"Banned" methods of prisoner interrogation were
approved at the highest levels of US command. Methods authorized
include so-called pain-inducing "stress positions" in which detainees are bound
to stand or squat until they are unable to comply, or until they break.
The use of these techniques was confirmed in a press
conference at the Pentagon. Although the spotlight Friday was on Secretary
of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld's testimony before Congress, the focus of the
Abu Ghraib torture scandal has started to shift onto Major General Geoffrey
Miller, the former commander of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Miller left Guantanamo and was put in charge of Abu Ghraib prison, near Baghdad,
after Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski
was quietly sacked at the end of March. Gen. Janis Karpinski has not been charged
in connection with the investigation.
She has subtly
implied that Miller encouraged questionable practices by introducing his "Gitmo"
(Guantanamo) prison practices into Iraq. She is reported to have said that Miller
"Gitmo-ized" the Iraq system. The circumstances under which prisoners were interrogated
in Cuba have been roundly criticized, especially in the foreign press.
In September, before Miller assumed command of Iraqi prisons, he paid a special
visit to Abu Ghraib at the behest of the top commanders. They asked Miller to
assess the Iraqi prisons
with an eye to increasing the flow of intelligence information from detainees.
As some within the Pentagon are distancing themselves from Miller's assessment
report, accusations have circulated
that Miller's recommendations introduced questionable interrogation methods
into Abu Ghraib. The same "Cuban" interrogation methods were used at Guantanamo
Critics have claimed that the conditions in Guantanamo amount to torture. According
to reports, Miller has denied
these charges, saying,
"The United States never tortures anyone …"
Miller's recommendations for speeding up the interrogation process at Abu Ghraib
were presented to the top commander in Iraq, Brigadier General Ricardo S. Sanchez.
In part they stated, " … it
is essential that the guard force be actively engaged in setting the conditions
for successful exploitation of the internees."
The phrase, "setting conditions for interrogations" is a euphemism.
On Tuesday, Miller defended
the recommendations he made, "Every recommendation that we made was in the bounds
of what was authorized by the theater and was within standard practices."
Miller, an experienced officer with "22,000
interrogations" under his belt, took over command
of Guantanamo in the fall of 2002. The first prisoners at Guantanamo arrived
in Jan 2002. There were about 600 prisoners
in Miller's detention facility at Guantanamo. By Oct. 9, 2003 there had been
During Miller's tenure at Guantanamo, prisoners underwent interrogation almost every
other day. Interrogations could begin anytime and last 10 hours.
While interrogated, prisoners were shackled to the floor.
Charges of overt torture at Guantanamo cannot be verified because the prisoner
detention area at Guantanamo is off limits to the press.
Miller claims that during his September assessment visit, he did not witness
any abuses at Abu Ghraib, "the team saw no evidence of abuse during our stay".
One notorious incident that came to light in the leaked Taguba
Report was a sexual assault using a broomstick. Miller tried to assure reporters
on Tuesday that the abuses and chaos that have made the name Abu Ghraib notorious
are now safely in the past. However, Miller was unable to answer reporter's
questions about whether the person accused of that sexual assault was still
working in the prison.
Responding to questions on Tuesday about what techniques are routinely used
during interrogation, Miller said, "For example, sleep deprivation and stress
positions and all that could be used."
Miller seemed to do no better at public relations this week than Secretary
of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, whose clumsy appearance at a Pentagon briefing
on Tuesday set the stage for a humiliating encore on capital hill Friday.
Miller, like Rumsfeld, may not weather the storm surrounding the Abu Ghraib
prison. But, unlike Rumsfeld, Miller is only implementing policy, not making
The Abu Ghraib prison scandal has the potential to destroy lives and careers.
But it does not need to do so. Justice demands that all allegations be examined.
Justice also demands that lives spent serving this country be respected.
Fairness demands that everyone in the entire chain of command be given the
opportunity to demonstrate that they have acted honorably. Demanding, accepting,
or offering any resignations before a thorough investigation has taken place
will do an injustice to the reputations of those concerned and to the honor
of the United States.