US general resisted handing over Iraqi prison: report

PTI | ByAFP, Washington
May 12, 2004 07:41 PM IST

General Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of US prisons in Iraq, said she resisted a decision by two superiors to hand over control.

General Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of US prisons in Iraq and who has been reprimanded for the prisoner abuse scandal, said she resisted a decision by two superiors to hand over control of the prisons to military intelligence officials who wanted to introduce tougher interrogation methods, the Washington Post said Wednesday.

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In a detailed account of her tenure to army investigators, Karpinski said she also resisted a decision by two top US Army generals in Iraq to authorize the use of lethal force to keep order inside the prisons, on the grounds this would violate the rules of engagement for military police and would be dangerous, the daily reported.

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Karpinski's concerns were overruled by Major General Geoffrey Miller and Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, according to a US official who described her account to the Washington Post.

Seven soldiers have already been charged over the abuse, photographs of which have gone around the world. Evidence of the abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners has sparked a major scandal in the administration of US President George W. Bush and triggered calls for Defense Secretary Ronald Rumsfeld to resign.

Karpinski said the decision to transfer the control of US military prisons in Iraq to military intelligence officials was broached at a September 2003 meeting with Miller, who was then in charge of the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, known colloquially as "Gitmo".

Miller, who had been sent to Iraq to introduce more effective methods of extracting information from Iraqi prisoners, told Karpinski he wante to "Gitmo-ize" Iraq's biggest prison, the Abu Ghraib jail outside Baghdad, according to the account furnished to the daily.

When Karpinski insisted that the prison was not hers to hand over, Miller told her to go ahead and supply the military police he was requesting.

"I have permission to take any facility I want from General Sanchez. We are going to get Military Intelligence procedures in place in that facility because the Military Intelligence isn't getting the information from these detainees that they should... We are going to send MPs (military police) in here who know how to handle interrogation," Miller said, according to Karpinski's account.

The daily said Miller denied through a spokesman having made such comments but did not provide his own account of the meeting.

Karpinski said it was General Sanchez who decided at a meeting in November 2003 to loosen the mlitary's rules of engagement so prison guards could use lethal force to put down any disturbance.

When Karpinski told Sanchez that his orders would violate the rules of engagement for military police and that it would be dangerous for police to carry lethal weapons among inmates, he overruled her.

"I don't care about the rules of engagement ... If the rules of engagement are a problem, then change them," Karpinski quoted Sanchez as saying.

Consulted by the Post, Sanchez denied having said he did not care about the rules of engagement.

US Major General Antonio Taguba, who helped uncover the prison abuse scandal, told a congressional committee Tuesday that a breakdown of leadership led to the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in US detention but that there was no evidence US soldiers were following orders.

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