Another Abu Ghraib Soldier Goes on Trial

Washington Post Photo

Army Sgt. Michael J. Smith, the soldier depicted in this infamous Abu Ghraib abuse photo, goes on trial this week in Ft. Meade, accused of dereliction of duty and maltreatment of prisoners.

He is also accused of using his dog to threaten two other detainees and for allegedly engaging in a contest to make detainees urinate and defecate out of fear. Smith's military attorney declined requests to comment.

But here's an interesting twist:

According to interviews, sworn statements from soldiers and military documents obtained by The Washington Post, Ashraf Abdullah Ahsy was at the center of a military intelligence "special project" designed to break him down, and was considered important enough that his interrogation was mentioned in a briefing to high-ranking intelligence officials at the Pentagon.

In other words, the documents suggest that the abuse was ordered by higher-ups who wanted to break him down.

Ahsy could become a central figure in Smith's trial because attorneys for the Abu Ghraib dog handlers have said that military intelligence (MI) directed the soldiers to use their animals as part of an interrogation regimen, one that top officers approved in December 2003. Unlike others implicated in the Abu Ghraib abuse, the dog handlers can point directly to approvals of the technique in question from top commanders.

Ahsy was interrogated dozens of times by military intelligence soldiers, civilian contractors, and members of other government agencies (OGA), a common euphemism for the CIA, according to the documents. The newly discovered accounts reveal that the military working dog in the photograph was being used in conjunction with a coordinated effort to get Ahsy to talk, an effort that continued for months.

The article describes other techniques used on Ashy, some requiring medical care:

A soldier who worked at the prison said Ahsy's feet swelled because he was made to stand in "stress positions" for hours. "People were always making a big deal about him, and I don't know why," said Sgt. Hydrue Joyner, who ran the day shift on Tier 1A. "Whenever we took him out of the cell, they made it seem like we had Hannibal Lecter with us. They thought he was important, and OGA [CIA] and MI were paying a lot of attention to him."

So far, the abusive soldiers have not prevailed in their "orders from higher ups" defense. Smith's case sounds like the first one that will have direct evidence of it, and may finally expose the falsity of the Administration's "few bad apples" meme.

Interrogation summaries show that Ahsy was questioned regularly -- 63 times through April 12, 2004 -- and interrogators were frustrated by his lack of cooperation. He was threatened with being sent to a Saudi or Israeli prison, and interrogators tried to scare him with the possibility of sending him to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba....Six days later, in interrogation No. 43, they wrote: "The team has moved closer to getting the detainee on the edge of breaking."

As for Ashy, he was released in October, 2004.

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    Re: Another Abu Ghraib Soldier Goes on Trial (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 06:15:44 AM EST
    When are we going to see a few 4 Stars and a Secretary in the dock. I guess we'll have to wait until Dec 06 for that process to begin. Here's hoping.

    Re: Another Abu Ghraib Soldier Goes on Trial (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 08:38:00 AM EST
    Check out this recent segment from Australian TV here on several soldiers' experiences at Abu Gharib in the fall of 2003, including one of the first low-ranking soldiers court martialed for abuse who is now trying to clear his name. This film is quite an eye-opener to those who think the abuse wasn't ordered and carefully orchestrated by the CIA and military, leaving the soldiers who did this bidding hung out to dry when the story came out (through another soldier "whistleblower") because no, they did not have SPECIFIC "direct orders" from an officer to do any of the particularly nasty things they were alleged to have done. I'll spoil the ending, but for me the voice over reading the officer's glowing commendation (only months before he was court-martialed and sentenced to 20? years at hard labor) for "ringleader" Sgt. Grainer's activities says it all. (I must say, the commendation sounds like something out of a video game script). The tape ends with a commentary that the soldier and his military lawyer think they'll be vindicated by the testimony and outcome of the upcoming dog-handlers' court-martial.

    Re: Another Abu Ghraib Soldier Goes on Trial (none / 0) (#3)
    by The Heretik on Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 09:24:44 AM EST
    As for Ashy, he was released in October, 2004. Cry havoc! Let loose . . .

    Re: Another Abu Ghraib Soldier Goes on Trial (none / 0) (#4)
    by Bill Arnett on Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 11:40:08 AM EST
    "When are we going to see a few 4 Stars and a Secretary in the dock..." or a commander-in-chief standing in the Hague properly accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity? After impeachment, of course.

    Re: Another Abu Ghraib Soldier Goes on Trial (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Mar 13, 2006 at 09:07:26 PM EST
    Ironically, as is the way of the military, if this guy hadn't abused this prisoner he would have gotten swifter Article15 justice from the CO.