The star witness before yesterday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing was Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba. Taguba carried out an investigation on the activities of the Army’s 800th Military Police Brigade at Abu Ghraib prison. Afterward, he wrote a 6,000 page report, the summary of which was leaked to the press by Seymour M. Hersh and disclosed in the New Yorker magazine.
The full report is still so secret that the Pentagon has not even shown all of it to the Senators sitting on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Taguba’s testimony emphasized that his report had covered only the activities of the 800th Military Police Brigade. He explained to the Senators that his report did not include an examination of the interrogation activities at Abu Ghraib prison. Taguba said he had not been authorized to investigate the activities of the military intelligence command at the prison.
Taguba, a relatively unknown Major General, had been expected to testify before the Senators alone yesterday, but at the last minute, the Pentagon insisted that he be accompanied by Stephen A. Cambone, the Undersecretary for Intelligence in the Department of Defense.
Cambone is essentially number two in the Pentagon, with the line of authority running upward from Cambone to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, and then directly to President Bush.
Taguba began his testimony by insisting to the Committee:
.”.. the scope of my investigation dealt principally with detention operations and not intelligence-gathering or interrogations operations. Again, my task was limited to the allegations of detainee abuse involving M.P. personnel and the policies, procedures and command climate of the 800th M.P. Brigade.”
Although Taguba had been expected to be an explosive witness, he told little more than what was already known from the 53-page summary of his leaked report. The surprise star of the event turned out to be Defense Department Undersecretary, Stephen Cambone, who was subject to aggressive questioning by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan. Senator Levin is the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Cambone testified that a written list of “approved techniques for interrogation” exists. “There is a list of those …” he said. Cambone added later that the techniques allowed in Iraq were .”.. signed out at the command level not in the Department of Defense.”
Cambone added that a commanding general, presumably at the theater lever of command, such as Sanchez holds in Iraq, may allow “exceptions” to the list of approved interrogation techniques.
Levin, demanding to know if Army doctrine permits: .”..forcing prisoners into stress positions, have been adopted. Um, are you familiar with those 50 techniques?
Cambone: “There is in as I said in my opening statement, there are those techniques in- in Army doctrine, yes, sir.”
Levin: “Those are 50 techniques?”
Cambone:“I I don’t know that it’s 50, sir. But there is a…”
Levin: “But includes stress positions?”
Cambone: “I believe they do.”
The seventy year-old Democrat pressed Cambone further, reading verbatim from a still-secret “annex” of the Taguba report, which presumably is an extract from an order by Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez, the commanding general in Iraq.
Senator Levin read aloud from the secret annex:
“The interrogation officer in charge will submit memoranda for the record requesting harsh approaches for the commanding general’s approval prior to employment: sleep management, sensory deprivation, isolation longer than 30 days and dogs.”
He then turned to Cambone, demanding to know:
“Secretary Cambone, were you personally aware of that permissible interrogation techniques in the Iraqi theater included sleep management, sensory deprivation, isolation longer than 30 days and dogs?”
Cambone answered calmly, relating that ultimate control over the list of “approved techniques” had been in the hands of Lieutenant General Sanchez , “No, sir. That list, both in terms of its detail and its exceptions, were approved at the command level in the theater.”
The gun-toting Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez, a native of the rough and tumble US/Mexico border region known to locals as “the valley,” is the Commanding General in Iraq. Sanchez’ order approving the use of dogs and the other methods was dated, October 19, 2003. But Sanchez, whose career must surely now be on the brink, was not the only official to be scathed by the revelation that specific written lists of “approved techniques” exist.
Under questioning by Senator Ted Kennedy, of Massachusetts, Undersecretary Cambone admitted that his boss, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld also has his own list of “approved techniques,” saying that when interrogators at Guantanamo Bay want to surpass the severity of the techniques on Rumsfeld’s list, the permission of the Secretary of Defense himself is required.
Some have wondered why the highest ranking officer or official to be implicated is US Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski. Senator Bill Nelson asked Taguba, “Well, what’s the highest ranking officer you interrogated?” Taguba answered, “Brigadier General Janis Karpinski.” Nelson then asked if Taguba had interviewed Sanchez. Taguba replied, “No Sir.” Pressed further on what other officers he investigated for his report he said simply, “Sir, none. I stopped at General Karpinski.”