April 20, 2009

While discussing the recently released torture memos, Michael Smerconish tries to dismiss the torture as rare and isolated incidents and gets his talking points shot down from both Chris Matthews and Joe Conason. Matthews tries to explain the relationship him between those two prisons to him and argues that the underlings at those prisons did not come up with those policies on their own. He's right of course, but if he really wanted to drive that point home he should have asked Smerconish if he'd read Janis Karpinski's book. From part of her interview on Democracy Now explaining how Abu Ghraib was "Gitmo-ized":

AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is the former Commanding General of Abu Ghraib. Her name is Janis Karpinski. She was a Brigadier General. She has been demoted to Colonel. She is the only one of the Generals who has been demoted at this point. And she has written a book about her experience. It’s called One Woman’s Army: The Commanding General of Abu Ghraib Tells Her Story. We’re talking about General Miller, General Geoffrey Miller, coming from Guantanamo to Iraq, to the Abu Ghraib prison, the biggest of the prison facilities. You were in charge of it and all of the prison facilities in Iraq.


AMY GOODMAN: And he said he was there to “Gitmo-ize” Abu Ghraib. We have heard the stories out of Guantanamo. We now certainly know what happened at—some of what has happened at Abu Ghraib, in Cell Blocks 1A and 1B, only because soldiers themselves took photographs, not clear what has been happening throughout Iraq.


AMY GOODMAN: Is there any reason to believe this hasn’t happened in the other facilities that you oversaw?

COL. JANIS KARPINSKI: Well, there were only—interrogation operations were only taking place—at prisons under my control, interrogations were only being conducted at Abu Ghraib, and they were only being conducted in interrogation facilities built specifically for interrogations at Abu Ghraib. There was what they called “Interrogation Facility Wood” and “Interrogation Facility Steel.” The pictures, although they were—when they were released, it was widely reported that this was during interrogation operations. In fact, it was not during interrogation operations. These pictures were being staged and set up at the direction of contract interrogators, civilian contract interrogators, for the use in future interrogations.

AMY GOODMAN: Contract interrogators. What companies?

COL. JANIS KARPINSKI: There are several. Several of the contractors that were in some of the pictures were with Titan Corporation. There has been sworn statements saying they came from “OGA,” other government agencies, and CACI. I can only say that some of the—


COL. JANIS KARPINSKI: That’s right, and I can only say that the ones that I saw in the photographs were identified as being from Titan Corporation. Now, they were—my experience with Titan Corporation was that they were providing translators, and again, in some of the information that’s been released in the ACLU documents, we know that some of the translators were given the opportunity to become interrogators without any training whatsoever in interrogation operations.

AMY GOODMAN: But General Miller had said he wants to blur the bright line between military police and military intelligence, that the military police were to take the prisoners to military intelligence.


AMY GOODMAN: Your people were to be brought—Were you in charge of military intelligence?

COL. JANIS KARPINSKI: No, not at all, and the Military Intelligence Brigade Commander did not work for me. He ran the Interrogation Brigade—the Intelligence Brigade, and he ran interrogations, which was a function at Abu Ghraib.

AMY GOODMAN: Lynndie England, Charles Graner were yours?

COL. JANIS KARPINSKI: They were. They were assigned to a subordinate company, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: When did you start to understand what was happening?

COL. JANIS KARPINSKI: About the situation at Abu Ghraib, I was first informed by an email that I received on classified—what they call “classified traffic.” I opened it up late one night on the 12th of January of 2004. And it was from the commander of the Criminal Investigation Division. He sent me an email and said, “Ma’am, I just want to make you aware, I’m going in to brief the C.G.,” meaning General Sanchez, “on the progress of the investigation at Abu Ghraib. This involves the allegations of abuse and the photographs.” That was the first I heard of it.

I did not receive that email or phone call or a message from General Sanchez himself, who would ultimately attempt to hold me fully responsible for this, but from the C.I.D. Commander. And I was alarmed at just that short email. I was not in Baghdad at the time. I was at another location very close to the Iranian border, so we made arrangements to leave at the crack of dawn to drive down to Abu Ghraib to see what we could find out about this ongoing investigation and went through the battalion over to Cell Block 1A. The people who would normally be working on any shift were not working. The sergeant that I spoke to said that their records had been seized by the investigators, and they started a new log to account for prisoners, make sure that their meals were on time, those kind of things, and he pointed out a memo that was posted on a column just outside of their small administrative office. And the memorandum was signed by the Secretary of Defense, and—

AMY GOODMAN: By Donald Rumsfeld.

COL. JANIS KARPINSKI: By Donald Rumsfeld. And said—it discussed interrogation techniques that were authorized. It was one page. It talked about stress positions, noise and light discipline, the use of music, disrupting sleep patterns, those kind of techniques. But there was a handwritten note out to the side. And this was a copy. It was a photocopy of the original, I would imagine. But it was unusual that an interrogation memorandum would be posted inside of a detention cell block, because interrogations were not conducted in the cell block.

AMY GOODMAN: This was the command of Donald Rumsfeld himself?


AMY GOODMAN: Talking about the techniques?

COL. JANIS KARPINSKI: The techniques that were allowed. And there was a note—handwritten note out to the side of where the list of tactics, interrogation tactics were. It said, “Make sure this happens.” And it seemed to be in the same handwriting as the signature. That’s what I could say about the memorandum.

AMY GOODMAN: People understood it to be from Rumsfeld?

COL. JANIS KARPINSKI: Yes, they certainly did. And I never heard a word—I did—certainly did see the reference to photographs in the original email, but when I asked the soldier, when I asked the sergeant, when I asked the commanders out at Abu Ghraib, what did they know about, they knew nothing about it. They had heard that there were some photographs, but they did not know any specifics.

AMY GOODMAN: Had the Red Cross been to visit?

COL. JANIS KARPINSKI: They had been and had been in all of our facilities routinely. We welcomed them. They made good recommendations, and they filed reports. Now, the report that I saw the first week of December of 2003 was dated October of 2003. And it had—it mentioned in the report, the I.C.R.C. report, that they had been to Cell Block 1A and saw prisoners that were in isolation, solitary confinement for 72 hours, and they saw a prisoner who was telling them that he was being made to wear women’s underwear on his head.

So, I was at what they call a ‘night briefing,’ an update. And after the update was finished—this was at Camp Victory, at the headquarters, and it was in the evening. And I started to leave when the update was finished, and one of the military intelligence officers said, “Ma’am, do you have a couple of minutes? We need to talk you to about the I.C.R.C. report.” So I said, “Sure.”

And then suddenly, all of these people that wanted to discuss this report were around me to include the Military Intelligence Brigade Commander, the senior legal advisor to General Sanchez, Colonel Warren, another person from the legal office, two of the M.I. officers, and they—I said “What I.C.R.C. report are you talking about?” And Colonel Warren handed it to me, and he said, “We need you to review this so you can sign it.” I said, “I’m not in charge of the prison now. Why isn’t Colonel Pappas signing it?” And Colonel Warren said, “Well, this is an earlier report, and we don’t want to call attention to the fact that we have transferred the prison to the M.I.”

AMY GOODMAN: To military intelligence.

COL. JANIS KARPINSKI: To military intelligence. Why? I mean, they’re coming out there to visit. What—

AMY GOODMAN: They had already removed you?

COL. JANIS KARPINSKI: They had removed Abu Ghraib from my command, yes, and turned it over to command of the military intelligence.

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