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Hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee - Investigation of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade at Abu Ghraib Prison, Iraq

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


Federal News Service

HEADLINE: HEARING OF THE SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE

SUBJECT: INVESTIGATION OF THE 205TH MILITARY INTELLIGENCE BRIGADE AT ABU GHRAIB PRISON, IRAQ

CHAIRED BY: SENATOR JOHN WARNER (R-VA)

WITNESSES: GENERAL PAUL J. KERN, COMMANDING GENERAL, UNITED STATES ARMY MATERIEL COMMAND; LIEUTENANT GENERAL ANTHONY R. JONES, DEPUTY COMMANDING GENERAL, CHIEF OF STAFF, UNITED STATES ARMY TRAINING AND DOCTRINE COMMAND; MAJOR GENERAL R. STEVEN WHITCOMB, SPECIAL ASSISTANT TO THE COMMANDER, UNITED STATES CENTRAL COMMAND; MAJOR GENERAL GEORGE R.FAY, DEPUTY COMMANDER, UNITED STATES ARMY INTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY COMMAND; MAJOR GENERAL ANTONIO M. TAGUBA, DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR RESERVE AFFAIRS, READINESS, TRAINING AND MOBILIZATION

LOCATION: 216 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.

BODY:
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D-MA): Thank you. And I join all of those in the committee and thank you for an excellent presentation, General Kern, and thank those that are appearing here. You joined the Army to serve the country in the Army, and I'm not sure that this particular task that you had was something that you envisioned, but it is enormously important. And we thank you for the service, I think, to the United States Army, importantly to the country.

We had on May 7th, 2004, Secretary Rumsfeld testify before the committee about torture and other abuses at Abu Ghraib. And he testified before the House Armed Services Committee that same day. And several of his top aides testified at subsequent hearings. And Secretary Rumsfeld told this committee that a small number of U.S. military perpetrated the abuses. In the House he said a few members of the U.S. military were responsible. And then on May 24th, President Bush said that the scandal involved disgraceful conduct of a few American troops.

It's now clear, however, that the responsibility for these abuses does not simply lie with a few bad-apple soldiers. Your report, General Fay, identified 54 M-1, MP medical soldiers and civilian contractors who had some degree of responsibility of complicity in the abuses that occurred at Abu Ghraib. That's in the Fay report, seven and eight.

You found that leaders in key positions failed properly to supervise the interrogations at Abu Ghraib. That's on page seven. And you identified serious systemic problems that contributed to the volatile environment in which the abuse occurred. These systemic problems included inadequate interrogation doctrine and training, an acute shortage of MP and M-1 soldiers, the lack of clear lines of responsibilities between MP and M-1 chains of command, the lack of clear interrogation policy for the Iraq campaign, an intense pressure felt by personnel on the ground to produce actionable intelligence from detainees; all of that on page eight.

Now, Secretary Rumsfeld also told this committee that the abuses were brought to light by Specialist Joseph Darby in January 2004 and that the military chain of command acted promptly on learning of those abuses.

This claim, too, is false. Senior leaders had ample warning that these abuses were occurring long before January 2004. We have the DOD report. The Red Cross reports list 13 of them prior to the January, and then three that came in January at the same time as the Darby reports.

As General Jones found, indication and warnings had surfaced at the CJT-7 level, General Sanchez' command, that additional oversight and corrective actions were needed in the handling of detainees, including at Abu Ghraib. That's in General Jones's report, page 12.

The International Committee of the Red Cross reported on abuses in the prisons as early as May 2003. And during a visit to Abu Ghraib in October 2003, Red Cross inspectors were so upset by what they found, they broke off their visit and demanded an immediate explanation from our military authorities.

Yet the worst abuse at the prison occurred during the next three months, from October to December 2003. The repeated warnings of the Red Cross should have rung loud alarm bells. Instead of correcting the abuses, the military officials responded by trying to limit access by the Red Cross and by hiding prisoners from Red Cross inspectors, a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions.

So, General Kern, based on the results of your investigation, isn't it fair to conclude that Secretary Rumsfeld and his aides misled this committee, in turn misled the American people, when they claimed that only a few low-level soldiers were responsible for the abuses, and that the military leadership responded quickly and effectively to the abuses as soon as they were reported?

I've been listening to the reports this morning. You're talking about the change as soon as we had the cessation of hostilities. That reminds me of President Bush being out in that aircraft carrier saying, "Mission accomplished," May 1, in talking about the change, the cessation of hostilities.

We expected more support from our allies, General Jones said at that time. This is a clear misrepresentation, a clear miscalculation of what was going to happen in Iraq at that particular time. And the services, the Army's taking the brunt, because of failed oversight and leadership in the civilian area. I believe that.

When you say that there is confusion of policies, the importations of policies from Guantanamo and Afghanistan into Iraq, these are policies that were brought in there at some time. By who? Who's getting held accountable, besides those members of the armed forces that were actually in those prisons? Who's getting held accountable for the failure of providing leadership at the top level?

I think we have some responsibility of finding out that as well. And that would be my only complaint about the excellent reports that you've given is that there's some civilian authority up on top, and those are individuals that aren't being held accountable.

And the service men and women that are down at the lower level of the line in the chain of command in the military have been left holding the bag, whether it's the shortage of troops over at Abu Ghraib, the shortage of having MPs over there, the shortage of training, the shortage of oversight, the miscalculation in terms of other allies coming in. And when will the American people understand where true responsibility lies?

GEN. KERN: Senator, what we reported was a clear differentiation between those people who were culpable for the crimes, as we reviewed them, and those who were responsible. We do hold the chain of command responsible. And specifically, we asked Lieutenant General Sanchez where he was getting a great deal of this pressure from, as has been previously reported.

His answer to us was that he was generating that pressure. And in looking back at both what General Fay had found earlier in terms of this and what the circumstances that General Sanchez found himself in, it is clearly understandable that he would generate pressure to produce intelligence. He was being attacked. He owed that to his soldiers to protect them. And he demanded of his chain of command their response to him.

A failure took place, in my view, in that we report that there was no clear chain of command down to the interrogators. And so they were seeking for this information. "How do I respond to this pressure, and at the same time do it within the limits of the authority that we have?"

And so we found, as we reported, a number of documents going back and forth trying to clarify that. It never did clarify that to our satisfaction, and so you end up with a few people at the bottom without the clear direction that they needed.

There is unfortunately-the way we have laid this out in our structure, the military police have a clear chain of command, and they understood that there was a battalion commander there responsible for the health and welfare and the operation and security of that detention facility.

Did he do his job well? No. And that's been reported by General Taguba and others. Secondly, in the military intelligence, that did not exist. There is no clear distinction of how that chain of command goes. And so the pressure went directly from General Sanchez. And his chain of command goes from himself to the CENTCOM commander to the secretary of Defense. And so there's a clear chain that he has there. And the next person in that military intelligence is the interrogator.

Now, in our view, that's not right. It should be fixed. There should be clear accountability. Regardless of that, there are non- commissioned officers and there are officers who we expect to have exerted leadership and discipline, and they failed to do that.

SEN. KENNEDY: Just to follow up, because my time is up, but just to follow up on this. If General Sanchez felt this pressure because of increasing activity and threat to his troops, and pressure because of Abu Ghraib, why in the world didn't he ask for more troops and more support? So we find that out, who has responsibility.

GEN. KERN: His staff and through him was, as reported previously, asking for additional help. And that's why they brought in General Miller. That's why they brought in General Fast. The issue is, did it get there in time? And I'll let General Whitcomb comment.

GEN. WHITCOMB: Senator, that's absolutely right. If I go back to the comments earlier on the June-July time frame, as we saw the mission evolving from the stability and security operation, as we saw an increasing insurgency that General Abizaid identified in July, not fully there but certainly increasing in a difference from what we had expected, as we saw the increased support required with the Coalition Provisional Authority, all these things had Combined Joint Task Force 7 working with the CENTCOM staff on how could we man. What were the requirements?

And they were more than just requirements for people. As we well know, they were skill sets, such as military police, such as military intelligence, such as planners to assist both the Combined Joint Task Force 7 staff and the Coalition Provisional Authority staff's (operating?), do that necessary work.

So this dialogue of working the manning document, the joint manning document, was one of an ongoing dialogue between General Sanchez's staff and the CENTCOM staff and the joint staff, who was also a part of this process. The joint staff needed the finished document in order to go to the services to man the force, but they were at least in the process and knew what was going to be coming up the pike.

The other piece of it, Senator, that complicates the matter is where do those folks come from? We're very reliant on individual augmentees. So to bring a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine on active duty and get them prepped to go in takes a period of time. So there is some lead time in this process to be able to get the required forces in.

The bottom line is this was an ongoing dialogue. We recognize, from a CENTCOM level in daily conversations with General Sanchez and his staff, that there was going to be a requirement for more troops, and that was part of what drove General Abizaid's decision to keep the First Armored Division and the Second Armored Cavalry Regiment in theater to help the situation.

SEN. KENNEDY: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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