General Asserts She Was Overruled on Prison Moves
By R. Jeffrey Smith and Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, May 12, 2004; Page A01
The U.S. general who was in charge of running prisons in Iraq told Army investigators earlier this year that she had resisted decisions by superior officers to hand over control of the prisons to military intelligence officials and to authorize the use of lethal force as a first step in keeping order -- command decisions that have come in for heavy criticism in the Iraq prison abuse scandal.
Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski, head of the 800th Military Police Brigade, spoke of her resistance to the decisions in a detailed account of her tenure furnished to Army investigators. It places two of the highest-ranking Army officers now in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, at the heart of decision-making on both matters.
Karpinski has been formally admonished by the Army for her actions in Iraq. She said both men overruled her concerns about the military intelligence takeover and the use of deadly force.
Each man contests portions of her account, which appears in the classified annex to the Army's internal probe into the abuse and torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. Her account was described by a U.S. government official to The Washington Post and confirmed by her attorney.
Karpinski's account surfaced on the same day another officer accused by the Army of wrongdoing in the scandal, Lt. Col. Jerry L. Phillabaum, released an official rebuttal stating that Abu Ghraib perpetually lacked key resources and personnel, and that the leadership above him was almost entirely unresponsive to his requests for help.
Phillabaum wrote that military police assigned to the prison were not properly trained in the Geneva Conventions or detention operations, but that training alone would not have prevented the abuses, which he said were committed by a few soldiers.
He also said that in one instance, a female guard under his command took "vigilante justice" -- using physical force against a male prisoner who she believed had assaulted Jessica Lynch, an Army private captured by Iraqi soldiers and later rescued by U.S. troops during the war.
Karpinski said the decision about transferring control of the prison to military intelligence officials was broached at a September 2003 meeting with Miller, who was then in charge of the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, known colloquially as "Gitmo." Miller had come to Iraq at the insistence of top political officials in the Pentagon, who were frustrated by the meager intelligence coming from prisoners. Two weeks ago, he was appointed to reform the U.S.-run prisons in Iraq.
Karpinski, the first female general officer to lead U.S. soldiers in combat, was a beleaguered field commander trying to cope with what she and others have described as constantly shifting assignments, poor living conditions and near-daily mortar attacks on Abu Ghraib.
Karpinski recalled that Miller told her he wanted to "Gitmo-ize" the prison -- a concept that critics have said opened the door to the use of aggressive interrogation techniques suited to loosening the tongues of terrorist suspects at Guantanamo, not Iraqis in a common jail. Miller said through a military spokesman yesterday that he does not recall using the word "Gitmo-ize."
Undersecretary of Defense Stephen A. Cambone said yesterday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that the concept has been misunderstood, and that all the Pentagon had in mind was "a cooperative attitude, team-building, call it what you will, between" intelligence interrogators and military police to produce more and better information.
According to Karpinski's account, the surrender of authority to military intelligence did not go over easily. "This prison is not mine to give you," she said she told Miller. He responded, according to Karpinski's account: "You own the MP's [military police] and you supply them." Karpinski replied that "it belongs to the CPA," or Coalition Provisional Authority.
Then, she told investigators, Miller said to her, "We will do this my way or the hard way," and asked that the room be cleared so the two were alone.
He then said, according to Karpinski's account: "I have permission to take any facility I want from General Sanchez. We are going to get Military Intelligence procedures in place in that facility because the Military Intelligence isn't getting the information from these detainees that they should. . . . We are going to send MP's in here who know how to handle interrogation."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company