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Witness to Abuse Trying to Be Heard

Interrogators Responsible, Ex-Soldier Says

By Elizabeth Williamson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 20, 2004; Page A12

HAGERSTOWN, Md. -- In his 33 years, Ken Davis has had two big chances to change history. The first was 10 years ago in the District, when a man standing next to him started shooting at the White House. The second was last year in Iraq, when he saw naked Iraqi prisoners on the floor, screaming.

Subduing the gunman was easy compared with what the former reservist for the 372nd Military Police Company is trying to do now: persuade the Army that it was military intelligence and other intelligence operatives, not the seven soldiers charged, directing the abuse in Abu Ghraib prison.

Cells once used by Saddam Hussein's regime are now used as sleeping quarters for U.S. soldiers working at Abu Ghraib prison. (Andrea Bruce Woodall -- The Washington Post)

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He's gone to Army superiors, three members of Congress and two reporters with his story. No one from military intelligence has been charged -- just the seven from the 372nd.

Davis said he has no illusions about what happened. He agreed that the alleged abuses by his fellow soldiers, documented in sickening detail in hundreds of photos, were "morally wrong." He also conceded that his own state of mind became so twisted by the horrors of war that he, too, might have abused prisoners had he had the opportunity.

But the point, he said, is that those charged didn't act alone.

"It seems they want to sacrifice seven soldiers for the sins of everyone," he said. "Whoever led them down that path is a culprit as well."

Davis lives with his wife, Kellie, and their three children in a rambling rented Victorian here, with Barbies in the bathtub, a frisky poodle in the kitchen and a pile of documents on the dining room table. The papers include an Army Developmental Counseling Form he received from Cpl. Charles Graner -- the MP who appears, grinning, in so many of the photos. In the form, a superior, Capt. Christopher Brinson, tells Graner: "You are doing a fine job. . . . [Y]ou have received many accolades from the [military intelligence] units here."

David Sheldon, Brinson's attorney, said his client, who is an aide to Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), has been ordered not to comment during the investigation.

Davis isn't surprised.

Eating lunch in a favorite shopping mall restaurant one recent afternoon, Davis remembered the prisoners and tried not to cry. The naked ones, crawling, an Army boot pushing them to the floor. The one who died in a riot at Camp Ganci, a tent compound in the Abu Ghraib complex, shot with live ammunition because the rubber bullets had run out. And the dead stare of another detainee, the back of his head sheared off by a roadside bomb meant for Davis's convoy. "It's not what I went over there for," he said.

His real reason for speaking out, he said, goes like this: "I think that once I die, I would really like my life to have meant something."

He said he started thinking that way Oct. 29, 1994, when he was with a buddy at the White House, on his first-ever trip to Washington. Francisco Duran, an angry Army veteran next to them, pulled an assault rifle out of his coat and started firing. Davis and another tourist tackled him.

He joined the Army Reserve after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and arrived in Iraq last September, his knapsack filled with pocket Bibles and toys. His job was to transport dignitaries and prisoners, but the former Pentecostal minister pursued another mission, too. Photos show him holding a bedraggled girl; smiling with two boys holding the religious booklets he gave them.

Davis didn't intend to wind up at Abu Ghraib on Oct. 1. But he was involuntarily switched out of his Reserve unit, the 352nd Military Police Company from Rockville, into the shorthanded 372nd from Cresaptown, Md.

Where the 352nd was "a tight ship," he said, his new unit was anything but. Paperwork and inmates got lost. There never were enough soldiers or equipment. Discipline and morale was at rock bottom. Intelligence personnel walked the halls in flip-flops and shorts, tape over their name tags, doing "basically whatever they wanted," Davis said.

One warm night in late October, according to his statement to Army investigators, Davis went to find a fellow member of his unit on Tier 1A, a military intelligence holding area.

Three prisoners were there, he said, with the military intelligence personnel and Graner. They ordered the prisoners to strip and cuffed them together in a sort of embrace. Then they made them crawl, their genitals dragging on the floor, holding them down with boots pressed against their backs.

Davis said that when he asked about the tactics, a military intelligence officer told him, "We know what we are doing."

Davis went to his platoon leader, 1st Lt. Lewis Raeder. His statement says Raeder told him: " 'They are MI and they are in charge let them do their job,' or words to that effect."

"I don't recall my specific conversation with [Davis], but no one reported to me any incidents of abuse," said Raeder, who has been admonished for not training his troops on the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit mistreatment of prisoners of war and civilian detainees. "MI was in charge of the prison. MI was in charge of the interrogation. I don't know what happened down there."

A photo, seen around the world, shows Davis, Graner, the MI group and the three naked prisoners. Rick Hernandez, civilian attorney for Pfc. Lynndie England, one of the seven charged, said the prosecution gave him a copy of Davis's statement for the first time Aug. 6. He said he believes that Davis's testimony would be valuable. But military prosecutors have said the focus should be on England, not on personnel who have not been charged.

"They're still trying to portray the accused as rogue soldiers acting on their own," Hernandez said.

On Nov. 8, the day photos were taken showing Graner standing over a pyramid of naked Iraqis, Davis's convoy hit a roadside bomb. He never was able to check, but he said he thinks the Iraqi who died was one of those he'd seen on the floor.

"I shut down," he said. "I hated everything. It became real to me that they're trying to kill me."

In that state of mind, he acknowledged, if he'd had the opportunity to abuse prisoners, "I cannot guarantee what I would have done."

Two days later, Davis's superiors recommended him for an Army Commendation Medal. "Sgt. Davis' courage, selfless service and dedication to duty . . . bring great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army," the citation reads.

In December, Davis's father had a heart attack, and he flew home. After a checkup for a prior groin surgery, a doctor denied his request to return to Iraq, pending a decision by an Army medical board. From February until he left the military last month, he worked at Fort Lee, Va., as an aide to higher-ups. Last month, according to his personnel records, he received a disability discharge.

While at Fort Lee, Davis told his story to a chaplain, a counselor, superiors. A sergeant sent an e-mail to Iraq. Army investigators, Davis was told, said "I was of no interest."

Having exhausted the chain of command, in April, Davis contacted his member of Congress, Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Md.), who had given him a tour of the Capitol after he subdued the White House gunman.

He spoke with Bartlett and Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), both members of the House Armed Services Committee, and with Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.). The lawmakers videotaped his statements. At one point during the meeting, Davis recalled, Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, stopped in but "wanted no part of it."

Hunter remembered telling Davis that as part of a criminal investigation, he shouldn't be discussing the situation, said Harald Stavenas, a spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee.

Davis said that Hunter, whose son is a Marine serving in Iraq, told him he understood what he'd been through. "No, you don't," Davis said. Hunter, Stavenas said, advised Davis "to seek counseling and comfort with his church group."

On May 27, shortly after the abuse photos came out, Davis gave a written statement to Army investigators. He pointed out four intelligence officers in the October photo. Seven soldiers were charged in the abuse, but no intelligence personnel.

Early this month, an Army prosecutor, Capt. Chris Graveline, called him. "Why haven't you looked for the people who taught our soldiers how to do this?" Davis said he asked him. He said Graveline told him he was new to the case.

Through a Pentagon spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Pamela Hart, Graveline said he "prefers not to speak to the media about the ongoing prosecution case."

Since an article about Davis appeared Aug. 7 in The Washington Post, attorneys and an investigator for defendants Graner, Spec. Megan Ambuhl and Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II have phoned him.

In coming days, the results of an Army investigation examining the role of military intelligence in the prisoner abuse are due out. Davis said he finds it strange that nobody has spoken with him for it.

"I don't know if they want the truth," he said, "or if they just want it to go away."

Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.

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