General Who Ran Guantanamo Bay Retires
Tuesday, August 1, 2006
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, a central figure in the debate over the treatment of detainees in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, retired from the Army yesterday amid ongoing congressional concern about his role in policies that allegedly led to abuse by U.S. service members.
Miller chose to retire without seeking promotion and a third star, in large part because his legacy has been tarnished by allegations of abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison and the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, according to military officials and congressional sources. Miller had hoped to retire in February, but his departure was delayed because members of the Senate Armed Services Committee wanted to question him while he was still in uniform about his role in implementing harsh interrogation techniques at the two prisons.
Miller was allowed to retire only after he assured members of the Senate panel in writing that he would make himself available to testify if called. Congressional sources from both political parties said yesterday that they were not satisfied with several investigations into Miller's actions while he was commander at Guantanamo Bay and are still skeptical of his truthfulness in Senate testimony after the Abu Ghraib abuse surfaced in spring 2004.
A senior Pentagon official said yesterday that Miller is a "casualty of the Abu Ghraib abuse," comparing him to Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, who also was not promoted because senior leaders feared that a public confirmation hearing would go badly in light of the allegations.
Military commanders twice have cleared Miller of wrongdoing -- once after investigators suggested he be reprimanded for failing to properly oversee the interrogation of a high-value detainee at Guantanamo Bay who was abused, and once after the Army's inspector general determined he had testified truthfully to the Senate.
Gen. Richard A. Cody, Army vice chief of staff, said yesterday that Miller has had "a very, very distinguished career" and is regarded within the military as an effective leader. Cody said he has reviewed the reports and that the investigation was handled appropriately.
Cody presented Miller with the Distinguished Service Medal, a top honor for general officers, at a retirement ceremony yesterday in the Pentagon's Hall of Heroes.
While the top officer at Guantanamo Bay in 2002 and 2003, Miller implemented and oversaw a number of harsh interrogation tactics that included the use of dogs to frighten Arab detainees, and stripping captives naked and shackling them in stress positions to force them to talk. Such tactics later were used in Iraq, shortly after Miller and a team of experts visited in 2003 to help obtain more information during interrogations.
Miller has said he did not authorize interrogation techniques in Iraq. But according to slides he presented to Pentagon officials upon his return, he used his Guantanamo Bay experience as a baseline for suggestions such as having military police who guarded the detainees set the conditions for more fruitful interrogations. Weeks later, military police soldiers at Abu Ghraib took pictures of themselves using harsh and demeaning tactics similar to those at Guantanamo Bay.
Harvey Volzer, a civilian defense lawyer who represented a military dog handler convicted of intimidating a detainee, said he believes that Miller has become a scapegoat for abusive policies developed at a higher level.
"I think they're looking for a place to stop, and Major General Miller may be that convenient place to stop. They're hoping the Senate will be satisfied with Miller's head," Volzer said.
A bipartisan group of senators from the Armed Services Committee has asked for a hearing to examine Miller's conduct and the results of the Army inspector general's investigation as it relates to Miller's previous testimony. Sens. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) wrote in a letter on June 29 that they believe "the Army appears to be protecting MG Miller from being held accountable for his actions."
Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), the committee's chairman, wrote to the secretary of the Army on July 24 requesting interrogation plans, answers to written questions from top officials and additional interviews. He also wrote that he will schedule a hearing in which Miller will testify.
In a letter received by the Armed Services Committee on July 20 and obtained by The Washington Post, Miller wrote that he is prepared to testify under oath.
"Even though I am retiring from active duty, I assure you that if requested, I will appear voluntarily before and cooperate with the Senate Armed Services Committee," Miller wrote.