It was just past 10 p.m. late last October and the military police guarding the part of Abu Ghraib prison known as the "hard site" were having a busy night. Two detainees were brought in handcuffed with sandbags over their heads, suspects in a gruesome crime.
"The two prisoners had supposedly raped a 15-year-old boy in the prison the night before," Pfc. Lynndie R. England told military officials investigating the Iraqi prisoner abuse case.
Pfc. Lynndie R. England, one of seven MPs charged with abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib, is shown in an undated photo from Iraq.
(The Washington Post)
The military police on guard duty that night were going to get to the bottom of things, she said. And they had instructions from military intelligence: "MI had told us to 'rough them up' to get answers," she said.
And so they did, England said.
In nine pages of sworn statements obtained by The Washington Post, England, one of the seven members of the 372nd Military Police Company charged in the prisoner abuse case, detailed how guards working the night shift at the prison meted out punishment to these and other detainees by forcing them to run naked through the prison hallway, handcuffing them to each other and forcing them to strip and form a human pyramid.
The statements, given to investigators over two days in January, provide new insight into events inside the prison last fall and a voice to one of the case's most visible characters. England, 21, a former chicken-processing-plant employee from rural West Virginia, is now recognized around the world as the soldier photographed holding a naked detainee on a leash. She also has been photographed pointing at the genitals of a naked prisoner.
England's attorney, Rose Mary Zapor, has said that England was acting at the direction of superior officers, a defense also voiced by lawyers for other accused soldiers.
England's family has said she processed the prisoners and their paperwork and did not work inside the prison's cellblock area. In her statements England said she would go to the prison wing to visit "friends" after her shift ended at 10 p.m.
Shortly after she arrived there on or about the night of Oct. 24, the prisoners accused of raping the boy were brought in, she said. The guards removed their handcuffs, then the bags that masked their faces. Then they told the detainees to remove their clothes, England said.
"The prisoners were stripped naked so it would embarrass them in front of the other prisoners," she said. While still nude, the two men were ordered to run up and down the prison hallway. The exercise was "to wear them down and get them tired so they would tell us if they really did rape the boy," she said.
Then the prisoners were separated. One was taken to a solitary confinement cell, the other kept out in the hallway. And the guards used an old police trick -- playing one against the other -- until they got results. "We told them that the other was ratting him out," she said. "Then they started to admit that they had raped the boy, but that it was the other one's idea."
After the questioning, the prisoners were put in their cells and left alone. By 4 a.m., it was time for the next shift to come on duty, and the guards left.
On a subsequent visit, the tier was also busy, she said. Again, she stopped by the hard site about 10 p.m. And again the guards had brought in someone they said had participated in the rape. This time they had the prisoner who allegedly had held the boy down while the others raped him, she said. The two other prisoners were roused from their cells, and all three were made to strip, she said.
Someone from military intelligence, whom she did not name, was "present all during this incident," she said.
England and Spec. Megan Ambuhl went up to watch from the prison's top tier, she said, when Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II asked them to throw down some handcuffs. The prisoners "were laying on the floor handcuffed together so all the other prisoners would see them," she said. She snapped some pictures of the detainees sprawled together on the floor, she said, and soon they started to talk: "They all started admitting to do it, and we unhandcuffed them from each other."
They were then put back into solitary confinement, she said.
The next incident England described in her statement occurred about two weeks later on the night of Nov. 8, her birthday. There had been a riot in another part of Abu Ghraib, called Ganci, she said, and guards had brought in seven detainees who had allegedly initiated it. The detainees were forced into a pile on the floor, she said, and she took pictures of soldiers pretending to hit the hooded, handcuffed prisoners.
Word of the riot had spread and was attracting onlookers, she said. "During this whole time, various people had stopped 'cause they'd heard about the riot in Ganci," she said. "I can't remember who all stopped by, but they were only there for a few minutes at a time."
The captives were forced to their feet, England said, made to strip and piled into a human pyramid, while soldiers posed for pictures. Then the guards stood the detainees against the wall. Frederick "walked up to the first prisoner and started to move his left arm in the motion of masturbating," she said. "SSG Frederick thought it was amusing and told Cpl. [Charles A.] Graner and Spec. Ambuhl to come see."
Graner and Frederick motioned for England "to get beside him and pose pointing at him masturbating for a picture," she said. "I really didn't want to get close to him masturbating, but posed for the picture anyway."
In her statement, England said Graner asked her to pose in another photo that has become famous. He told her there was a prisoner named Gus telling guards that he "hated Americans and wanted to kill us," she said. "Cpl. Graner had suggested he take a picture of me with Gus pretending to drag him on a leash-type thing."
Graner put the leash around the neck of the detainee, who was lying naked on the floor, and handed it to her, she said.
"I did not drag or pull on the leash," she said. "I simply stood with the strap in my hand."
Since she gave her statements to investigators in January, England -- who is five months pregnant with Graner's child, according to Zapor -- has been transferred to the Army base at Fort Bragg, N.C., while she waits to learn whether she will be court-martialed. Graner's attorney, Guy Womack, has not returned telephone messages left for him in recent days.