Janis Karpinski in Berlin

As the proceedings begin to bring Don Rumsfeld and others to justice for the crimes committed in Iraq, one of the witnesses for the prosecution speaks out.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us how it happened? When you were in Iraq, when you were in charge at Abu Ghraib, tell us how you learned about the torture that was taking place, and your jurisdiction, your authority over the area in the prison where these prisoners were tortured.

JANIS KARPINSKI: Well, I think it’s a critical point and certainly important in the discussion, because I was responsible for 17 prison facilities in Iraq, and they were spread all over Iraq. And they were in various stages of disrepair. And our purpose was to assist the prisons experts under the Coalition Provisional Authority with the rebuilding of these and re-opening of these prisons. We never wanted to use, and we never planned to use Abu Ghraib for any long-term detention operation, because it was, number one, in one of the most dangerous locations in all of Iraq, in the middle of the Sunni Triangle, and it had a notorious history of abuse and torture under Saddam Hussein. So we were moving in the direction of transferring all of the Iraqi criminals being held at Abu Ghraib to other facilities, as they became open and operational. And our Iraqi criminal population was very limited at Abu Ghraib. Again, we were moving towards closing it completely.

And then, they — the Coalition Provisional — excuse me, the CJTF-7, the coalition forces, undertook these raids and roundups, as they would come to be called, in the different sectors, so that the combat divisions would put together plans to go out and apprehend targeted individuals. But with very little description of the individuals they were attempting to capture and apprehend, very often these operations would take place in a location where there would be 20, 30, 50, 100 people meeting for some reason. And when the operational force arrived there, they would see that there were, not two or three individuals, but 50 or more, so they would arrest everybody. And they started to turn these new security detainees over to Abu Ghraib, contrary to what our plans were of closing it completely. Now we have an enormous growing population.

But in November of 2003, the prison responsibility for Abu Ghraib was transferred from the Military Police Control, my control, to the Military Intelligence Control, making it an interrogation center for all of Iraq, as General Miller planned and directed during his visit in September of 2003. So, I had 16 other prison facilities to be concerned with and to focus on. In fact, in January of 2004, when I first heard about this ongoing investigation at Abu Ghraib, I couldn’t find out from anybody any information or any details of what this investigation really encompassed.

And it wasn’t until the 23rd of January, when I saw the pictures for the first time. And I asked — when I saw the pictures, I asked the commander of the Criminal Investigation Division, “Where is the military intelligence in all of this?” And seeing one of the contract people in some of the photographs, I said, “Why are the translators in any of these photographs?” And I was told, “Ma’am, those aren’t translators. Those are contract interrogators.” So, it was first time not only seeing the pictures, but the first time I was receiving details of contract interrogators actually working out at Abu Ghraib.

When I tried to go to see some of the soldiers, to get access to some of the soldiers seen in some of those photographs, I was told by the JAG officer representing General Sanchez, those soldiers did not work for me, so I had no right to go and speak to any of them. In fact, they worked for the Military Intelligence commander. It was a different story in April of 2004, when the photographs were released for the world. But there were specific steps taken to keep me from speaking to the individuals, from having information, and from having any insight in terms of what was going on in interrogation operations.

Read the rest of it here, where she talks about a memo signed by Rumsfeld listing the specific techniques to be used in interrogations of prisoners in Iraq that contravene the Geneva Conventions.

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