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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Officials knew of abuse last November

From today's WSJ:
Senior U.S. military officials in Iraq, including two advisers to the top commander there, reviewed a strongly worded Red Cross report detailing the abuse of prisoners at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison last November -- but the Army did not launch an investigation into the abuses until two months later.

The senior legal adviser to Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S.
commander in Iraq, helped draft a formal response to the Red Cross's
November report, according to one senior Army official. Brig. Gen. Janis
Karpinski, who oversaw the military police guards at the prison, signed
that response and sent it back to the Red Cross. Gen. Karpinski said that
she also discussed the report with Gen. Sanchez's top deputy, Maj. Gen.
Walter Wojdakowski, in a late November meeting.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Gen. Karpinski said
officials at first generally disbelieved the Red Cross report. One military
intelligence officer at the meeting in late November drew laughs, she said,
when he joked, "I've told the Commander to stop giving the Victoria's
Secret catalogues to detainees"
-- a reference to the Red Cross's complaint
that some prisoners were being forced to wear women's underwear on their

The late November events show that top military commanders were alerted
to the abuses by the Red Cross earlier than they so far have publicly
acknowledged. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld testified before the Senate
recently that officials at the Pentagon learned of the abuses after a
soldier alerted them in mid-January. The Defense Department then launched
an internal investigation.

According to Gen. Karpinski, the Red Cross report was addressed to her
but was "intercepted" by more senior officials. She said the first time she
learned about the report was when she was summoned to the late November
meeting with Gen. Wojdakowski and Col. Marc Warren, the top legal adviser
to Gen. Sanchez, to discuss a response.

Gen. Karpinski said at that meeting she was told by Col. Warren "not to
worry about the response because his officers were working on the response
for my review." That was the meeting at which officers expressed disbelief
in the allegations, Gen. Karpinski says.

Gen. Karpinski and another officer who attended some meetings in Iraq
about the report also said that instead of focusing on the abuses being
reported, some military intelligence officers argued that they needed to
limit the Red Cross's future access to cell blocks where interrogations
were taking place. The officers worried that agency officials didn't have
appropriate security clearances and that their presence could disrupt
efforts to put pressure on prisoners by placing them in complete

Gen. Karpinski and the second officer said the U.S. wanted the Red Cross
to give advance warning of visits to two sensitive cellblocks where
prisoners were interrogated and some of the worst abuses occurred. ...

Read the whole report here


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