From Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib

Major General Geoffrey Miller is back as the new head of prisons in Iraq. Saturday, he defended his recommendation (made last summer during a visit to Abu Ghraib) that Iraqi prison guards be "actively engaged" in extracting information from Iraqi detainees. See also the transcript of his May 4 briefing conference here. Miller was sent to Iraq to replace Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski Miller who was relieved of her duty in March. Before then, Miller had been the Commander at Guantanamo:

Although the spotlight Friday was on Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld’s testimony before Congress, the focus of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal has started to shift onto Major General Geoffrey Miller, the former commander of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Miller left Guantanamo and was put in charge of Abu Ghraib prison, near Baghdad, after Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski was quietly sacked at the end of March. Gen. Janis Karpinski has not been charged in connection with the investigation.

She has subtly implied that Miller encouraged questionable practices by introducing his "Gitmo" (Guantanamo) prison practices into Iraq. She is reported to have said that Miller "Gitmo-ized" the Iraq system....Miller’s recommendations for speeding up the interrogation process at Abu Ghraib were presented to the top commander in Iraq, Brigadier General Ricardo S. Sanchez. In part they stated, " … it is essential that the guard force be actively engaged in setting the conditions for successful exploitation of the internees." The phrase, "setting conditions for interrogations" is a euphemism.

Miller denies using torture. We're skeptical of his claim, to say the least.

Miller, an experienced officer with "22,000 interrogations" under his belt, took over command of Guantanamo in the fall of 2002. The first prisoners at Guantanamo arrived in Jan 2002. There were about 600 prisoners in Miller’s detention facility at Guantanamo. By Oct. 9, 2003 there had been 32 reported suicide attempts.

During Miller’s tenure at Guantanamo, prisoners underwent interrogation almost every other day. Interrogations could begin anytime and last 10 hours. While interrogated, prisoners were shackled to the floor.

Another person you can expect to hear more about in terms of responsibility for the methods used at Abu Ghraib is Steven Stephanowicz, a "private contractor" for CACI and interrogator at the prison, , whom we last encountered when Billmon published the link to the cached copy of Joe Ryan's diary--the journal of another interrogator, chronicling the interrogators' days at Abu Ghraib, written at the behest of a Minneapolis radio station.

Stephanowicz is also named in the Taguba report.

Stephanowicz, a CACI interrogator, "[m]ade a false statement to the investigation team regarding the locations of his interrogations, the activities during his interrogations, and his knowledge of abuses." Further, investigators found, Stephanowicz encouraged Military Police to terrorize inmates, and "clearly knew his instructions equated to physical abuse."

In his New Yorker article, Seymour Hersh said:

General Taguba saved his harshest words for the military-intelligence officers and private contractors. He .... urged that a civilian contractor, Steven Stephanowicz, of CACI International, be fired from his Army job, reprimanded, and denied his security clearances for lying to the investigating team and allowing or ordering military policemen 'who were not trained in interrogation techniques to facilitate interrogations by 'setting conditions' which were neither authorized' nor in accordance with Army regulations. 'He clearly knew his instructions equated to physical abuse,' Taguba wrote.

The Taguba Report also contained a description of an Abner Louima-type rape :

One notorious incident that came to light in the leaked Taguba Report was a sexual assault using a broomstick. Miller tried to assure reporters on Tuesday that the abuses and chaos that have made the name Abu Ghraib notorious are now safely in the past. However, Miller was unable to answer reporter’s questions about whether the person accused of that sexual assault was still working in the prison.

From Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib, there's something rotten in the the U.S. intelligence gathering process when it comes to detainees. It seems to have started at high levels of command, extended to private contractors, then been passed on to soldiers who haven't been properly trained. What's needed is an investigation that goes up through the chain of command. We don't hold out much hope that there will be accountability at the highest levels, but we still think an independent investigation is in order.

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