The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on the the treatment of Iraqi Prisoners Friday. The transcript follows:
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) Chairman
Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.)
Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.)
Rep. Jim Saxton (R-N.J.)
Rep. John M. Mchugh (R-N.Y.)
Rep. Terry Everett (R-Ala.)
Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett (R-Md.)
Rep. Howard P. "Buck" Mckeon (R-Calif.)
Rep. William M. "Mac" Thornberry (R-Tex.)
Rep. John N. Hostettler (R-Ind.)
Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr. (R-N.C.)
Rep. Jim Ryun (R-Kan.)
Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.)
Rep. Robin Hayes (R-N.C.)
Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.)
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.)
Rep. Rob Simmons (R-Conn.)
Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-Va.)
Rep. Edward L. Schrock (R-Va.)
Rep. W.Todd Akin (R-Mo.)
Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.)
Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.)
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.)
Rep. Frank L. Lobiondo (R-N.J.)
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.)
Rep. Jeb Bradley (R-N.H.)
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah)
Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio)
Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.)
Rep. Candice S. Miller (R-Mich.)
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.)
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.)
Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.)
Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.)
Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) Ranking Member
Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (D-S.C.)
Rep. Solomon P. Ortiz (D-Tex.)
Rep. Lane Evans (D-Ill.)
Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.)
Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii)
Rep. Martin T. Meehan (D-Mass.)
Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.)
Rep. Victor F. Snyder (D-Ark.)
Rep. Jim Turner (D-Tex.)
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.)
Donald H. Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense
Gen. Richard B. Myers, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff
Les Brownlee, Acting Secretary of the Army
Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, Chief of Staff, United States Army
Lt. Gen. Lance L. Smith, Deputy Commander, United States Central Command
Dr. Steve Cambone, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence
HUNTER: The committee will come to order.
We’re here today for a simple reason. Last year, several members of the United States military disgraced the uniform. By abusing enemy detainees, a handful of miscreants broke our laws, embarrassed our country and created an international incident.
Unlike Saddam who practiced such abuse and much worse as a matter of state policy, the United States does not tolerate that kind of behavior. The military will bring the guilty to justice, just as surely as Saddam could not escape accountability for his crimes.
I know that, because I know this secretary and the leadership team that he and the president have created for the Department of Defense. We’re engaged in a complex and global war on terror and are operating against terrorists in two major theaters. We need to judge the department’s leadership on its performance in that war, not on its public relations skills or the frequency with which a few egos on Capitol Hill get bruised.
And in that area, the secretary and his colleagues have consistently demonstrated excellent management skills and superior military judgment.
Today, some people with 20-20 hindsight ask why the secretary didn’t drop everything to personally investigate the abuses when they were first reported in January. That’s bad and irresponsible advice.
It’s immensely more important that the secretary of defense focus on defeating our enemies, particularly when investigators in Iraq were already conducting a massive, comprehensive and swift investigation that has already resulted in six people being charged with criminal offenses under the Code of Military Justice.
HUNTER: Simply put, the wheels of military justice are already moving and we all know they turn much faster than our civilian courts.
Even as we condemn the brutal acts of a few, we must remember that their behavior is isolated. The vast majority of American soldiers are serving their country honorably, professionally and, in many cases, heroically.
Take, for example, Gunnery Sergeant Jeffrey Bohr, Jr., United States Marine Corps. While those abuses were taking place by a handful of people in that prison, Sergeant Bohr, Gunnery Sergeant Bohr, while serving in Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, in the 1st Marine Division, volunteered to join an armor resupply convoy with its two soft skin vehicles.
According to the Navy, while moving through narrow streets toward the objective, the convoy took intense small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire. Through his movement, Gunnery Sergeant Bohr delivered accurate, effective fire on the enemy while encouraging his Marines and supplying critical information to his company commander.
The upshot was that Gunnery Sergeant Bohr protected his wounded Marines, laying down suppressive fire until he, himself, was mortally wounded by enemy fire.
I offer that citation, and the citation for the Silver Star which was posthumously awarded to Gunnery Sergeant Bohr, not because it’s isolated, but because that kind of heroism was and is widespread among the 135,000 Americans serving honorably in Iraq.
And I wanted to just make sure in this wave of publicity that has attended this massive focus on the six individuals who so far have been identified as having possibly committed criminal acts that the vast majority of honorable and courageous soldiers fighting in that theater are not getting the attention and not getting the publicity that these few are. And I think it’s important for us to keep this in perspective.
HUNTER: In fact, over 300,000 people have served in the theater since the war started last year and altogether they have earned more than 3,767 Purple Hearts, four distinguished Service Crosses, 127 Silver Stars and 16,000 Bronze Stars.
But there’s more to our soldiers than just courage in battle. Today’s military is also the most humane force in the history of the world. It’s in Iraq to defeat tyranny, not to occupy another country. And it’s rebuilding that country while fighting terrorists.
Already in Iraq, the coalition has completed over 20,000 reconstruction projects, restored electricity production, higher than pre-war levels, rebuilt an oil industry that will help Iraqis build a better future and increased public health spending by a factor of 30.
In every one of those areas, the men and women of our armed forces have had a major, major hand.
Now, some people want to ignore these facts and focus solely on the immoral and illegal acts of a few. That’s exactly what our enemies want — to portray the United States as a great Satan and to tar all of our soldiers with the reprehensible actions of a very few people.
Some tried to do that in Vietnam. We must not let it happen today. To focus solely on the abuses while downplaying the incredible accomplishments would be to create an injustice against our people who are serving honorably with the distinction and professionalism we’ve all come to expect from them.
We’re all outraged by what happened. I’m sure that nobody in this room is angrier than our witnesses.
But, gentlemen, we look forward to hearing how the Department of Defense is ensuring that the guilty parties are identified and brought to justice.
I have every confidence in your commitment to that outcome and your continued leadership of our war effort. The American people could not ask for a better team.
And, Mr. Secretary, while we’ve been concentrating on these actions and this criminal investigation and prosecution of some six individuals, I am reminded that you have some 2.5 million individuals that you must — you have oversight over.
HUNTER: You have forces around the world on every continent. You have two major wars, which you have just completed the biggest redeployment of forces I believe since World War II.
You have reformed and reshaped the 750,000 manned civil service department of the United States. And you have a $400 billion-plus defense budget that you are currently working with us on to try to make sure that the people in uniform have the very best in equipment.
You have a very big job. You have the biggest piece of the discretionary budget of the United States, and in my opinion, you’re doing a very good job at managing our military and the war on terror.
So we look forward to your testimony.
I know this is a difficult time, a painful time and a difficult issue. But I think we’re going to work through it.
And out of this, this week, and the work that you’ve been doing over the last several weeks, and that this Congress and this Armed Services Committee, of which I’m very proud, have been working on and putting this new budget together, we’re going to move forward in the next several months and make great strides both in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in the war on terror.
So we look forward to your statements, and I’d like to now turn to my colleague, my great partner on this committee, the gentleman from Missouri, Mr. Skelton, for any remarks he’d like to make.
SKELTON: Mr. Chairman, thank you, and thank you, gentlemen, for appearing before us.
We have some very difficult questions because this is a very serious and a very disturbing matter.
SKELTON: And Mr. Chairman, let me thank you for holding this hearing.
I also want to express my strong conviction that this must be the first of many hearings on this subject. These appalling revelations have done incalculable damage to our nation’s reputation and to our military, and one hearing, however important as it is, will not suffice.
For that reason, I believe strongly and I say here at the outset that we must hold an independent congressional investigation into these abuses and into the command atmosphere that permitted them to occur.
Mr. Secretary, I’ve read your testimony and I’m pleased that you’ll be appointing senior former officers to look into the sufficiency of the current ongoing investigations. But this is not enough.
Congress, having not been informed, must now be involved. Oversight of the Department of Defense, the military, is this committee’s most important role. We must find out what happened and how far up it goes. To do this, we need staff investigations. We need to get out into the field. Second-hand information is not sufficient.
Mr. Chairman, I have never before been sadder or more disappointed. Each of us and every American have been horrified by the images we’ve seen and the stories we’ve heard in the last week from the Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad.
The individuals who committed these shameful acts forgot that they were soldiers. They also forgot that the middle name of the American soldier is honor. We deplore and condemn the abuse of those in the custody of the United States in Iraq.
I’m reminded of my conversation with the late historian Stephen Ambrose at a small breakfast in my office a few years ago.
When asked what makes America so great and so unique, he said that while Russia had a hearty work force and great natural resources, they did not have a George Washington, a John Adams, a Thomas Jefferson, or a James Madison, or the values they established.
The actions taken by the soldiers at Abu Ghraib do not reflect the values of Americans, and the Iraqi people must understand that.
SKELTON: If they don’t, this instance could well become the tipping point for our entire effort to bring security and reconstruction to Iraq. If we lose the trust of the Iraqi people, if we lose their hearts and minds, we cannot bring anything else effectively.
We must win back this trust. The safety of our troops, Iraq’s future depends on it.
Abu Ghraib, once a chamber of horrors under Saddam Hussein, has become a chamber of indignities under the American military. It must be bulldozed to the ground to symbolize a break with the past and a new beginning with the Iraqi people. Many more steps are needed, but we must start with this symbol.
We must also bring all responsible to justice. I support General Schoomaker’s and the appropriate military authority’s efforts to complete thorough investigations and to bring anyone who committed crimes to justice. This must apply regardless of who committed the crimes — military personnel, personnel of other government agencies, or private contractors. The Iraqi people must see us take swift, strong, fair actions.
We must also address the command and other systemic deficiencies that contributed to the abuse. And I believe that we will need some independent congressional investigation on that.
But I have to say that there’s another trust that sadly has been lost, and that’s between the Department of Defense and we in Congress. The investigation into this matter has been ongoing since January.
Now, neither this committee nor myself — and I don’t believe Mr. Hunter — was informed despite numerous meetings. And I don’t consider a passing reference in a Central Command press release, which I never saw, to be adequate notification of a matter that has such serious implications for our efforts in Iraq or our role in the world.
Mr. Secretary was here last Wednesday briefing us on the situation in Iraq and that very day, that was the day the story aired on "60 Minutes II," and nothing was said.
I believe in the words of President John Kennedy, that an error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it. Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed, and no republic can survive.
SKELTON: Mr. Chairman, these mistakes must be corrected for the sake of this nation, for our standing in the world and for success in Iraq, which all of us want.
Mr. Secretary, I look forward to your statement as well as the other gentlemen.
HUNTER: Mr. Secretary, again, thanks for being with us today. The floor is yours, sir.
RUMSFELD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your statement, members of the committee, Congressman Cunningham.
I would request that my full statement be put in the record.
HUNTER: Without objection.
In fact, all statements will be accepted for the record.
RUMSFELD: In recent days there’s been a good deal of discussion about who bears the responsibility for the terrible activities that took place at Abu Ghraib Prison. These events occurred on my watch.
As secretary of defense, I am accountable for them and I take full responsibility for them.
It’s my obligation to evaluate what happened to make sure that those who have committed wrongdoing are brought to justice and to make changes as needed to see that it doesn’t happen again.
I feel terrible about what happened to these Iraqi detainees. They’re human beings, they were in U.S. custody. Our country had an obligation to treat them right, to treat them as human beings. We didn’t do that. That was wrong.
So to those Iraqis who were mistreated by the members of the U.S. armed forces, I offer my deepest apology. It was inconsistent with the values of our nation, it was un-American.
Further, I deeply regret the damage that’s been done, first to the reputation of the honorable men and women in the armed forces who are courageously and professionally and responsibly defending our freedom across the globe. They are truly wonderful human beings, and their families and their loved ones can be enormously proud.
RUMSFELD: Second, to the president, the Congress and the American people, I wish we had been able to convey to them the gravity of this matter before we saw it in the media.
And finally, to the reputation of our country. The photographic depictions of U.S. military personnel that the public has seen have offended and outraged everyone in the Department of Defense. If you could have seen the anguished faces and expressions on those in the department upon seeing those photos you would know how strongly and deeply we feel.
We take this very seriously. It’s important for the American people and the world to know that while these terrible acts were perpetuated –perpetrated by a small number of the military, they were also brought to light by the honorable and very responsible actions of other military personnel.
This was not some sort of a news media discovery. There are many who did their duty professionally and we should mention that as well.
First, Specialist Joseph Darby, who alerted the appropriate authorities that abuses were occurring. Second, those in the military chain of command who acted promptly upon learning of those activities by initiating a series of investigations, criminal and administrative, to assure that the abuses had stopped and to assure that the responsible chain of command was relieved and replaced.
Having said that, all the facts that may be of interest are not yet in hand. In addition to the Taguba report, there are other investigations under way and we’ll be discussing them today.
RUMSFELD: Because all the facts are not in hand, there will be corrections and clarifications to the record as more information is learned. From the witnesses here you will be told the sequence of events and investigations that have taken place since the activities first came to light.
I want to inform you of the measures under way to improve our performance for the future.
Before I do that, let me say that each of us at this table is either in the chain of command or in positions of senior responsibility in the department. This means that anything we say publicly could have an impact on the legal proceedings against those accused of wrongdoing in this matter. So please understand that if some of our responses to questions are measured, it is to ensure that pending cases are not jeopardized by seeming to exert command influence and that the rights of any accused are properly protected.
Now let me tell you the measures we’re taking to deal with this issue.
First, to ensure that we have a handle on the scope of the catastrophe, I’ll be today announcing today the appointment of several former senior officials who are being e asked to examine the pace, the breadth, the scope, the thoroughness of the existing investigations and to determine whether additional studies, investigations may be needed.
They’re being asked to report their findings within 45 days of taking up their duties. I’m confident that these distinguished individuals will provide a full and fair assessment of what has been done thus far and recommend whether further steps may be appropriate.
Second, we need to review our habits and procedures. One of the things we’ve tried to do since September 11th is to get the department to adjust its procedures to fit a time of war and to fit the information age, the 21st century.
For the past three years, we’ve looked for areas where adjustments were needed and regrettably, we have now found still another area.
RUMSFELD: Let me be clear: I failed to recognize how important it was to elevate a matter of such gravity to the highest levels, including the president and the leaders in Congress.
Third, I am seeking a way to provide appropriate compensation to those detainees who suffered such grievous and brutal abuse and cruelty at the hands of a few members of the U.S. military. It’s the right thing to do.
I wish we had known more, sooner, and been able to tell you more sooner, but we didn’t.
Today, we have a full discussion of those terrible acts, but first, let’s take a step back, for a moment. Within the constraints imposed on those of us in the chain of command, I want to say a few additional words.
First, beyond the abuse of prisoners, there are other photos — many other photos — that depict incidents of physical violence towards prisoners, acts that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhuman. And I am advised there also are videos of these actions.
Second, there are many more photos that have not yet come to light. Congress and the American people and the rest of the world need to know this.
In addition, the photos give these incidents a vividness, indeed a horror, in the eyes of the world.
Mr. Chairman, that’s why this hearing today is important. And it’s why the actions we take in the days and weeks ahead are so important. Because however terrible the setback, this also is an occasion to demonstrate to the world the difference between those who believe in democracy, and in human rights, and those who believe in rule by terrorism.
RUMSFELD: We value human life. We believe in individual freedom and in the rule of law. And for those beliefs, we send men and women in the armed forces abroad to protect that right for our own people and to give millions of others who aren’t Americans the hope of future freedom.
Part of that mission, part of what we believe in is making sure that when wrongdoing or scandal do in fact occur that they’re not covered up, but they’re exposed, and that the guilty are brought to justice.
Mr. Chairman, I know you joined me today in saying to the world: Judge us by our actions. Watch how Americans, watch how democracy deals with wrongdoing and scandal and the pain of acknowledging and correcting our own mistakes and, indeed, our own weaknesses.
And then, after they have seen America in action, then ask those who teach resentment, who teach terrorism, who teach hatred of America, if our behavior doesn’t give the lie to the falsehood and the slander that they speak about our people and our way of life.
Ask them if the resolve of Americans in crisis and difficulty, and, yes, in the heartbreak of acknowledging the evil in our midst, doesn’t have meaning far beyond their hatred.
Above all, ask them if the willingness of Americans to acknowledge their own failures before humanity doesn’t light the world as surely as the great ideas and beliefs that first made this nation a beacon of hope and liberty to all who strive to be free.
We know what the terrorists will do. We know that they try to exploit all that is bad and try to obscure all that is good. That’s their nature, and that is the nature of those who think they can kill innocent men, women and children to gratify their own cruel will to power.
We say to the world, we will strive to do our best, as imperfect as that may be.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. My colleagues have some comments they’d like to make.
General Myers or Secretary Brownlee, who wants to go first?
MYERS: Mr. Chairman, Congressman Skelton, I would like to express my very deep regret at being here under these circumstances. The incidents of prisoner abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib prison are absolutely appalling. The actions of those involved are unconscionable and absolutely unacceptable.
Since Brigadier General Kimmitt’s public announcement of the allegations back in January, the commanders’ response to the problems highlighted in these investigations has been timely and thorough.
And just as a backdrop, we must also realize that our commanders have been handling some enormous challenges in Iraq, including the increased fighting in Fallujah and An Najaf, the temporary plus-up of troops, and the departure of the Spanish brigade, at the same time that they were dealing with the conclusion of some of these reports.
Despite these extraordinary events on the battlefield, our commanders did exactly the right thing in a timely manner. I have great confidence in them, as should the American public and every Iraqi citizen.
I’ve been receiving regular updates since the situation developed. I’ve been involved in corrective actions, and I’ve personally recommended specific steps.
Again, I’m confident that the commanders are doing the right things.
You know, one of the U.S. military’s greatest strengths comes from the fact that we hold our service men and women accountable for their actions.
MYERS: Our military justice system works very well. And I took an oath to support the Constitution, and with that comes the responsibility to ensure that all military members enjoy the full protections of our Constitution, to include the due process of a fair judicial system. After all, it’s the respect for the rule of law that we’re trying to instill in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.
And as the secretary said, we’re now in the middle of a judicial process dealing with the detainee abuse, and because of my position, I have to be careful I don’t say anything that can be interpreted as direction or pressure for a certain outcome in any of these cases.
Moreover, I think we have to understand that a fair judicial system takes time to work, as the chairman said. And I know you all understand that. No one is stalling or covering up information, but it’s absolutely essential to protect the integrity of our system.
I have complete confidence in the military justice system. The accused will receive due process and those found guilty will receive punishments based on their offenses.
When I spoke to Dan Rather, with whom I already had a professional association, concerning the "60 Minutes II" story, I did so after talking to General Abizaid and out of concern, as was his, for the lives of our troops.
The story about the abuse was already public. But we were concerned that broadcasting the actual pictures would further inflame the tense situation that existed then in Iraq and further endanger the lives of coalition soldiers and hostages.
Again, it’s useful to remember the context here. It was the heaviest fighting since the end of major combat, some 90 hostages taken. Very delicate situations we were trying to control in An Najaf, Al Kut, Nasiriyah and Fallujah.
Since the story of the photograph was already public, I felt we were on good ground asking him to hold off airing the actual photos. As we are now seeing, the photos are having a very real and a very emotional worldwide impact.
MYERS: This situation, as has been said, is nothing less than tragic. The Iraqi people are trying to build a free and an open society. And I regret that they saw such a flagrant violation of the very principles that are the cornerstone of such a society.
I’m also terribly saddened that the hundreds of thousands of servicemen and women who are serving or who have served so honorably in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere have had their reputation, or our reputations, tarnished and their accomplishments diminished by those few who don’t uphold our military’s values.
I know our servicemen and women are all suffering unfairly with a collective sense of shame over what happened.
But their credibility will be restored, day by day, as they interact with the Iraqi people. And I’m confident that our dedicated servicemen and women will continue to prove worthy of the trust and respect of this nation and for that matter the world.
We continue to be very proud of them, and as always, I thank you on their behalf for your steadfast support.
Now let me refer to a chart over here which will help explain why I’m so confident in our military chain of command. I’ll do this quickly, but it’s important to get the facts on the table.
The commander, CJTF-7, you may not be able to read it, but the first part on top, those further away — but the commander of CJTF-7, General Sanchez back in August said, "I want to look at our detention operations and our interrogation operations." And he had the provost marshal of the Army appointed to do that investigation.
And while that was going on, at the insistence of some of the folks here at the table, Major General Miller who was then assigned to Guantanamo and responsible for detainee operations there and interrogations, we asked him to go over and look at this as well, primarily concerned that we were getting the intelligence — that we were doing the interrogations right, that we got the intelligence analyzed properly and into the field and into the hands of those where it could make a difference, either in saving lives or in wrapping up the enemy.
You can see his look-see lasted about 10 days.
Then General Ryder in November submits his report. He talked about the facilities needing some upgrading, meeting minimal standards, but needing upgrading; that we need CPA involvement because we have to have a court system in Iraq that can handle these detainees — the civilian internees, the criminals — so they can be treated in an Iraqi court; and we need standardization of our practices and so forth.
MYERS: Actions were taken by General Sanchez on all of that.
Somewhere between October and December, this abuse occurred. On 13 January, it was reported by the individual that the secretary talked about.
One day later, the Army Criminal Investigative Division initiates a criminal investigation into these allegations.
On 16 January, that’s when General Kimmitt went to the public — I don’t know how many people saw that report, but he pretty much said what it was: we’ve got reports of abuse, there supposedly are pictures, and gave a general description of that abuse, a very general description.
On 18 January, based on what the CID — the Army police, essentially — had found, the battalion leadership was suspended; the battalion that was responsible for the folks at Abu Ghraib.
On 19 January, having had some of the reports out of the Army CID, General Sanchez says we need an investigative officer to look at all our detention facilities under the command of the 800th M.P. Brigade. That turns out to be the Taguba report; you can see that he was appointed there on the 31st of January.
At the same time, General Sanchez asked his inspector general to look at all detention facilities in Iraq, be they divisional facilities that were temporary in nature, whether they were coalition facilities, to look at them all.
Taguba did his work. At that time, as we started to learn some of what was coming out of the Taguba report, we in Washington, and through Secretary Brownlee, asked the Army, or the Army asked their I.G., to look at doing a broader assessment across the theater about all detention ops and about all interrogations from A to Z, and that investigation is ongoing.
MYERS: On 12 March, at the outbrief, this was an interim outbrief to General Sanchez — when he learned of the issue between the military police and the detainees and possible military intelligence involvement and their behavior, he asked for another investigation to start.
And that was appointed — you’ll see down there on 15 April, where Major General Fay — I think he’s a deputy Army G-2 — was asked to look at the military intelligence piece of this to see if there was undue influence on the military police and to see how they were doing their job. That investigation is under way, and I think it’s several weeks from completion if it stays on track.
The Taguba outbrief on 12 March was to get General Sanchez briefed. Then they went to General McKiernan at 3rd Army, or the combined forces land component commander, it says CFLCC there four lines up from the bottom of the chart — who was responsible for the investigation. And we have to remember that the Taguba investigation, the 15-6 investigation can result in administrative actions against personnel who are found to be wrong.
It can also result in people being relieved from duty and so forth. So it’s a serious report. It can have serious repercussions on individuals in the military. And therefore, when it got to the General McKiernan level, there had to be time for people that were named in this report to offer rebuttal.
And so, again, it’s the process that happens to make sure people have — the judicial process works appropriately and the investigative process. It was finally approved, as you can see there, on 1 May. And General Sanchez took actions against some individuals — administrative actions at that time.
MYERS: I don’t know that there could be a better way to handle this situation, a quicker way to handle this situation, or a more thorough way from the chain of command.
I’m very proud of what General Abizaid, General Sanchez and General McKiernan and others in this chain did to look at this situation. Some of those investigations are still pending.
Mr. Chairman, that completes my statement.
HUNTER: Thank you very much, General.
Mr. Secretary, do you have a statement?
BROWNLEE: Chairman Hunter, Representative Skelton and distinguished members of the committee, I appreciate the opportunity to be here today to offer testimony on actions taken by the Army in response to the appalling abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq.
I join the secretary of defense in apologizing to those detainees who were so horribly abused there.
Let me begin by outlining the range of investigations into detainee abuse.
From December 2002 to present, the criminal investigation command has conducted, or is continuing to conduct, investigations into 35 cases of abuse or death of detainees held in detention facilities in the Central Command theater. Twenty-five of these are death cases and 10 involve assaults.
The CID investigates every death in our custody. Of the 25 death investigations, CID has determined that 12 deaths were due to natural or undetermined causes, one was justifiable homicide, and two were homicides. The 10 remaining deaths are still under investigation.
Additionally, 42 other potential cases of misconduct against civilians occurred outside detention facilities and are currently under investigation by the Army CID or other responsible units.
BROWNLEE: In coordination with the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, on 10 February, 2004, I directed the inspector general of the Army to conduct a functional analysis of the department’s internment, enemy prisoner of war and detention policies, practices and procedures.
I directed this inspection to determine if there might be systemic problems relating to the planning, doctrine or training in the detention facilities operating within the Central Command theater.
Phase 1 of this assessment is oriented on current operations in the CENTCOM area of responsibility with assessment team visits to 16 detention facilities.
Phase 2 of the I.G. assessment will encompass visits to detainee facilities worldwide, including previously visited facilities to ensure compliance to establish standards.
Preliminary findings indicate that leaders and soldiers are aware of the requirement and expectation to treat detainees humanely and that it is their duty to report incidents of abuse.
To date, the majority of the abuse cases indicate the underlying cause has been two-fold: an individual failure to adhere to basic standards of discipline, training and Army values, and leadership failures to provide oversight and enforce standards.
To date, the Army has taken numerous actions to improve the training for military police and military intelligence soldiers. The Army is retraining select M.P. soldiers to serve as correctional specialists.
We have incorporated detainee lessons learned from operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan into the M.P. school curriculum and have deployed M.P. training teams to our combat training centers.
In response to a request from the CJTF-7 commander, the Army deployed integrated, multi-disciplined mobile training teams to oversee and conduct comprehensive training in all aspects of detainee and confinement operations in theater.
BROWNLEE: Additionally, the chief of the Army Reserves has directed his inspector general to conduct a special assessment of training for Reserve personnel on the law of war, detainee treatment ethics and leadership. All reserve component M.I. soldiers are now required to mobilize at the intelligence school at Fort Huachuca so they can receive the latest instruction on tactical questioning before deploying.
Finally, the Army is improving the training of military police and military intelligence personnel at our combat training centers by incorporating detainee holding situations into the tactical scenarios. These improvements were initiated for the later deploying OIF-2 units and will be fully implemented for all OIF-3 deploying units.
The reported acts of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib are tragic and disappointing, and they stand in sharp contrast to the values of our Army and the nation it serves. For these incidents to reflect negatively on the courage, sacrifice and selfless service of the hundreds of thousands of dedicated men and women who have volunteered to serve our nation in uniform would be a tragedy as well.
Our soldiers, over 300,000 of whom are deployed in over 120 countries around the world, most in Iraq and Afghanistan, have provided the opportunity for freedom and democracy for over 46 million people who have never experienced it before, while at the same time providing protection to the American people.
Mr. Chairman, we will find out how and why this happened, and ensure that those individuals determined to be responsible for these shameful and illegal acts of abuse are held accountable for their actions.
I appreciate this opportunity to appear before you today. I thank you and the members of this distinguished committee for your continuing support of the men and women in our Army, and I look forward to answering your questions.
HUNTER: Mr. Secretary, thank you.
General Smith, did you have a statement?
L. SMITH: No, sir. In the interest of time, I’ll…
SCHOOMAKER: Yes, sir.
Chairman Hunter, Representative Skelton and distinguished members of the committee, as the chief of staff of the Army, I am the individual responsible for training and equipping soldiers and growing Army leaders. I am also responsible for providing ready and relevant land-power capabilities to the combatant commanders and the joint team.
Although not in the operational chain of command, I am responsible for our soldiers’ training and readiness. Therefore, I take it personally when any of them fall short of our standards.
To put it in perspective: What we are dealing with are actions of a few, as has been mentioned, conscious actions that are contrary to all that we stand for.
This is not just a training issue. We have annual requirements for all soldiers to train to the legal, moral and ethical standards embodied in the Hague and Geneva Convention in the laws of land warfare.
But this is an issue that involves character and values, the values of the Army — seven: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.
These values are inculcated in our soldiers from the moment they enter the training base and go with them throughout. There is no question that the potential consequences of this situation are serious. But we must not forget that these are few among a great many others who are serving with great honor and sacrifice.
And I’ll just remind you, I know many of you have been to Walter Reed. I was with a young Bradley lieutenant, Bradley platoon leader, a couple of weeks ago, wounded in the first week of April who, as we speak, is on his new leg getting ready to go back to Iraq. That’s his objective, to join his platoon.
These are the kind of people this Army’s made of, our soldiers, sailors and Marines are. We’ve got to remember that we’re talking about here very few people that made some conscious decisions to act contrary to the values of this Army.
SCHOOMAKER: We must be careful how we proceed, as it will affect the morale and safety of the great majority of our soldiers who are meeting the standards and are daily placing themselves in harm’s way. They, too, take this personally.
I am reminded that in the report by Major General Taguba he spoke of several soldiers and units who were challenged by the same set of demanding circumstances at the same places and they did what was right and did not partake in the kinds of acts that are being discussed.
The inexcusable behavior of a few is not representative of the courageous and compassionate performance of the overwhelming majority of our soldiers who serve with pride and honor. We are currently undergoing an extensive investigation of every allegation. The system works and will result in fairness and justice.
We will also learn, and we will adapt, as we always have. Our Army has already taken corrective actions. Our soldiers are performing with distinction, and I am proud of them all, and I’m proud to serve with them. We owe them our confidence.
Our Army is taking this very seriously, and we will meet the standards that our nation expects, as we have for 229 years.
Thank you very much.
HUNTER: General, thank you for your statement.
And, gentlemen, thank you all for your opening statements here. And I think the first question that anyone would have is, what have we done on the ground in the prison system in Iraq to change the situation? When you have a problem like this, especially in a war theater, the response has always been and must always be to send the right officers and NCOs into the trouble spot and get it taken care of.
So, first question, what’s being done in theater, on the ground?
L. SMITH: Sir, the first things that happened, as was mentioned on the time board, immediately those in the leadership chain were suspended. And prior to that, the individuals that were under investigation were also suspended and were not allowed to be around any of the detainees. All of that happened within the first several days.
Then the Taguba report, the investigation team was put together. And then as that was ongoing and they discovered things, they were fixed immediately on the spot when able.
Things like the Geneva Convention not being posted in both languages, those were fixed.
And then the long-term solution was to appoint a single individual for detainee operations, which was Major General Jeff Miller, who was the commander at Gitmo, and to put both the military intelligence brigade and the M.P. brigade underneath him as a single organization responsible for detainee operations.
He has gone in, implemented most of the Taguba recommendations, and has taken many of the procedures he learned at Gitmo, established standard operations procedures, and he’s continuing with that effort today.
HUNTER: So the Taguba report made a number of recommendations. Are you satisfied that the key recommendations are being implemented right now?
L. SMITH: Sir, I would say 75 percent of the recommendations have already been implemented.
L. SMITH: And the ones that have not are either in the process of being implemented or being evaluated as to whether that’s the best course or another course might be better.
RUMSFELD (?): A point of interest, that’s the Taguba report right there.
HUNTER: Yes. I’ve read it. It’s got lots of — but it’s got a few basic recommendations.
And the key recommendation, and I think what this committee’s concerned about first of all is where the prisoners come into contact with American military personnel, where the rubber meets the road, have our officers and senior NCOs assured themselves that the proper treatment of those prisoners — basic treatment — is being followed?
Understanding the Taguba report is complex and goes to training and a lot of things that will have to take place over a period of years, but with respect to the actual treatment of prisoners who are in those facilities right now in country, are you satisfied, General Smith, that those prisoners now are being treated appropriately?
L. SMITH: Absolutely, sir.
That was taken care of immediately with the new leadership chain, and then General Schoomaker and the Department of Army put together a 32-man mobile training team as was recommended that have already gone through a significant portion of the training process and that is ongoing as we speak.
Second question, and since — gentlemen, since you’re all here and this is an excellent opportunity and one that we may not have for the next several weeks, I want to go to the 135,000 Americans who aren’t the subject of this investigation — the troops who are performing.
The situation on the ground in Iraq, maybe General Myers, where do you place it right now? Where do you put us?
MYERS: As you know, I think, and as we talked about over the last week I think in this very room, the situation in Fallujah is calm. But the situation is also not resolved at this point.
There are Iraqis in a military formation, about 1,000 of them, that are in the city. They have some tasks to perform — some of the things we talked about last week. They’ve got to find the perpetrators of the Blackwater killings and desecration of the bodies. They’ve got to find the foreign fighters. They’ve got to find the regime extremists that have not given up.
MYERS: They’ve got a lot of work to do. We are scheduled, but to be determined yet, if our Marines will start joint patrolling with these individuals.
And that’s the situation right now, and we’ll have to see how it develops.
We are ready. We have to meet those objectives that I outlined. And we’re going to do whatever it takes to do it.
Hopefully, it can be done with these Iraqis under the leadership of General Latif. If not, the Marines and coalition forces are going to have to take care of that.
In An Najaf, we’ve just recently had some very successful operations there against some of Sadr’s thugs that attacked the 1st Armored Division forces that were conducting an operation. We killed a significant number of enemy.
The Iraqis are still negotiating with Sadr. He is losing influence, I think, every day, is a fair way to say it. And we think we can continue to let the Iraqis work that problem. But he is eventually going to have to go away.
Today, in Friday prayers, one of his lieutenants offered rewards for coalition soldiers and civilians that were killed in the south. And that certainly is not acceptable. And we will continue to watch that situation very carefully.
The rest of Iraq. Baghdad is still a place where there are bombs going off, as we saw the other day, yesterday. So it’s not fully secure yet. But the rest of the country is actually doing quite well.
HUNTER: Thank you very much.
The gentleman from Missouri?
SKELTON: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.
General, in looking at your chart and the time line, it appears to me that on or about March the 12th would have been a suitable date to inform Congress as to the serious situation that was occurring.
SKELTON: You know, we have a lot of wonderful troops, different services in Iraq. They know that at the end of the day, that the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people must be won. There’s fighting in Fallujah and Najaf. And the reason that they are there and they were involved in the fighting is the very reason we must win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. That’s why this investigation, that’s why the justice that comes from this investigation must be thorough and transparent to the Iraqi people, to the Middle East, as well as to America.
Secretary Brownlee mentioned some deaths that have occurred. The Washington Post reflects that 25 have died in U.S. custody in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Is there anything else that we ought to know, that we won’t be surprised with?
BROWNLEE: Mr. Skelton?
BROWNLEE: Sir, you should know that some of those investigations are ongoing, as I indicated. And the cases are open. And we’ll continue to watch them.
One of things that I’d like to do is have our staff work with your staff, and we’d be happy to come up and brief you periodically or whenever is necessary, and keep you apprised of those things, if there’s an interest here. We’d like to do that.
BROWNLEE: We do not think that that may be necessary, but we’ll respond to that if you like. Otherwise, we’ll be happy to keep you appraised of them. But there could be misconduct in some of these. We just don’t know. They’re being investigated.
RUMSFELD: Congressman Skeleton?
RUMSFELD: The answer to your question is, there is more. I indicated in my remarks there are more photographs, there are videos. There are a series of investigations under way. There are criminal prosecutions.
And just without any question, there’s going to be more coming out. And there’ll be surprises. I mean, that’s the nature of this.
And, you know, in the Department of Defense there were 18,000 criminal investigations last year. There were 3,000 court martials. At any given moment anywhere in the world there is some sort of investigation.
And as I indicated in my remarks, the tension is, how do you not damage the integrity of the criminal justice system and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, how do you avoid damaging that, and still extract from these various investigations things that are important — and goodness knows this is important — how do you extract that, get it up, so that people aren’t going to be surprised?
I mean, you were surprised, the president was surprised, I was surprised. You say January…
SKELTON: I said March the 12th.
RUMSFELD: March 12th would have been a good date. You’re right. March 20th, the Central Command went and had a press conference and announced to the world and listed the kinds of abuses and charges that were being considered and criminal prosecutions.
SKELTON: He may have announced it to the world but he certainly didn’t tell us.
BROWNLEE: Could I comment on that, sir, if I could?
Mr. Skeleton, if I might, because I appreciate the opportunity, if I could, to comment on this.
BROWNLEE: If there’s anybody on this panel who ought to realize the importance of notifying the committees, it’s me. And I became aware of this the same as others did, when Central Command made their press release. I knew that there were reports out there.
We had certain basic information. We had conversations with some of the members of your staff. But I wouldn’t suggest that that rises to the level of congressional notification.
I, quite frankly, was waiting for more and better information, a better report so we could come and report it to you. The secretary of defense, I think, has every reason to expect that people like me will come over and tell you these things. I sincerely regret that I did not. I should have.
MYERS: Congressman Skelton, let me just pile on a little bit. Obviously, I think we’ve gone to extraordinary lengths in the last couple of years to try to keep this committee and the Congress in general informed. We’ve really tried hard.
We could have done better in this case. We could have done better. The secretary said that, I’ve said it, Secretary Brownlee said it, in fact.
SKELTON: Mr. Chairman, I have other questions, but in view of the time, I will reserve my questions.
HUNTER: And I would say to my friend from Missouri, we’re going to take you up on your recommendation here, Secretary Brownlee. And if you could have a point of contact who makes available a briefing to all members of the committee, maybe a morning briefing, just being available for us.
And we’ll take one of the rooms here, so that members have a status report as this thing walks down through the prosecutorial track and the investigative track. Maybe one day a week have a team or an individual who is your point man who lets us know, and members who want to attend that briefing can do it. So why don’t we set that up, if you’d work with Mr. Rangel.
I appreciate the gentleman.
The gentleman from New Jersey, Mr. Saxton.
SAXTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you all for coming here today. As we all agree, the acts which this committee and the American people have read, seen and spoken about are deplorable, and we all agree on that. And as you have stated clearly, they are fundamentally against American values.
SAXTON: What I would like to do is to, Mr. Secretary, is to refer to General Myers’ chart and to kind of walk through this and to note, first, that it appears that in the fall of 2003 that we were concerned enough about the detention system — prison system, if you will — in Iraq to do what is referred to as an assessment of it.
And during the last quarter then of 2003, prisoners that were the responsibility of the 372nd Military Police Company were subjected to a series of humiliations and abuses.
And then on January 13th of 2004, a soldier assigned to the 800th Military Police Brigade left a compact disc of photos of the abuse on the cot of an investigator assigned to the U.S. Army Criminal Investigations Division in Iraq.
And then the next day, on January 14th, CID initiated a criminal investigation of those abuses and apparently that investigation is still ongoing today.
Then two days later, on January 16th, United States Central Command issued a press release announcing that it was conducting a criminal investigation of reports of abuse at the Abu Ghraib Prison.
That same day, CENTCOM spokesman Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt briefed reporters covering CENTCOM’s daily press briefing of such an investigation, that it was under way.
SAXTON: Later in January, General Sanchez requested CENTCOM to conduct an administrative investigation to the 800th Military Police Brigade and systemic factors that may have contributed to the abuse.
On the last day of the month, January 31st, Major Thomas Antonio Taguba, the deputy combined forces land component commander of CENTCOM, was assigned the task of conducting an administrative investigation. General Taguba completed his report in March, leading to recommendations for administration punishment, which General Sanchez acted upon in April.
General Taguba’s report is today here. It has been available for members for a week or so, for the committee’s review and here in the committee’s offices.
In February of 2004, Acting Secretary Brownlee ordered U.S. Army Inspector General Lieutenant General Mikolashek to assess the overall training and doctrine regarding detention operations. That review is ongoing, and the review team plans to report back to the inspector general by May 21st.
In March, the Army chief of reserve affairs instituted an assessment of the Army Reserve training, with an emphasis on military police and military intelligence operations related to prisoners. That review is ongoing.
Also in March, the CID, criminal investigation resulted in formal charges against six individuals from the 800th Military Police Brigade. At this time, three of those individuals have been recommended for a general court martial. The remaining three cases are still under review.
The continuing authority of the court martial has yet to be determined as to the details as to how to proceed.
SAXTON: My question is this — when I look at this process, it looks like an orderly process, it looks like it was taken up in a timely fashion.
I guess my question is, if you had it to do all over again, looking in today’s rear-view mirror, would you do anything different? And does the process need to be changed?
RUMSFELD: It’s an enormously difficult question, Congressman.
As I indicated in my remarks, we are constantly finding that we have procedures and habits that have evolved over the years from the last century that don’t really fit the 21st century. They don’t fit the Information Age, they don’t fit a time when people are running around with digital cameras.
Second, with 24-hour news and digital cameras, something like this can have an impact that is just enormous.
Now, we have rules against meddling in criminal prosecutions.
As I’ve said, we’ve got — what — 18,000 criminal investigations opened every year. We’ve got 3,000 court martials in a year.
And when do you reach down in there and run the risk of affecting the integrity of that process because you believe there may be something in there that is so explosive, so damaging to our country, that you’re willing to break the pattern and pull it up?
In this case, our habits and our patterns were that we don’t do that; that these things get handled in the military justice system, they get handled in the commands, they get handled in the services as appropriate.
And that big report over there hadn’t even reached the Pentagon, to my knowledge, by the time someone took that secret report and gave it to the press.
RUMSFELD: Now, it was inflammatory. If someone at this table had heard about it and gone in there and asked to get into it and do something with it, or about it, it would have been widely criticized.
When I say, "I failed," I mean, I — the president was blind sided, the Congress was blind sided, everyone at this table was blind sided, except for General Smith, who was in that command.
We’re trying to figure out how we do that better and it isn’t easy.
We’ve got to protect the rights of defendants. We’ve got to observe the proper handling of criminal investigations. And yet, when something is radioactive like this, we have to find a way to get that up so we can look at it.
I mean, that chart over there, as you suggested, suggests that they handled it darn well at the command level, and yet, look where we are.
In the normal order of things, one would look at that and say, "Good job." And with the circumstance we’re in, we have to say — we apologize. It’s a — that it happened and that we did not have a system or a procedure where it would get pulled up and presented in a way that it could have been managed better.
HUNTER: I thank the gentleman.
The gentleman from South Carolina, Mr. Spratt.
SPRATT: Mr. Secretary, General Myers, thank you for your testimony.
There’s no trust that we hold more sacred than the good name of America. I think you all will agree the good name of America has been hurt and hurt badly by these revelations.
And just as the world is looking at those revolting photographs, they’re now looking back at us to see what we’re going to do, not what we’re going to say, but what we’re going to do.
And I think you’ll agree with me that it’s not going to be enough just to make scapegoats of six or seven enlisted personnel.
You’ve got to go up and down the chain of command and outside the chain of command, indeed outside of the uniformed military, to look at the private contractors, among other places, to find out who knew of these practices, condoned these practices, encouraged and gave rise to these practices, assuming they weren’t totally isolated actions.
SPRATT: And I find it hard to believe that they were totally isolated actions.
Brigadier General Karpinski has said that the policy of interrogating prisoners and using the MPs to loosen them up, set them up, was set above her, and has implied that, though these MPs may not have taken what they did as de regeur, they could have regarded it as within the penumbra of these policies (inaudible) quote, "set up loosen up policies."
You say that all these things are in the investigation. I look at the chronology you give and I’m concerned because there was an investigation, the initial investigation, which began in August, early September. General Miller apparently conducted it. He completed it in the first week of November. This was the same time period during which those abuses were taking place.
How did the investigation miss those abuses if it was adequate?
RUMSFELD: I don’t believe that I would characterize General Miller’s activity as an investigation. He was the person who had been in charge of Guantanamo Bay. He had experience with the issues of detention and interrogation. And he was asked to go over there and make an assessment, and he did. And he came back and made a series of recommendations.
But he did not go over there on an investigatory process where he would be looking for wrongdoing or anything like that. He was looking at systems, procedures, approaches, and that type of thing.
SPRATT: One of the recommendations he made was that the joint task force should create a guard team that, quote, "sets the conditions for the successful interrogation and exploitation of detainees." Exploitation.
SPRATT: Later on, General Taguba and General Ryder made an examination or an assessment, and they said, according to the Taguba report, the recommendation of General Miller’s team that the guard force be actively engaged in setting conditions for successful exploitation of the internees appears to be in conflict with the recommendation of General Ryder’s team and AR 190-8 that military police do not, quote, "participate in military intelligence-supervised interrogation sessions. Moreover, military police should not be involved with setting favorable conditions for subsequent interviews."
And they were implying that he had sanctioned this activity and that this activity is wrong for a reason. I think the reason is you may get your MPs involved in the wrong kind of activity or they may, without adequate supervision, go beyond what is approved procedure.
General Miller is now in charge of detainee operations in Iraq. Has any correction been issued to him? Has an exception been taken for sanctioning this kind of policy?
RUMSFELD: I’ll let General Smith respond in a minute. But first, let me — you used some correct quotes from the assessment by Miller and by the Taguba report that seem in conflict.
What was found at Guantanamo was that the task was to do three things. One was to keep terrorists off the street, so they don’t go kill more innocent men, women and children. And the second was to look at punishment and potential prosecution of people. And the third task was to interrogate and learn about additional terrorist acts that might be conducted, so we could save the lives of American people.
RUMSFELD: The tasks are different for the people who have the responsibility for the custody of the detainee. Their job is to have them safe and secure and off the street.
The interrogators’ job is to learn that they can learn from them to save other lives. It is quite proper, in my view, in my understanding of this, indeed it is desirable to have the people who keep them safe and secure do it in a manner that allows the interrogation process to be the most effective.
And I can see where the words from one assessment report and the words from the Taguba report, being different, that one could raise that issue. And that is clearly something that we need to address and come to some conclusions on. But I don’t think that necessarily on the face of it there’s a problem.
And do you if there were any corrections issued…
SPRATT: Are you saying then that this policy of loosening up said that the MPs should be engaged in this procedure of loosening up, setting up and preparing the prisoners for interrogation and, quote, "exploitation"?
RUMSFELD: Of course not. The things you’re quoting about softening up, I saw that myself. Of course not. That is not the policy or the procedure.
SPRATT: But it appears in General Miller’s assessment that they should set the conditions for successful interrogation and exploitation of internees. And set the conditions…
SPRATT: That is a very different thing from softening up, I would submit.
Do you want to…
L. SMITH: Yes, sir. I mean, I talked to General Miller this morning about that. And his clear intent on this, and it was explained in his report, is that the two were re
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