US Southern Command, declined to follow the recommendation.

    Miller traveled to Iraq in September 2003 to assist in Abu Ghraib’s startup, and he later sent in “Tiger Teams” of Guantánamo Bay interrogators and analysts as advisers and trainers. Within weeks of his departure from Abu Ghraib, military working dogs were being used in interrogations, and naked detainees were humiliated and abused by military police soldiers working the night shift.

    Miller declined to respond to questions posed through a Defense Department liaison. Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said it is not appropriate to link the interrogation of Qahtani – an important al Qaeda operative captured shortly after the terrorist attacks – and events at Abu Ghraib. Whitman said interrogation tactics in the Army’s field manual are the same worldwide but MPs at Abu Ghraib were not authorized to apply them, regardless of how they learned about them.

    Some of the Abu Ghraib soldiers have said they were following the directions of military intelligence officials to soften up detainees for interrogation, in part by depriving them of sleep. Pvt. Charles A. Graner Jr., characterized as the ringleader of the MP group, was found guilty of abusing detainees and is serving 10 years in prison. Others have pleaded guilty and received lesser sentences.

    The photos that caused alarm around the world included some showing the MPs sexually humiliating the detainees.

    While Rumsfeld approved a list of 16 harsh techniques for use at Guantánamo on Dec. 2, 2002, most of the techniques were general and allowed for interpretation by interrogators. Many of the techniques involving humiliation were part of a standard “futility” or “ego down” approach.

    “Reasonable people always suspected these techniques weren’t invented in the backwoods of West Virginia,” said Tom Malinowski, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch. “It’s never been more clear than in this investigation.”

    Also yesterday, a federal district judge in Washington issued a ruling in which he declined to stop the interrogation of a young Canadian detainee at Guantánamo Bay who has alleged that he was tortured. The detainee said in court filings that he was “short-shackled” to the floor, threatened with sexual abuse and physically mistreated.

    The 18-year-old detainee, identified as “OK,” was arrested after a gunfight in Afghanistan in July 2002, when he was 15. He had asked the court for a preliminary injunction to stop what he called abusive interrogation tactics.

    The investigation at Guantánamo Bay looked into 26 allegations by FBI personnel that military interrogators had mistreated detainees. It found that almost all the tactics were “authorized” interrogation methods and by definition were not abusive.

    Investigators found only three instances of substantiated abuse, including short-shackling detainees to the floor in awkward positions, the use of duct tape to keep a detainee quiet, and a threat by military interrogators to kill a detainee and his family.

    In the case of Qahtani, who endured weeks of sleep deprivation and many of the harshest techniques, Lt. Gen. Mark Schmidt and Brig. Gen. John Furlow found that the cumulative effect of those tactics “resulted in degrading and abusive treatment” but stopped short of torture. Military commanders have said the techniques prompted Qahtani to talk.

    The military achieved “solid intelligence gains,” by interrogating Qahtani, Craddock said yesterday, and other military officials have said he revealed details on how the terrorist network operates.

    The Schmidt-Furlow investigation is the last of about a dozen major Pentagon probes into abuse over the past 15 months.

    The abuses at Abu Ghraib included military police taking photos of themselves mimicking the tactics used at Guantánamo Bay. Several photographs taken in late 2003 at the prison outside Baghdad show detainees wearing women’s underwear on their heads, detainees shackled to their cell doors or beds in awkward positions, and naked detainees standing before female soldiers. Perhaps the most famous image is of Pfc. Lynndie England holding a leash attached to a detainee’s neck.

    Qahtani, according to the investigative report, was once attached to a leash and made to walk around the room and “perform a series of dog tricks.” The report also notes the use of “gender coercion,” in which women straddle a detainee or get too close to them, violating prohibitions for devout Muslim men on contact with women. Interrogators also threatened to tell other detainees that an individual is gay, according to the report. Detainees at Abu Ghraib were posed in mock homosexual positions and photographed.

    “There are some striking similarities between the actions at Guantánamo and what occurred at Abu Ghraib,” said Capt. Jonathan Crisp, England’s military defense attorney. “I feel that warrants further investigation.”

    Committee Democrats appeared upset that Miller was not held accountable for abuses at Guantánamo Bay, and criticized the investigation for failing to examine the legality of administration and military policy on interrogations. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said no senior leader has taken responsibility for detention problems.

    Some Republicans, however, said the alleged abuses occurred in just a small fraction of cases. They noted that there have been 24,000 interrogations at Guantánamo Bay and highlighted recent improvements at the facility. Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) called the Guantánamo abuse relatively “minor incidents” that should not be a matter of national interest.

  3. US citizens detained in Iraq
    From TruthOut:

    US Forces Release American Held in Iraq

    By Reuters

    Sunday 10 July 2005

    Baghdad – US forces in Iraq said they had freed an American citizen on Sunday whom they had been holding as a suspected insurgent.

    Iranian-born filmmaker Cyrus Kar was detained by Iraqi troops in May after a search of the taxi he was being driven in uncovered washing machine timers, a common component in improvised bombs, the military added in a statement.

    The Pentagon disclosed last week they were holding five US citizens, apparently including the Los Angeles-based US Navy veteran Kar, among more than 10,000 detainees in Iraq.

    Kar’s relatives told US newspapers that he had gone to Iraq in mid-May to work on a documentary. He was arrested when he was stopped in a taxi in Baghdad by Iraqi security forces.

    The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California had said it had filed a writ of habeas corpus on his behalf.

    “Kar was detained as an imperative security threat to Iraq under the authority of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546,” the military said on Sunday.

    He was freed after an FBI investigation, which helped determine he was not an “enemy combatant.”

    “This case highlights the effectiveness of our detainee review process,” Brigadier General Don Alston, a US military spokesman, said in the statement. “We followed well established procedures and Mr. Kar has now been properly released.”

    Kar’s cameraman was also released while the taxi driver was still in custody.

    Alston said: “We understand this has been difficult for Mr. Kar and his family. However, we owe the coalition forces, Iraqi security forces and Iraqi civilians a thorough investigation.”