A U.S. Army military intelligence soldier who spoke publicly about alleged abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison this week lost his top-secret security clearance yesterday as punishment for violating an order not to talk about the investigation.
In interviews this week, Sgt. Samuel Provance told The Washington Post and ABC News that military intelligence officers directed the actions of military police at the Abu Ghraib prison and that the military intelligence community appears to be covering up its role in the cases. He was the first person with military intelligence to openly discuss the abuse.
Provance said interrogators and analysts with the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade working at Abu Ghraib last fall often discussed the abuse of detainees and said they rationalized the treatment by saying that Iraqi prisoners were "the enemy." Provance operated a top-secret computer network at the facility and processed information for the interrogators.
In a telephone interview from Germany yesterday, Provance said he was ordered to turn over his top-secret security badge and move to a new platoon that has duties that do not require clearance. His record has also been "flagged" -- an administrative action similar to a suspension that usually happens to those who are overweight or fail physical training tests -- which means he is ineligible for promotion or honors. Provance also said he could be prosecuted.
"I feel like I'm being punished for telling the truth," Provance said, adding that he was again ordered to remain silent about the investigation. "I don't regret it. I want people to understand what happened."
Provance, who is now stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, drove with his commanding officer to a U.S. base in Wiesbaden yesterday morning, where he met with Lt. Col. James E. Norwood, commander of the 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion. The 302nd operates under the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, which was in charge of interrogations at Abu Ghraib.
Provance described how his punishment was administered by Norwood: "He just read off a printed statement and then asked me to sign it," Provance said. "I told him how my legal adviser told me not to sign anything, and he wasn't too happy about that. He dismissed me and then I left."
Provance spoke to Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba about the abuse during an Army investigation into Abu Ghraib earlier this year, and early this month Provance testified at an Article 32 hearing for one of the military police soldiers who is charged in the abuse scandal. Provance has also given a statement to an Army general who is investigating military intelligence's role in the abuses, and Provance said that inquiry seemed to focus solely on military police.
On May 14, Provance signed a nondisclosure agreement at his former office in Germany. Two days later, he recorded an interview with ABC News that aired on Wednesday, the same day he spoke with The Post.
Provance has maintained that the MPs assigned to the intelligence area of the prison were acting under the direction of military intelligence interrogators when they stripped down and embarrassed detainees as a way to help "break" them.
"I really don't know why they're trying to silence me," Provance said. "There could be many reasons."