WASHINGTON – The New Yorker magazine and CBS News broke the story of Iraqi prisoner abuse late last month, but WorldNetDaily had reported parts of the story weeks earlier, including details about a secret high-level Army memorandum that is now the focus of a congressional investigation into the scandal.
On April 2, 2004, in a story on Iraq headlined, “U.S. losing ‘hearts, minds,’” WND reported:
“The Army at the same time is said to be switching to kinder, gentler interrogation tactics of Iraqi detainees. Several U.S. guards at a Baghdad prison recently were criminally charged with abusing detainees.
“A senior military intelligence official, who recently returned from Iraq, says Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, earlier this year put limits on harsh questioning tactics.
“‘General Sanchez passed around a memo saying interrogators could use no harsh techniques – no ‘Mutt-n-Jeff’ approaches or any ‘pride-and-ego-down’ approaches – without his permission,’ said the official, who asked not to be identified.
“‘Mutt-n-Jeff’ refers to a good-cop, bad-cop routine to pry information out of a detainee. And ‘ego down’ involves deflating a defiant detainee whose pride is his armor against questioning.”
In a May 5 follow-up story, WND revealed Sanchez first put limits on interrogations late last year in a classified memo requiring his authorization for harsh approaches at Iraqi prisons. Aggressive tactics had to be approved on a case-by-case basis.
The story adds: “The Sanchez memo suggests U.S. military brass may have known about abuses at U.S. prisons long before an unidentified soldier came forward Jan. 13 with charges of prisoner abuse, which led to a former investigation which began Jan. 31.”
Sanchez last week issued an order barring even requests for approval of aggressive questioning tactics.
The Washington Post on Sunday confirmed WND’s exclusives about the Sanchez memo in a page-one article, “Knowledge of Abusive Tactics May Go Higher.”
And at a hearing Wednesday, the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is probing the scandal, asked Sanchez for a copy of the Oct. 12 classified memo during his testimony. Sanchez agreed to provide one.
He says the interrogation policy outlined in the memo, which includes two enclosures, “reiterated the application of the Geneva Conventions and required that all interrogations be conducted in a lawful and humane manner, with command oversight.”
Sanchez added he issued an October 2003 memo for all coalition forces personnel entitled, “Proper Treatment of Iraqi People During Combat Operations.” He says he reissued the memo in January.
In August 2003, the International Committee of the Red Cross complained to top U.S. commanders and other officials about abuses at Abu Ghraib, now called “Camp Redemption,” and other prisons in Iraq. Some improvements were noticed.
“Since August 2003, the detainees have been provided” the Quran at a prison at Baghdad International Airport, the Red Cross said in its February 2004 report, further confirming WND’s April 2 story.
“Commanders have stopped military police and interrogators from denying detainees the Quran and prayer beads, which had been used as incentive items for cooperation,” according to the original WND story.
But toward the end of August 2003, as Iraqi attacks on American soldiers surged, the Pentagon sent a Guantanamo interrogation expert to Abu Ghraib to assist in efforts to massage Iraqi detainees for more “actionable intelligence” against the insurgency.
Army Maj. Gen. Geoffery D. Miller made several recommendations to Sanchez, including dedicating prison guards to “setting the conditions” for interrogations of Iraqi detainees – that is, helping to soften them up before intelligence officers gave them the third degree.
Testifying May 7 before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admitted the more rigorous plan was not Sanchez’s idea.
“We kind of pushed Gen. Miller on him in August of ’03, because he was so successful in Guantanamo,” Cuba, Myers said, where his team worked al-Qaida and Taliban illegal combatants for information.
Unlike the Guantanamo detainees, however, the Iraqi detainees were classified as “enemy prisoners of war,” “civilian internees” and “security internees,” and were therefore protected by the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit ill-treatment of prisoners, including forced nudity and other sexual humiliation.
Miller’s more aggressive methods – ones that went beyond the Army field manual for interrogations – were formulated into policy Sept. 14.
By Oct. 12, however, Sanchez had revised the policy.
His legal advisers “scrubbed it against what we felt the law was concerning the application of the 4th Geneva Convention,” a senior U.S. Central Command official told reporters at a May 14 backgrounder at the Pentagon.
“We did not lift or use the entire policy,” he added, referring to Miller’s recommendations.
Alluding to Guantanamo, at Wednesday’s Senate hearing, Miller denied “Gitmo-izing” the interrogation rules at Abu Ghraib and other Iraqi prisons.
However, nearly all the Abu Ghraib prison abuses under investigation began in October.
And Donald Rumsfeld’s spokesman Larry DiRita told reporters after last week’s Pentagon backgrounder: “I think what Miller was trying to do was say, ‘You need something that’s maybe a little more rigorous.’”
One of Rumsfeld’s closest aides, Stephen Cambone, sent Miller to Iraq in late August after “the circumstances changed,” DiRita said, alluding to heightened anti-American violence there. Cambone is under secretary of defense for intelligence, a new position created in 2002 during the build-up to the Iraq war. Miller is now in charge of reforming the Iraqi prison system.
Rumsfeld, Myers and Cambone insist the policy change did not set the stage for the photographed prisoner abuses carried out by several guards now under courts martial.
On Oct. 18, an obscure female officer identified only as Capt. Woods posted on an Abu Ghraib wall a document made from a PowerPoint slide that lists approved interrogation approaches for all detainees, along with harsher ones allegedly requiring Sanchez’s signature.
Sanchez says he did not authorize the document, a copy of which was obtained by WND, and insists it does not reflect his Oct. 12 classified order. That policy, he says, contained only interrogation techniques set out in Army field manuals for prisoners of war, plus segregation of prisoners for more than 30 days.
The mysterious slide, under the heading, “INTERROGATION RULES OF ENGAGEMENT,” divides the approaches into two columns. The following are listed in the left-hand column, under the heading, “Approved approaches for All detainees:”
- Incentive Removal
- Emotional Love/Hate
- Fear Up Harsh
- Fear Up Mild
- Reduced Fear
- Pride & Ego Up
- We Know All
- Establish Your Identity
- File & Dossier
- Rapid Fire
The following harsher tactics are listed in the right-hand column under the heading, “Require CG’s (commanding general’s) Approval: Requests must be submitted in writing:”
- Change of scenery down
- Dietary Manip (monitored by med)
- Environmental Manipulation
- Sleep Adjustment (reverse sched)
- Isolation for longer than 30 days
- Presence of Mil Working Dogs
- Sleep Management (72 hrs. max)
- Sensory Deprivation (72 hrs. max)
- Stress Positions (no longer than 45 min)
A middle column lists “Safeguards:”
- Techniques must be annotated in questioning strategy
- Approaches must always be humane and lawful
- Detainees will NEVER be touched in a malicious or unwanted manner
- Wounded or medically burdened detainees must be medically cleared prior to interrogation
- The Geneva Conventions apply within CJTF-7 (Combined Joint Task Force-7)
A boxed note at the bottom of the slide warns that everyone must comply with the rules. It also urges soldiers to report violations.
However, the document was not posted with a copy of the applicable Geneva Conventions. In fact, the law was not posted anywhere in the prison, according to the 53-page summary of the Taguba report. And guards there were not trained in human-rights law.
Sanchez’s legal adviser, Lt. Col. Marc Warren, says the list of approaches was likely cut and pasted from earlier drafts of interrogation policy written during Miller’s visits to the prison.
However, some press reports citing details in the classified section of the 6,000-page Taguba report say Sanchez signed off on harsh interrogation tactics such as sleep deprivation, intimidation by military dogs and the use of excessive noise to induce fear in at least one inmate.
But on Wednesday, Sanchez flatly denied the reports under oath.
Sanchez says the only harsh approaches he approved after Oct. 12 were for segregation of prisoners exceeding 30 days. He says he OK’d 25 such requests.
Still, Sanchez agreed Nov. 9, as the insurgency continued to grow, to formally transfer control of Abu Ghraib interrogation operations from the military police brigade commander to the military intelligence brigade commander. Why? He claims he made the move to beef up prison security, although that duty normally falls to the MP commander.
Prison abuses continued through December, according to the Taguba report.
WND was also out in front of another part of the scandal. Military brass now say the prison abuse in part stemmed from a shortage of MPs. While there were more guards than detainees at Guantanamo, inmates in Iraq outnumbered guards 10 to 1.
On July 10, 2003, WND reported the “Pentagon underestimated the number of military police and Arabic-speaking interrogators it would need to occupy Iraq, U.S. officials say.”
“WorldNetDaily has learned war planners originally wanted an additional ‘cage,’ or detention facility, to hold Iraqi prisoners of war in Northern Iraq, but the idea was abandoned because they didn’t have the MPs to support it,” the story said.
“They also downgraded the POW estimates at U.S. Central Command, officials say, because they didn’t have sufficient numbers of MPs to guard them,” the article continued, quoting a CentCom official.
“The amazing thing is that the decision was made to ignore the problem, as opposed to, say, training a bunch of reservists or infantry guys to perform guard duty missions at POW compounds,” the official said.