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Iraq's 'Battlefield of the Mind'

By Walter Pincus
Monday, December 10, 2007

Marine Maj. Gen. Douglas M. Stone, commanding general of detainee operations in Iraq, is fighting what he has called "the battlefield of the mind." He has instituted extensive screening of incoming prisoners and has made available about 30 training and education courses, including religion and civics, to the 25,188 prisoners under his control.

At a news conference last week, he said that once a person is in custody at his facilities, Camp Cropper near Baghdad and Camp Bucca in southern Iraq, "we spend a lot of time learning about them now, studying their motivations . . . why they're fighting, who they fight for -- more so than we've ever known before."

At Cropper and Bucca, he said, there is "an assessment phase, and we take 72 hours and then we work really hard on categorizations." Based on those assessments, which include having imams evaluate prisoners on their religious beliefs, a decision is made about where to house them in the detention facility.

As Stone was describing his program, the Multi-National Force-Iraq Joint Contracting Command was advertising for 12 contract intelligence analysts to work for Stone at Cropper and Bucca for six to 18 months, beginning in March.

Their jobs will be mainly to "conduct in-processing assessment of new detainees coming into the theater internment facilities," according to the statement of work. They will screen the circumstances of each detainee's capture and any sworn statements or intelligence about the person contained in an accompanying packet.

After that, the work statement says, the contracted analysts will "determine what category a detainee is assigned to based on age, religion, threat level and insurgent group affiliation." They will also decide "where to place the detainee in the segregation plan."

Stone said the compounds are not organized by geographical areas, so most prisoners "don't really know each other." Because extremists are "generally the guys that know each other . . . and they come in to set up kind of a gang court," people from the same areas are spread out across the prison.

The courses they take, almost all of which are voluntary, include basic education, vocational training and religion. The religion course, run by one of 43 imams working on the program, lasts four days.

The civics course, which each detainee must take before he is released, covers "why you should try to get an education -- why you should try to have a job," Stone said. Other courses touch "on how you control anger, the oath of peace, the sacredness of life and property and references back to the Koran," he added. The demand for classes has "stripped" the 150 teachers he has available.

"I don't change people," Stone said. "Those people or God changes them, not me, but we do set in motion the ability to have that change take place."

Stone sees the overall program as working with detainees so that "they cannot conduct an insurgency inside the wire." He added that he hopes that detainees "someday maybe even work with us and, of course, by telling us who the bad guys are."

One result already seen, he said, is that moderates in the prisons are identifying extremists, thus facilitating their segregation from the rest of the population. At Camp Bucca, about 1,000 extremists were identified and pulled from among the 21,000 prisoners, and "that made a big difference," he said.

Another task for the contract employees is to "track and analyze activity" within each detention compound to enhance force protection, as well as work with counterintelligence agents in vetting informants inside the prison population.

A must for prospective contract employees is a "secret" security clearance. According to the statement of work, they should at a minimum "have an Associate's Degree though a Bachelor's degree is desired." Individuals with at least four years of analytical intelligence experience are "Highly desired."

Prospects must be in good physical shape and "capable of working 12 hour days, seven days per week, walking two miles minimum per day, climbing stairs, and wearing body armor and a helmet for extended periods of time," according to the work statement.

National security and intelligence reporter Walter Pincus pores over the speeches, reports, transcripts and other documents that flood Washington and every week uncovers the fine print that rarely makes headlines -- but should. If you have any items that fit the bill, please send them tofineprint@washpost.com.

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