TACTICS DISCUSSED IN WHITE HOUSE
By Jon Christian Ryter
May 22, 2004
Even though his name appears on them, Lt. Gen Ricardo Sanchez said he never saw, or approved, the interrogation techniques used at Abhu Ghraib. According to Sanchez, the rules for interrogating prisoners were scripted by a female intelligence officer—a company commander— thus far identified only as Captain Woods.
Sanchez, together with his boss, Gen. John Abizaid and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who are the highest ranking officers with direct command control over the American military in Iraq, faced a hostile US Senate Armed Service Committee on Wednesday. The threesome struggled to find an acceptable explanation how interrogation rules that violated the Geneva Convention were implemented without their knowledge or consent even though the rules of interrogation were posted at Abu Ghraib last October. Those rules of interrogation—with the approval of the "C.G." (i.e., Sanchez)—included the following:  Dietary manipulation,  environmental manipulation,  Sleep deprivation,  isolation,  sensory deprivation and  stress positioning. The approaches included rapid fire questioning that did not give detainees time to think and deliberate over answers and using bribes to reward those who were cooperative. It was this list that was reportedly prepared by the mysterious Capt. Woods. Sanchez insisted to the Armed Service Committee that the list was prepared at company level and that he had no role in its preparation nor did he approve the rules of interrogation detailed on the list. In practice, the secondary rules of interrogation—and worse—became the primary tools of interrogation.
When questioned by Senator Jack Reed [D-RI] how a company commander could evoke such a list of illegal techniques that would require the consent of the commanding general before they could be implemented, Sanchez replied, "Sir, it's difficult for me to understand. You have to ask the commander." But Sanchez acknowledged that on 25 separate incidents, he approved some of those very techniques. In three other instances, Sanchez approved techniques that were rejected by officers below him. Sanchez personally approved the use of sleep deprivation, intimidation of the prisoners with guard dogs, and stress positioning. But no where in the reports did the general officers approve the use of humiliation by depriving detainees of their clothes, pose them in sexual situations, or otherwise force them to engage in homosexual acts with other detainees.
Abizaid and Sanchez denied that there was a culture of abuse among the US prison guards and the military intelligence interrogators even though they admitted there were systemic problems in the chain of command at Abu Ghraib that contributed to the mistreatment of prisoners.
Maj. Gen. Miller, who replaced Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski as the overlord of the Iraqi prison system, was repeatedly asked about his role, prior to January, 2004, in orchestrating the prison guards at Abu Ghraib to "help set the conditions for interrogations" by softening the detainees for questioning by military intelligence. Miller defended the recommendations he made and argued that there was no way the methods he outlined for interrogation could have been misinterpreted by the military police who mistreated the detainees. Miller will likely be the highest officer to fall on his sword before the investigation takes its course even though Sanchez is still in the crosshairs. In her own testimony in the Taguba Report, Karpinski stated that she resisted decisions by Miller and Sanchez to hand over tactical control of the prison to military intelligence personnel in June, 2003. Miller wanted Abu Ghraib run like the detention center at Guantanamo Bay because under Karpiniski, there was only a meager amount of intelligence coming out of Abu Ghraib. Karpinski recalled that when he spoke to her about it, he told her he wanted to "Gitmo-ize" Abu Ghraib. To her that meant using more aggressive, and possibly illegal forms of softening up detainees. Undersecretary of Defense Stephen A. Cambone, who apparently gave the verbal green light to more aggressive forms of "softening" told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Karpinski misunderstood what Miller was telling her, and that all the Pentagon had in mind was a more cooperative spirit between Karpinski's staff and the military intelligence people.
Two things disturbing about the Bush Administration with respect to the abuse scandal surfaced this week. First, it is becoming more clear that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, pressed hard by his own boss, the President, to get intelligence results in Iraq, verbally approved the types of "prisoner softening" detailed above (but not the sex abuse that resulted at Abu Ghraib). Rumsfeld approved tactics that pushed the envelope but were still within "legal limits." Further, two White House lawyers apparently discussed the legal ramifications of "pushing the interrogation envelope" with the President last fall. In the discussion, one of the lawyers (who has since left the Administration) told the media that he advised the president that if the Administration engaged in the interrogation tactics under discussion, members of the Administration could theoretically be charged with war crimes. It is unclear precisely what the specific interrogation tactics being discussed entailed, or whether or not any of those tactics were utilized at either Gitmo or Abu Ghraib, but the conversation indicates that sometime last fall, when the Bush Administration was under intense political pressure from the Democrats and the liberal media to capture Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, extreme interrogation tactics were at least discussed in the highest levels of government.
© 2004 Jon C. Ryter - All Rights Reserved
Jon Christian Ryter is the pseudonym of a former newspaper reporter with the Parkersburg, WV Sentinel. He authored a syndicated newspaper column, Answers From The Bible, from the mid-1970s until 1985. Answers From The Bible was read weekly in many suburban markets in the United States.
Today, Jon is an advertising executive with the Washington Times. His website, www.jonchristianryter.com has helped him establish a network of mid-to senior-level Washington insiders who now provide him with a steady stream of material for use both in his books and in the investigative reports that are found on his website. E-Mail: BAFFauthor@aol.com
"But no where in the reports did the general officers approve the use of humiliation by depriving detainees of their clothes, pose them in sexual situations, or otherwise force them to engage in homosexual acts with other detainees."