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Abu Ghraib Guards Kept a Log Of Prison Conditions, Practices

By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 25, 2004; Page A14

The military police soldiers who ran the high-security wing of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq kept an unofficial log of their daily activities, a diary of sorts that documents the conditions that gripped the prison during the months that detainees were abused in what would later erupt into an international scandal.

From Oct. 19, 2003, to Jan. 18, 2004 -- just days after digital photographs of soldiers mistreating prisoners were turned in to Army criminal investigators -- the members of the 372nd Military Police Company who ran tiers 1A and 1B at Abu Ghraib jotted their experiences in a light green ledger kept in a prison office. On the log's cover is printed in large, handwritten letters: "MI Wing." A copy of the log was obtained by The Washington Post.


U.S. soldiers guard the entrance to Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison last year. MPs kept a log of cell-block activities there. (Chris Helgren -- Reuters)

_____Abu Ghraib Log_____
Excerpt: From log book kept by U.S. military police soldiers who ran the high-security wing of the Abu Ghraib prison.


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Day after day, the log's more than 50 pages of handwritten notes and observations describe a spartan prison where some inmates inexplicably vomited after meals, a detainee regularly covered himself in his own feces, and others sharpened toothbrushes into makeshift weapons. There were fights, attacks on soldiers and riots.

"Note: No power. No water. Prison in state of lockdown," a soldier wrote on Nov. 17, 2003.

The Army soldiers, some of whom have been charged by the military with crimes for the abuses, logged a stream of mysterious and unregistered inmates held by unnamed U.S. government agents, a group of "ghost detainees" who were locked behind a row of 10 solid iron doors.

References to "OGA," for Other Government Agency, appear throughout the logbook, meaning agencies such as the CIA and FBI, which had operatives in Iraq looking for the highest-value targets. "We didn't know anything about them," said one MP from the 372nd, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of ongoing investigations. "We called them X-Men. They were there, but they weren't there."

The soldiers also wrote about unclear orders being passed down orally from military intelligence officials to "put pressure" on detainees of high intelligence value -- though none of the entries referred directly to the abuses made internationally infamous in digital photographs and in reports arising from multiple military investigations.

"MI handlers will be turning on heat to this one," reads an entry at 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 12, referring to inmate No. 152529, identified in investigative documents as Asad Hamza Hanfosh. In a statement, Hanfosh alleged that soldiers stripped him, beat him and left him shackled naked to his bed overnight. "Sleep management program was requested but paperwork has not been approved yet," the entry reads.

The Post obtained a digital copy of the logbook by e-mail and took several steps to verify its authenticity. Pentagon officials said the Criminal Investigations Division evidence tag on the log's back cover, dated Jan. 19, matches the tag placed on the original logbook. Army officials who reviewed a copy of the logbook said its contents appeared to be consistent with what investigators have learned about the prison.

Sgt. Hydrue S. Joyner, who testified in a preliminary court hearing that he started the logbook on Oct. 19, 2003, reviewed The Post's copy and said it appeared to be complete and accurate. Joyner declined to discuss the entries but pointed out his own handwriting and said he last saw the book when he gave it to a military Criminal Investigations Division agent Jan. 19.

The book shows that soldiers repeatedly counted the detainees, worked to get prisoners better food and clothing, and made sure those who were ill got to see the facility's medics. The MPs noted that some detainees had problems urinating, suffered from constipation or lacked proper medication.

"Inmate #20092 continues to refuse to eat anything," Joyner wrote. "He will have to receive another I.V. from medical."

These guard duties were performed by a unit untrained in detention operations, at a facility that came under frequent enemy attack. The soldiers were forced to improvise. Detainees who were hard to control or had mental problems were handcuffed to their beds or fully restrained.

One detainee kept trying to kiss the guards. One ate chicken bones. Some would secret away weapons, such as sharpened toothbrushes, razors, medical needles and guns.

"Conducted bed check and prisoner count," begins a Dec. 18 entry. "Note: Inmate #116451 was placed into isolation quiet room because night shift passed on that he attempted to burn the wood blocking his window. Once I came on shift I spoke to the inmate about the incident and he admitted to trying to commit suicide. . . . Note: After last night's incident, NO MATCHES are to be given to inmates."

None of the entries clearly states that military intelligence officials were asking the MPs to do anything abusive, as attorneys for some of the MPs have alleged. Numerous entries refer to military intelligence asking MPs to help keep detainees awake for long periods to break them down for questioning.

"The logbook certainly validates what Army investigators subsequently found about the environmental conditions inside the prison, the combat conditions outside the facility and the challenges the soldiers faced," said Col. Joseph G. Curtin, an Army spokesman. "It also validates that the behavior of these soldiers was unacceptable."

The logbook for the first time shows Cpl. Charles A. Graner Jr. noting in his own words that he was unhappy receiving oral instructions from military intelligence personnel. Graner and six other MPs have been charged in the abuse. Two MPs have pleaded guilty, and the most senior of the soldiers, Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick, was sentenced to eight years in prison last week.

"Per MI . . . unless told to put pressure on an MI inmate do not do so," reads an entry that bears Graner's name on Oct. 25, 2003, at a time when some of the most serious abuses were occurring. "I will now request everything to be in writting [sic] since it seems one MI handler does not know what the other one is requesting with verbal orders."

In an entry from Graner on Oct. 26, writing about three mysterious inmates brought in by U.S. agents: "It has been over three days since OGA inmates were placed in cells 8 and 13. When subjects were first placed on block verbal instructions were that both would be placed on a sleep plan of 20 hours up and 4 hours down. No paperwork has been issued to verify this. Until this is put down on paper, the sleep plan is stopping at this point."

Some Army officials said Graner's entries could very well be the work of someone covering their inappropriate behavior. There are omissions of events, such as the sexual humiliation that was captured on the soldiers' cameras. Graner did not return e-mail requests for comment, and Graner's civilian attorney did not return several calls to his office in Texas and to his cell phone.

Members of the 372nd have said privately that they were asked to put detainees through physical training to keep them awake during these sleep management programs, but that they were not told specifically what they could and could not do.

"Those who knew the rules and knew how to act, we just had them do things we would have done in basic training, like running and push-ups," said the soldier from the 372nd. "I could see how someone could misinterpret that into thinking they could do whatever they wanted."

Whatever the sleep programs encompassed, they were abruptly altered in January after the photographs surfaced, according to the logbook. A series of entries shows that standards for sleep programs "will be revised" and that such programs for three inmates would be suspended immediately. On Jan. 16, the log shows that all of the ghost detainees would be "taken out of their cells, processed, and given numbers."

Some of the ghost detainees were put on disruptive sleep programs and interrogated in a shower room and in a stairwell -- locations where some of the photographs of abuse also were taken.

Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, initially said there were only one or two such secret holds. Subsequent investigations revealed numerous such detainees, and the logbook shows that there were consistently three to 10 ghost detainees at Abu Ghraib from mid-October into January.

The inspectors general of the Pentagon and CIA "are working together to look into that specific issue," said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman.

The final entry in the logbook, by Joyner on Jan. 18, shows that the prison leadership wanted things to change, and fast. Joyner, praised by inmates in investigative reports for helping them, has not been charged with a crime.

"The new directive for the Tier 1 Wing is as follows: We count the inmates and feed them," he wrote. "No more sleep management, etc."


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