By Scott Higham and Joe Stephens
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, May 22, 2004
Prisoners posed in three of the most infamous photographs of abuse to come out of the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were not being softened up for interrogation by intelligence officers but instead were being punished for criminal acts or the amusement of their jailers, according to previously secret documents obtained by The Washington Post.
Several of the photographs taken by military police on the cellblock have become iconic, among them the naked human pyramid, the hooded man standing on a box hooked up to wires, and the three naked prisoners handcuffed together on the prison floor. The documents show that MPs staged the photographs as a form of entertainment or to discipline the prisoners for acts ranging from rioting to an alleged rape of a teenage boy in the prison.
The documents include statements by four of the seven MPs now charged in the abuse scandal: Spec. Sabrina Harman, Spec. Jeremy Sivits, Sgt. Javal S. Davis and Pfc. Lynndie England. Their statements provide new insights into the unfolding case.
For instance, they contain tantalizing hints about the role of military intelligence officers who operated in the shadows of Tier 1A at the prison. One military police officer said in a sworn statement that civilian and military intelligence officers frequently visited Tier 1A at night, spiriting detainees away for questioning out of sight of the MPs inside a "wood hut" behind the prison building. The documents also offer the first detailed account of how the abuse scandal unraveled.
Spec. Joseph M. Darby told investigators that he returned to Abu Ghraib from leave in November and heard about a shooting at the prison's "hard site," which contains Tier 1A. He said that he asked the MP in charge of the tier's night shift, Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr., if he had any photographs of the cell where the shooting took place.
Darby said Graner handed him two CDs of photographs.
"I thought the discs just had pictures of Iraq, the cell where the shooting occurred," Darby told investigators.
Instead, Darby viewed hundreds of photographs showing naked detainees being abused by U.S. soldiers.
"It was just wrong," Darby said. "I knew I had to do something."
He said that he asked Graner, a Pennsylvania prison guard in civilian life, about the photographs. Graner replied: "The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, 'I love to make a grown man piss himself.' "
In the newly obtained documents, the MPs who gave statements describe Graner and Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II as the leaders and organizers of the abuse. Frederick was the enlisted man in charge of Tier 1A and worked as a prison guard in Virginia.
Graner, Frederick and Spec. Megan Ambuhl requested lawyers and declined to provide investigators with sworn statements.
Attorneys for several of the charged MPs said their clients were acting at the behest of military intelligence officers at the prison to soften up the detainees for interrogation sessions.
"They were following orders," said Danielle Guebert, an attorney for England. "The orders came from military intelligence."
Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski has said that military intelligence officers were in charge of the cellblock at the time. Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross who visited the prison in mid-October, shortly before the worst of the recorded abuses, complained that detainees were being stripped and humiliated. "The military intelligence officer in charge of the interrogation explained that this practice was 'part of the process,' " the Red Cross said in a report. It remains unclear exactly what role military intelligence officers played in the abuses that have been documented in photographs and videos taken by MPs on the cellblock.
Davis, one of the MPs, said he lied when he was initially confronted by military investigators about his role in the abuse, according to the documents. He gave a second statement on Jan. 15. "It bothers me that I did not tell the truth," he said. "When I was asked about it today, I decided I needed to be honest and maintain my integrity and admit my fault."
Davis said that civilian and military intelligence personnel frequently visited Tier 1A and took detainees to a wood hut outside for interrogations.
Portions of Davis's statement were included in an investigative report by Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba. But his full statement contains fresh details about what took place on the cellblock.
There were different rules and procedures on Tier 1A, he said.
"I never saw a set of rules or SOP [standard operating procedure] for that section -- just word of mouth," Davis said. "I did see paperwork provided by the MI [military intelligence] soldiers regulating sleep and meals for some of the MI-hold prisoners."
He said he was asked by Graner to help prepare the detainees for interrogation. MPs or their attorneys have said that Graner served as the liaison on the cellblock between the MPs and the intelligence officers, who had taken control of Tier 1A by the fall of 2003.
Davis said Graner told him "the agents and MI soldiers would ask him to do things, but nothing was ever in writing, he would complain."
Special visitors frequented the wing at night, Davis said. They included representatives from the military's Criminal Investigation Division (CID) and other government agencies (OGA), a common expression for the CIA.
"On the night shift, FBI, OGA, CID, MI would be in and out of the wing interrogating prisoners, bringing them in, or taking them away to the wood hut behind the hard site or away period," Davis said. "Someone was always there from the other agencies or military personnel, it seemed."
He said he was disgusted by the treatment of the detainees.
"You mentioned you saw various things you thought were immoral," one investigator asked him. "What things are you referring to?"
"The sleep and food plan that was the majority of the crap," Davis said. "You see inmates stand all day and not get food until they are scheduled to sleep. They stand for three to four hours. . . ."
"Why did you not inform your chain of command about this abuse?"
"Because I assumed that if they were doing anything out of the ordinary or outside the guidelines, someone would have said something," Davis said. "Also, the wing belongs to MI and it appeared MI personnel approved of the abuse."
Davis said Graner and Frederick encouraged him to participate in the incidents.
"The MI staffs, to my understanding, have been giving Graner compliments on the way he has been handling the MI holds," Davis said. "Example being statements like 'Good job, they're breaking down real fast'; 'They answer every question'; 'They're giving out good information, finally'; and 'Keep up the good work' -- stuff like that."
Investigators asked if he had heard military intelligence officers directing the guards to abuse detainees.
"Yes," he said.
Davis said the intelligence officers told Graner and Frederick: "Loosen this guy up for us. Make sure he has a bad night. Make sure he gets the treatment."
"What is the name of the MI staff member who made the previously stated comments?" investigators asked.
"I don't know the name because they often don't wear uniforms, and if they do they don't have name tapes," Davis said.
Harman also hinted that military intelligence officers were orchestrating events on Tier 1A. She described a number of abuses, including soldiers letting a dog bite a detainee on both legs. She said that an interpreter practiced karate kicks to the head of another detainee, nicknamed the "Taxicab Driver." She said he was hit so hard he required stitches.
"MI, CID, OGA, etc., have all been involved," she told investigators.
England also told investigators that "MI had told us to 'rough them' up to get answers from the prisoners."
All the MPs who provided statements also described abuses that appeared to have little to do with intelligence gathering. Instead, they said detainees were beaten and sexually humiliated as punishment or for fun.
On Oct. 24, the MPs decided to punish three detainees suspected of raping a teenage boy at the prison. To make the men confess, the MPs stripped them and handcuffed them together.
"They started to handcuff the two rapist[s] together in odd positions/ways," England told investigators. "Once the two were handcuffed together, the third guy was brought over and handcuffed between the other two. Then they were laying on the floor handcuffed together, so all the other prisoners could see them. CPL Graner and SSG Frederick then asked me to start taking pictures with the camera."
The resulting images, which show several soldiers other than Graner and Frederick, have been cited by Graner's attorney as evidence that such practices were condoned by military intelligence officers.
Several of the worst abuses photographed took place on a single day, Nov. 8.
In one of the most striking images to surface, a detainee jokingly referred to as "Gilligan" by the MPs was forced to stand on a box of food, with wires connected to his fingers, toes and penis.
Harman said she attached the wires to "Gilligan" and told him he would be electrocuted if he fell off the box.
"Why did you do this to the detainee 'Gilligan'?" a military investigator asked.
"Just playing with him," Harman said.
Also that day, MPs punished seven detainees they said were instigating a riot in a part of the prison outside Tier 1A.
The detainees were stripped and forced to the floor of the cellblock.
"Graner was placing them into position," Harman told investigators.
"How long did the human pyramid last?" an investigator asked her.
"The pyramid lasted about 15 to 20 minutes," she said.
At one point, David jumped onto the pile of naked men, Sivits said.
"That is when Sergeant Davis ran across the room and lunged in the air and landed in the middle of where the detainees were," Sivits said. "I believe Davis ran across the room a total of two times and landed in the middle of the pile of detainees. A couple of the detainees kind of made an 'ah' sound."