Transcript: Senate Hearing on Iraq Prison Abuse

Transcript: Senate Hearing on Iraq Prison Abuse

Wednesday, May 19, 2004; 2:02 PM




WARNER: Good morning, everyone. 

The committee meets today for the third in a series of hearings regarding the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by a small — hopefully a very small — number of personnel of the armed forces of the United States, in violation of the U.S. and international laws.

Testifying before us today are General John P. Abizaid, commander, U.S. Central Command; Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, commander, Multinational Force-Iraq; and Major General Geoffrey Miller, deputy commander for detainee operations, Multinational Force. And they’re joined this morning by their judge advocate general, which I think is a very wise decision to have you with us.

We welcome our witnesses and thank them for their service. Thank them again. How many times members of this committee and other members of Congress have gone abroad and visited each of you in CENTCOM, and most particularly Afghanistan and Iraq.

We must all be mindful of the role of our witnesses in the operational chain of command and of their related responsibilities in the administration of military justice. Each witness this morning will use caution with regard to their comments, such as not to inadvertently influence in any way the ongoing criminal or administrative proceedings. 

And, indeed, I’ll add, the investigations. Many investigations instituted by the Department of Defense are now ongoing. Indeed, this morning we see the opening of the first trials, and opening in a manner in which the entire world public can see democracy in action.

As I previously stated, this mistreatment of prisoners represents an appalling and totally unacceptable breach of military regulations and conduct. Our committee, a co-equal branch of the United States Congress, co-equal branch of government, and our committee has a solemn responsibility to determine as best we can how this breakdown in military leadership and discipline occurred. And most importantly, what steps are being taken by the civilians in control and, indeed, those in the uniform, to see that it never, never happens again.

I firmly believe this prisoner mistreatment represents an extremely rare chapter in the otherwise proud and magnificent history of the United States military. It is counter to every human value that we as Americans have learned, beginning in our earliest days with our families, our schools, our churches.

WARNER: It is counter to what this nation stands for and it is counter to the principles that the men and women of the armed forces today and in years past have fought to protect wherever they are in the world in the cause of freedom.

There must be a full accountability for the abuse of Iraq detainees and important questions must be asked of the chain of command to understand what happened, how it happened, when it happened and how those in positions of responsibility either ordered, encouraged or authorized — or maybe looked the other way — such conduct.

Our witnesses today are uniquely qualified to answer many of these important questions, including: What policies and procedures were established for the treatment of prisoners and detainee interrogations? What was the chain of command at the prison? Were military police or military intelligence personnel in charge and at what times? When did you — I say that collectively and individually — realize the magnitude of these allegations, the seriousness of them, and indeed the uniqueness? 

What measures did you take to inform the civilian structure, from the president to the Department of Defense, Department of State and others — that civilian structure that has the ultimate responsibility for the control of the United States military, which goes back to the very origins of this country?

What steps were taken to respond to earlier reports of mistreatment of prisoners received from the International Committee of the Red Cross and possibly other sources?

And how did the conduct of interrogations and detainee operations evolve from May 2003 until January 2004?

WARNER: I’m confident that you will, to the best of your ability, be responsive to these and other questions. 

I’m proud of the manner in which the armed forces of the United States, represented by these extraordinarily accomplished officers before us, have promptly reacted to the allegations, undertaken an appropriate investigation, and begun disciplinary action under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the trials, in some instances, beginning today.

We are a nation of laws. We confront breaches of our laws openly and directly. And we must find the evidence to hold those who break the law and regulation accountable.

We must not forget our overall purpose in Iraq and indeed in Afghanistan. Success there in both areas is essential, not only to our nation and the people of Iraq, but to the entire world as we fight global terrorism.

We all have an important stake in learning the truth. We must not allow these acts of a few to tarnish the honor of the many dedicated men and women in uniform, 99.99 percent, who are valiantly upholding the values they were taught in the cause of freedom, and doing so at great personal risk and at great sacrifice. 

Lastly, how this hearing originated is spelled out in a letter that I wrote to secretary of defense last week, May 13th, for which I thanked him for his participation and assistance in facilitating these hearings that we have had. 

I indicated that our committee would pursue further hearings and involve a list of witnesses. And I named them all, you three among the witnesses. 

WARNER: And then I’ll recite this paragraph, "To date, in scheduling, the committee has tried to meet your requirements, and we hope to continue such cooperation in arranging the earliest possible date for appearances of these witnesses. 

"Given that some witnesses may need to remain in Iraq of operational reasons, we are open to exploring the option of video teleconferences for some hearings."

And in the course of the last few days and working with the department on, I thought, several civilians in the department to come up today, somewhat unexpectantly my distinguished colleague Senator Levin and I were informed that you were in town, General Abizaid, and had been for several days and that the other witnesses were coming for consultations at the department. And in cooperation the secretary made you available here this morning. And that’s plain and simple how it happened. 

As to the conduct of this hearing, the buck stops right here on this desk, and I’m chairman. And I consult with my members, as my distinguished ranking member consults with his. And I’m very proud of the manner in which this committee has pursued its responsibilities under the Constitution. We’re trying to search for the facts, put together a record, so that we here in Congress, and indeed the American public, can better understand these problems. 

This story has been unfolding in many ways. First, a very brave enlisted man sought to bring to the attention of his superiors a problem which, frankly, in his guts he knew was wrong. And he’s to be commended for that. Thereafter, the military very quickly took action, and the rest is history. 

The press has been diligent. The victims have actually gone on to tell their story.

WARNER: The lawyers are trying to interpret it. And really the distressing thing is watching the families, families of the soldiers who are under the uniform code now being examined, families of other soldiers.

And I just felt it was imperative that at some point in time — and the Pentagon basically selected when that time would be, this morning — that you would face the American public and face the world and give your own personal accounts of how this situation happened and, most importantly, what we’re going to do to see that it never happens again. That is the executive and the legislative branches working together.

We’re proud of the democracy here in America. It’s an open process. And we’re going to show the world how we fairly, firmly and calmly deal with this situation.

Thank you.

Senator Levin?

LEVIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

First, I want to join you in welcoming our witnesses this morning. I want to join you in thanking each one of them for their service to our nation. 

And most importantly of all, I join you, Mr. Chairman, in asking our witnesses to pass along to the troops under their command the gratitude of every member of this committee and of our nation for the service of those troops.

The allegations of abuses of Iraqi detainees has shocked our country and shocked our justifiably proud armed forces and their families.

The committee’s hearing this morning is part of our continuing efforts to investigate and find out the full extent of these abuses and how they could have happened. Insisting on accountability will help prevent future abuses and hopefully help restore the credibility of our nation within Iraq, the region and throughout the world.

LEVIN: The inquiry is not just about the behavior of a few soldiers at a detention facility. We, of course, must do whatever we can to ensure that the perpetrators of the abuses are held accountable. But also those who are responsible for encouraging, condoning or tolerating such behavior or who established or created an atmosphere or climate for such abusive behavior must also be held accountable.

The February 2004 report of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the ICRC, presents an overview of documented abuses that extend beyond the conduct of interrogations at one cell block in one detention facility. The report sets forth an extensive list of methods of ill treatment used, quote, "in a systematic way," close quote, by military intelligence at Abu Ghraib and a number of other facilities. 

Nor are the abuses that are alleged apparently limited to detention facilities. Many of the alleged violations are reported to occur at the time of arrest. 

This is particularly disturbing given the statement in the Red Cross report that, quote, "Certain military intelligence officers told the ICRC that in their estimate between 70 and 90 percent of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake." 

In addition, according to their repot, the ICRC in May 2003 handed over to the U.S. Central Command in Doha a memorandum based on, quote, "over 200 allegations of ill treatment of prisoners of war during capture and interrogation," close quote.

I know that General Abizaid and General Sanchez will inform us today about when the Red Cross and other reports of abuse were brought to their attention and what actions were ordered to address those concerns. 

LEVIN: In addition to reports that were made in the field, ICRC President Kellenberger stated that he briefed administration officials, including CPA Administrator Paul Bremer, Secretary Powell, National Security Adviser Rice and Pentagon officials, concerning allegations of abuse on a number of occasions, including in early and mid-2003 and January 2004. 

And we’d be interested in hearing from our witnesses about what word, if any, was received from Washington or Ambassador Bremer as a result of those allegations of abuse being brought to the attention of administration officials. 

Finally, I want to commend you, Mr. Chairman, for your determination to carry out the oversight responsibility of this committee. Committees of jurisdiction have a obligation to understand these events, to deter future abuses and to help assure proper accountability.

Mr. Chairman, you are leading this committee in a responsible way to do just that, and this nation is in your debt for you carrying out your duty as you see it. 

WARNER: Senator Levin, the committee is acting as a whole. Each member, most especially yourself, have been responsible for conducting ourselves, I think, in strict accordance with the institution of the Senate and in the best interests of the Constitution. 

Gentleman, I’ll ask you to rise. 

In accordance to the rules of this committee, will you raise your right hand? 

I solemnly swear the testimony that I’m about to give the Senate committee of the United States the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God. 




General Abizaid?

ABIZAID: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

ABIZAID: Senator Warner, Senator Levin and members of the committee, a few days ago, I had the honor to talk to the class of 2004 at West Point, young men and women who have dedicated themselves to service to the nation and who clearly understand that within the first year of their duties they will likely find themselves in combat, probably in the CENTCOM theater of operations.

I could have just as easy been talking to young cadets at the Air Force or Naval Academies or at other countless colleges or places where our young people are about to be commissioned as officers in our armed forces.

One of the most important messages I had for them is my deep, deep belief in the principle that officers of the United States military are responsible; that when in charge we must be in charge. 

This is as true for the lowest second lieutenant in the chain of command as it is for me. Every officer is responsible for what his or her unit does or fails to do. I accept that responsibility for the United States Central Command.

I come before you as a senior regional commander to address the Abu Ghraib prison case and at the same time, I hope you’ll allow me to discuss the conduct of the war not only in Iraq, but throughout the region.

As all of you understand, both General Sanchez and I, as members of the chain of command, have yet to examine all the facts about the incidents at Abu Ghraib; have made no judgment as to the guilt or innocence of any person associated with events there; nor have we precluded further action against others that additional testimony or evidence may indicate acted inappropriately or failed in their duties.

From evidence already gathered, we believe that systemic problems existed at the prison that may have contributed to events there. 

ABIZAID: Other investigations are currently under way, and we will consider their findings carefully once they become available. We will follow the trail of evidence wherever it leads. We will continue to correct systemic problems. We will hold people accountable. And in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice, we will take appropriate action.

On my way back to the States, I stopped and talked to many of the region’s top military and political leaders to discuss Abu Ghraib and the situation in Iraq, to assess the damage that this incident has done to our reputation. They, like us, and like the many Iraqis who talked to me before I last left Iraq, were shocked, disgusted and disappointed at the images of abuse. 

Yet all of them expressed confidence that our system could and would produce answers and hold people accountable. If we endanger our ability to see that justice is served — through failure to thoroughly investigate allegations, by inadvertently exerting inappropriate command influence, or through the inappropriate handling of evidence — we will do ourselves, the region and Iraqis in particular a great disservice.

As concerned as the good people of the region are about what happened at Abu Ghraib, they are more concerned about our willingness to stay the course in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are more worried that we’ll lose our patience with the difficult tasks of stabilizing those places and we’ll walk away and come home and bring up the drawbridges and defend Fortress America.

For some of the nations in the region our departure could be fatal. I reassured our friends that we are tough, that we cannot be defeated militarily and that we will stay the course.

We know that we must move quickly from occupation to partnership in Iraq.

ABIZAID: We know that we must help the Afghan government of President Karzai extend its influence throughout its own land. We must find and destroy Al Qaida and its ideological partners wherever we find them. And we must help the nations of the Middle East help themselves in fighting this desperate war against terror and extremism. 

We have given much blood and treasure since 9/11, and we will give more. 

Allowing moderation to succeed in a region where talented people seek prosperity and hope for their children is as important a victory as our struggles against the totalitarian regimes of the Second World War. 

Our enemies are in a unique position, and they are a unique brand of ideological extremists whose vision of the world is best summed up by how the Taliban ran Afghanistan. 

If they can outlast us in Afghanistan and undermine the legitimate government there, they’ll once again fill up the seats at the soccer stadiums and force people to watch executions. 

If in Iraq the culture of intimidation practiced by our enemies is allowed to win, the mass graves will fill again. 

Our enemies kill without remorse, they challenge our will through the careful manipulation of propaganda and information, they seek safe havens in order to develop weapons of mass destruction that they will use against us when they are ready.

Their targets are not Kabul and Baghdad, but places like Madrid and London and New York. 

They are a patient and despicable enemy that seeks to break our will, to terrorize us in such a manner as to cause us to leave the fight, to isolate us from our allies, to destroy those that seek a better future and direct the patient work required to build reliable infrastructure and sophisticated economic structures. 

Unlike us, they will not hold themselves accountable for their outrages. 

Our enemies believe they have scored a great victory in Madrid. They believed they changed a government and forced a valued ally off the battlefield. 

They see before them elections in Iraq, elections in Afghanistan, and indeed elections here at home and elsewhere. 

ABIZAID: They see us mired in scandal and preoccupied with failure. 

We should not kid ourselves about the violent times ahead, yet we should also understand that, despite the images of Abu Ghraib and burning Humvees that constantly play on our media screens, we are winning the battle against extremism.

Our troops are confident. They win tactical battle after tactical battle. They work with Iraqis and Afghanis to build viable security forces, and one day these viable security forces will allow us to come home.

They know that the enemy is elusive and dangerous, and they know that they need to fight this war with balanced ferocity and compassion. 

As we fight this most unconventional war of this new century, we must be patient and courageous. It will require a great amount of intelligence work. We must focus all of our national power and recognize that this war requires as much political, economic, diplomatic and national willpower to win as it does the courage to fight and to sacrifice with our young people in harm’s way.

There are more people in the region who value peace over terrorism, who know that moderation brings prosperity and hope for their children. They also know that if they cannot stand alone, they certainly cannot expect that the United States of America will walk away from them.

Our gift to them has to be to give them a chance to win. Our great gift to ourselves will be to show a great and open demonstration that the rule of law applies in time of war; that despite the great demands of the day-to-day battles, we will fix what is broken and we will let justice be served.

No doubt, we have made mistakes in Abu Ghraib. We have suffered a setback. 

ABIZAID: I accept responsibility for that setback. But the failures of a few will not keep the many courageous young men and women of ours from accomplishing their dangerous and important work to defend the nation abroad.

And I thank the committee. 

WARNER: Thank you, General, for a very good statement. 

General Sanchez?

SANCHEZ: Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee and talk to you about events in Iraq, and specifically the events at Abu Ghraib.

Before I talk about these events, I’m proud to report that over 150,000 coalition military personnel are doing great work in Iraq under very, very difficult circumstances. They are fighting an insurgency, rebuilding and protecting infrastructure, and setting the conditions for the inevitable turnover to an interim government on the 30th of June. 

Those soldiers, sailors, airman and Marines of America and the people who support them are stunned, disappointed and embarrassed by the events that transpired at Abu Ghraib prison. However, like me, these great servicemembers also understand that we must continue with our mission. 

Regarding the events at Abu Ghraib, we must fully investigate and fix responsibility, as well as accountability. I am fully committed to thorough and impartial investigations that examine the role, commissions and omissions of the entire chain of command, and that includes me. 

As the senior commander in Iraq, I accept responsibility for what happened at Abu Ghraib, and I accept as a solemn obligation the responsibility to ensure that it does not happen again. 

We have already initiated courts-martial in seven cases, and there may very well be more prosecutions. The Army Criminal Investigative Division investigation is not final, and the investigation of military intelligence procedures by Major General Fay is also ongoing. 

We may find that the evidence produced in these investigations not only leads to more courts-martial, but causes us to revisit actions previously taken to determine whether to initiate judicial or nonjudicial action in cases which may have been handled to date by adverse administrative action. 

SANCHEZ: In this regard, I must be very circumspect in what I say. We must let our military justice process work. It is a process in which the American people can and should have confidence, and one in which I take great pride.

I cannot say anything that might compromise the fairness or integrity of the process or in any way suggest a result in a particular case. I have taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, and that includes ensuring that all persons receive a fair trial and, if found guilty, appropriate punishment.

This respect for the rule of law has been a guiding principle for my command. There is no doubt that the law of war, including the Geneva Conventions, apply to our operations in Iraq. This includes interrogations. 

I have reinforced this point by way of orders and command policies. In September and October of 2003, and in May of 2004, I issued interrogation policies that reiterated the application of the Geneva Conventions and required that all interrogations be conducted in a lawful and humane manner, with command oversight.

In October 2003, I issued a memorandum for all coalition forces personnel that was entitled "Proper Treatment of Iraqi People During Combat Operations." I reissued this memorandum on the 16th of January after learning about the events that had taken place at Abu Ghraib. 

On the 4th of March of 2004, I issued my policy memorandum number 18, entitled "Proper Conduct During Combat Operations." This document, which I also reissued in April, emphasized the need to treat all Iraqis with dignity and respect. This policy memorandum also contained a summary for distribution down to the individual soldier level that provided clear guidance and mandated training on the following points.

Follow the law of war and the rules of engagement.

Treat all persons with humanity, dignity and respect.

Use judgment and discretion in detaining civilians.

Respect private property.

And treat journalists with dignity and respect.

With regards to Abu Ghraib, as soon as I learned of the reported abuses, I ensured that a criminal investigation had been initiated and requested my superior appoint an investigating officer to conduct a separate administration investigation under Army Regulation 15-6 into this matter.

SANCHEZ: Within days of receiving the initial report, I directed suspension of key members of the chain of command of the unit responsible for detainee security at Abu Ghraib.

The criminal investigation, while still under way, resulted thus far in the decision to initiate court-martial proceedings against seven individuals. The administrative investigation that was conducted by Major General Taguba has caused me to change the way we conduct detention, internment and interrogation operations.

One significant change has been the addition to my staff of a general officer with responsibility for detention operations. As you know, Major General Geoffrey Miller was assigned this task and has taken numerous positive steps to eliminate the possibility that such abuse could occur in the future.

Well before I received the January 14th report and viewed the shocking photographs later on, I had directed steps be taken to improve the overall condition of detainees at Abu Ghraib. 

Back in August 2003, I requested that subject matter experts conduct a comprehensive assessment of all detention operations in Iraq. This was the genesis for the report completed by Major General Ryder, the provost marshal general of the Army.

In September, a team headed by General Miller assessed our intelligence interrogation activities and human detention operations. We reviewed the recommendations with the expressed understanding, reinforced in conversations between General Miller and me, that they might have to be modified for use in Iraq where the Geneva Convention was fully applicable.

Plans for the new detainee camp at Abu Ghraib, which will now be called Camp Redemption, were begun in November of 2003 in order to relieve overcrowding of the facility. After a series of mortar attacks against the facility in September which killed and injured both Iraqi detainees and U.S. soldiers, I directed increased force protection measures be taken in order to protect coalition forces and detainees. The plans to upgrade the facilities for soldiers and detainees were also implemented.

And finally, the rate at which detainee case files were reviewed and recommended for release or continued internment was increased both in November of 2003 and again in February of 2004 in order to ensure that only those detainees who posed a threat to security were detained. Indeed, our February 2004 changes resulted in the review of over 100 cases per day. 

The terrible events that occurred in the fall of 2003 have obviously highlighted additional problems that we have moved quickly to address.

SANCHEZ: While horrified at the abusive behavior that took place at Abu Ghraib, I believe that I’ve taken the proper steps to ensure that such behavior is not repeated. 

I further believe that my actions have sent the correct message that such behavior is inconsistent with our values, our standards and our training. 

I have faith in our military justice system to resolve the cases brought before it. 

I would like to read the concluding paragraph of my memorandum to the command on proper conduct during combat operations. I believe it is an accurate summary of my standards and expectations. 

"Respect for others, humane treatment of all persons, and adherence to the law of war and rules of engagement is a matter of discipline and values. It is what separates us from our enemies. I expect all leaders to reinforce this message."

In closing, the war in Iraq continues against a relentless enemy that is focused on preventing the Iraqi people from achieving their dream of freedom, prosperity and security. This awful episode at Abu Ghraib must not allow us to get distracted. 

America’s armed forces are performing magnificently, sacrificing every single day to defeat an enemy that is ruthless and elusive in his quest to terrorize Iraq and the world. 

The honor and value systems of our armed forces are solid and the bedrock of what makes us the best in the world. 

There has been no catastrophic failure, and America’s armed forces will never compromise their honor. 

America must not falter in this endeavor to defeat those who seek to destroy our democratic value systems. 

In Iraq, the coalition military, including our 130,000 Americans, remain focused, and I guarantee you they will not fail. 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. 

WARNER: Thank you, General. And that’s a very comprehensive statement. And I would ask on behalf of the committee that the documents that you referred to you your testimony — could copies be provided to the committee?

SANCHEZ: We’ll comply, Mr. Chairman.

WARNER: Thank you very much.

General Miller?

MILLER: Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you for affording me this opportunity to appear this morning. While I have no opening statement, I do stand with the statements of General Abizaid and General Sanchez.

Thank you.

WARNER: Thank you very much.

Colonel Warren, do you wish to add anything?

WARREN: Mr. Chairman, I have no opening statement, but I would be happy to respond to any questions.

WARNER: Thank you very much.

We will follow our six-minute round. And I advise the committee that, in consultation with General Abizaid and the ranking member, there will be a brief closed session following the open session such that we can receive some classified material.

General Abizaid, what policies has the Central Command established for the conduct of interrogations in detainee operations? When were these policies established? What allegations of abuse are you aware of that could have occurred also in Afghanistan? Are the policies being uniformly applied and enforced throughout your AOR?

ABIZAID: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

As I believe the Army has come over and discussed with the committee, the total number of detainee abuse cases that have been investigated since I believe the beginning of the conflict in Afghanistan is around 75. And, of course, there are some death investigations as well.

We have homicide investigations that go back as far as December 2002 in Afghanistan that we absolutely have got to move on and understand what happened there.

ABIZAID: We’re working with the Army Criminal Investigation Division to understand that. But I believe the committee has the statistics on abuse. 

And abuse has happened. Abuse has happened in Afghanistan, it’s happened in Iraq, it’s happened at various places.

I think the question before us: Is there a systemic abuse problem with regard to interrogation that exists in the Central Command area of operations?

Yesterday — and I know the committee has not had a chance to review it yet — I did see the preliminary findings of a Department of the Army I.G. investigation that talked about problems in training, problems in organization, very specific changes that will need to be made in doctrine, et cetera. 

And I specifically asked the I.G. of the Army, did he believe that there was a pattern of abuse of prisoners in the Central Command area of operation, and he looked at both Afghanistan and Iraq and he said no.

I sent my I.G. out in August of last year asking him the same question: Are we treating people with dignity and respect?

With regard to policies, it is…

WARNER: What findings did he report back when you sent him out to get all this?

ABIZAID: He came back and said that we were struggling with the number of prisoners, we were struggling with the facilities, and we were struggling to, in particular, deal with criminal detainees that needed to go into an Iraqi criminal detention system that still didn’t exist.

WARNER: But he didn’t discover any of the evidence that is now being revealed about these abuses?

ABIZAID: No, sir, he did not.

WARNER: All right, that’s a direct answer.

Can you provide the committee, within the bounds of not violating UCMJ procedures and otherwise, your own personal observations as to what you believe happened from the breakdown of the orders that General Sanchez has clearly documented here this morning and where it happened? 

ABIZAID: Sir, I think you know that Major General Fay is still conducting an investigation, and so I’m not quite ready to say where I think all the breakdown were. 

But it’s clear that there were some breakdown in procedures, in access, in standards of interrogation, and confusion between the roles of what the military intelligence people were doing versus the military police.

And there was also clearly criminal misconduct that took place. And the criminal misconduct is not the subject of any order or policy that I believe exists anywhere. 

WARNER: There’s been, for course, concern that the initial steps by the chain of command was directed at a group of enlisted people who are now subject to various forms of UCMJ accountability. Can you assure this committee that you will diligently pursue all evidence and, no matter how high up the chain or sideways or down the chain, all will be brought forward subject to the UCMJ?

ABIZAID: Sir, I assure the committee that we will do that. 


ABIZAID: And I can also assure the committee that I’ve been in this business a long time, and when General Sanchez called me up and told me, I think, probably within 24 hours of the evidence being handed to his Criminal Investigation Division people in Baghdad, he followed it up very shortly with a decision to suspend the entire chain of command, which is a pretty strong action that doesn’t just focus at a low level. 

ABIZAID: He initiated investigations and he moved ahead in a way that I thought was commendable.

WARNER: Do you feel that the UCMJ procedures and other regulations impeded in any way your responsibility to keep the civilian control structure back in Washington advised?

ABIZAID: No, sir, it did not impede us. As always, we believe that we’ve got to do everything possible to protect the evidence that’s available, to keep the investigatory information within investigatory channels, and that’s what we tried to do.

WARNER: You tried to do that in a timely fashion?

ABIZAID: That’s what we tried to do.


General Sanchez, on November 19th you directed that the commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade assume command of all units and operations in the prison of Abu Ghraib. Why did you put military intelligence in charge of the prison? In your view, did this new command arrangement improve intelligence and detainee operations? What objections did General Karpinski, commander, have concerning the change in command responsibilities?

SANCHEZ: Mr. Chairman, on the 19th of November, I issued a fragmentary order that placed all elements at Abu Ghraib under the tactical control of Colonel Pappas, the 205th M.I. commander. 

The specific order stated that this was for forward operating base protection and for security of detainees.

SANCHEZ: The context of the order is that we had been receiving significant amounts of a direct and indirect fire. And during the conduct of one of my visits, I had found that force protection and the defensive planning of that FOB was seriously lacking and I needed to get a senior commander in charge of the defense of that forward operating base, and that was the purpose of the order. 

The order did not intend to eliminate any of the responsibilities of the 800th Military Police commander. And that was a specific purpose for the tactical control. Tactical control placed the 320th under the 205th M.I. Brigade commander, and what that does, specifically, it gives the M.I. brigade commander authority to conduct local direction and control of movements or maneuvers to accomplish the mission at hand. 

All of the other responsibilities for continuing to run the prison for logistics training, discipline and the conduct of prison operations remained with the 800th Brigade commander. And there was never a time when General Karpinski surfaced to me any objections to that tactical control order.

WARNER: General Abizaid, you — I properly advised this committee this morning that you’re fighting a war. This responsibility occasioned by these abuses has taken a measure of your time, but you’ve continued and your troops have performed bravely.

The question I put to you — in listening, your professional and personal view: Is the scheduled change of sovereignty — limited sovereignty on July 1st consistent, in your judgment, and achievable given the security situation?

ABIZAID: Mr. Chairman, it is achievable, but it needs to emerge soon as to who is going to be in charge and what their names are and where they’re going to be and what they’re going to do. 

WARNER: That’s on the Iraqi side?

ABIZAID: That’s correct.

WARNER: Clear on our side that we have a United States ambassador to replace (inaudible)?

ABIZAID: Sir, we’re going to be there no matter what.

WARNER: To provide the security?

ABIZAID: That’s correct.

WARNER: Thank you.

Senator Levin?

LEVIN: Thank you.

General Sanchez, your answer to Senator Warner about who was responsible for the M.P. units conducting detainee operations at that facility leaves me uncertain now, because General Taguba says that your order of November 19 effectively made the military intelligence officer, rather than the M.P. officer, responsible for the M.P. units conducting detainee operations. That’s a quote. Do you disagree with General Taguba then on that point?

SANCHEZ: Senator, the purpose of the order was as described. It was to ensure that I had synchronized forward operating base defenses, and that was the purpose for the tactical control order that was issued to the military police unit at that installation.

LEVIN: Well, in addition to its purpose, though, General Taguba said that the military intelligence officer then became responsible for the M.P. units conducting the operations. Do you differ with that?

SANCHEZ: They were responsive to the military intelligence officer for the specific purpose of defending the forward operation base, Senator.

LEVIN: That did not, then, include conducting detainee interrogations.

SANCHEZ: That is exactly right, sir. It did not include that.

LEVIN: There’s a difference there between you and General Taguba.

SANCHEZ: Yes, sir.

LEVIN: General Abizaid, in May of 2003 the Red Cross sent to the coalition forces a memorandum based on over 200 allegations of ill treatment of prisoners during capture and interrogation at collecting points, battle group stations and temporary holding areas, according to the ICRC report, which I’m now reading.

LEVIN: It said here that the U.S. Central Command in Doha received this memorandum. And I’m wondering if, in fact, you remember receiving that memorandum and what action you took on it.

ABIZAID: There are some Red Cross reports, Senator, that we received. Which one are you talking about?

LEVIN: May 2003.

ABIZAID: I know that the May 2003 report was received at our headquarters, that’s correct.

LEVIN: And what action do you remember taking?

ABIZAID: I was a deputy commander at the time. I know that we discussed the report. We sent it forward to the Combined Forces Land Component Command, General McKiernan, and we asked for his take on it.

LEVIN: Did you receive a report from him, do you remember?

ABIZAID: I do not believe we received a report in writing, and I do not recall having a lot to do with this particular report or paying much attention to it.

LEVIN: Perhaps you could then check your records and supply to the committee any documents relative to that also.

In early July, according to the Red Cross, the Red Cross sent to the coalition forces a working paper detailing approximately 50 allegations of ill treatment in the military intelligence section of Camp Cropper, and this, according to their report, set forth requiring — or using stress positions for three or four hours, physical hits, prolonged exposure to sun and a number of other allegations.

LEVIN: Can you tell us whether the early July ICRC report was received at headquarters?

ABIZAID: No. And we have a real problem with ICRC reports and the way that they’re handled and the way that they move up and down the chain of command.

For example, the February report of ’04, I first read in May.

LEVIN: Relative to the early July report…

ABIZAID: I won’t make any excuses for it, Senator. I’ll just say that we don’t all see them. Sometimes it works at a lower level. Sometimes commanders at the lowest level get the report and they work on it confidentially. And I think what we’ve got to do is have a system that when there is something that comes to the attention at any level of command that it not be worked through at the lower level, but that it surfaces all the way up through the chain of command. 

So we’ve got a problem there that’s got to be fixed. 

LEVIN: General Sanchez, is there a record of the ICRC working paper being received by you or at your level?

SANCHEZ: The July paper?

LEVIN: July…


LEVIN: … the working paper detailing 50 allegations of ill treatment?

SANCHEZ: Not that I’m aware of, Senator.

LEVIN: So there’s no indication at your level at your headquarters that that document was ever received?

SANCHEZ: No, Senator, the working paper that I am aware of that made it to my headquarter was the November paper. 

LEVIN: The Interrogation Rules of Engagement, so called — this is a document which was presented to this committee by General Alexander, saying that the rules of engagement that were in effect at the Combined Joint Task Force-7 in Iraq prior to 2003 are set forth on a piece of paper, which — are you familiar with it? — called Interrogation Rules of Engagement.

SANCHEZ: Yes, sir, I have seen that.

LEVIN: And can you tell us what — if you’ve seen this before, did you approve this? Did you have legal advice? What is this document that General Alexander told us were the rules of enlargement that were in effect at the Combined Joint Task Force?

SANCHEZ: Sir, the first time I saw that paper was when it was shown in one of the prior hearings in this same forum. And I had no role in preparing it or approving it.

LEVIN: All right. So he was in error then relative to that? General Alexander then would have been in error if he said this was the document?

SANCHEZ: Right, sir. I have never seen that, and I had never approved it, and had no part in putting that together, sir.

LEVIN: I don’t believe this committee has your October 12th policy statement. If I’m wrong, then fine. But can you present — would you provide that October 12th to the committee?

SANCHEZ: Yes, sir.

LEVIN: And finally, the newspaper reported that 100 or so high- value detainees do not fall under your command, General Sanchez, but are the responsibility of General Dayton, who’s commander of the Iraq Survey Group, who reports directly to General Abizaid. Is that accurate, as far as you know?

SANCHEZ: Yes, sir, that is accurate. My M.P.s provide security at Camp Cropper.

LEVIN: Can you just tell us then why that was done that way, General Abizaid?

ABIZAID: Sir, that was done that way because the people at Camp Cropper happened to be those people that had theoretical information concerning weapons of mass destruction information, and also were the high-value detainees that we hope some day to turn over to a legitimate Iraqi government for trial.

LEVIN: But why should they be treated differently from other detainees, separated out that way?

ABIZAID: They were separated out that way to ensure that we understood — I guess I would call it the strategic environment, as opposed to the tactical environment, where we would get information at a lower level from lower-level detainees.

ABIZAID: It was established that way as a result of discussions that were taken place here in Washington regarding having a better and more efficient way to really understand what was going on with regard to weapons of mass destruction. 

LEVIN: That was all then WMD-information-related, basically?

ABIZAID: It was sir, but it was also dealing with very senior levels of the government…

LEVIN: Thank you.

ABIZAID: … of the former Iraqi government.

LEVIN: Thank you.

WARNER: Thank you very much, Senator. 

I’ve just been informed that the Department of Defense has informed the committee that another disk of pictures has been located. And I’ll soon advise the committee on the conditions under which — and timing — they can be viewed.

Senator McCain?

MCCAIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. 

And I want to thank the witnesses, particularly Generals Miller and Abizaid and Sanchez, for their outstanding service to our nation under the most difficult circumstances. And I was pleased to hear that you were here on other business and were not have to be called back from the theater of operations. 

And I thank you for all the time and effort you have devoted to trying to resolve this terrible issue. And we’re very grateful for that and your appearance here today.

General Sanchez, according to a November 19th, 2003 message, as you responded to questions from Senator Warner and Senator Levin, you transferred full responsibility to General Pappas to assume full responsibility for Abu Ghraib and appointed the guard units to be under the tactical control that 205 Military Intelligence commander for security of detainees and forward operating base protection, I quote from your message. I think that’s accurate.

MCCAIN: In his statement to General Taguba, Colonel Pappas said, and I quote, "Policies and procedures established by the joint operation detention center at Abu Ghraib relative to detainees operations were enacted as a specific result of a visit by Major General Geoffrey Miller, commander of Joint Task Force Gitmo." 

He went on to say, quote, "The key findings of his visit were that the interrogators and analysts develop a set of rules and limitations to guide interrogation and provide dedicated M.P.s to support interrogation operations" — I repeat, "and provide dedicated M.P.s to support interrogation operations."

Now, General Sanchez, General Miller’s report, as I understand it, had observations and recommendations. One of those recommendations was, and I quote from his recommendations, "It is essential that the guard force be actively engaged in setting the conditions for successful exploitation of the internees."

Am I accurate so far, General Sanchez?

SANCHEZ: Yes, Senator.

MCCAIN: General Miller?

MILLER: Yes, sir, you are.

MCCAIN: General Miller, do you believe that your instructions may have been misinterpreted?

MILLER: Senator, I do not.

On our visit to the JTF to be able to give an assessment of the intelligence function in the three major areas — intelligence fusion, the interrogation process and in humane detention — the team of 19 experts laid out those standards that would allow for humane detention, interrogation in accordance with the Geneva Convention, and then recommended procedures by which intelligence could be fused more rapidly to provide actionable intelligence for units and for the JTF itself.

MCCAIN: Well, thank you.

But it seems to me that this order that I just quoted, which turned over certain M.P. duties to the control of Colonel Pappas, then certain things happened. And according to General Taguba’s report, soldiers were questioned that were involved in this. 

MCCAIN: Soldier number one, question, "Have you ever been directed by the M.I., military intelligence, personnel or any government agency to soften up a prisoner prior to interrogation?" Answer, "Yes. Sometimes they would ask me to show a prisoner, quote, ‘special attention.’"

Soldier number two, "Have you ever been told by M.I. personnel to work over a prisoner?" "Yes. M.I. told us to rough them up to get answers from the prisoners." "Why didn’t you report the abuse?" "Because I assumed that if we were doing anything wrong or out of the ordinary or outside the guidelines, someone would have said something. Also, the wing belonged to military intelligence and it appeared military intelligence personnel approved of the abuse."

Soldier number three, question, "What can you tell us about the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib?" "Yes, the M.I. staffs, to my understanding, have given compliments to us on the way we were handling the M.I. holds. For example, meaning statements like, ‘Good job, they’re breaking down real fast.’ Quote, ‘They answer every question, now keep it up,’ unquote. ‘They’re giving out good information.’"

Soldier number four, "Have you ever heard M.I. insinuate to guards to abuse inmates of any type of manner?" "Yes." "What was said?" Answer, quote, "They said, ‘Loosen this guy up for us, make sure he has a bad night, make sure he gets the treatment.’"

You see my point, Major General Miller?

At least according to General Taguba’s report, there were at least a number of guards — I mean, guards, M.P.s, who were under the impression or stated that they were under the impression that they were under specific directions of military intelligence personnel to, quote, "rough up, soften up, give them a bad night," et cetera.

MCCAIN: How do we respond to that, General Miller?

MILLER: Sir, in the recommendations that we made…

MCCAIN: Could I go back to my first question? This goes back to my first question. Does this lead you to believe that your orders were misinterpreted?

MILLER: No, sir. The leadership that received the recommendations throughout the JTF had a clear understanding of the recommendations that we made in those three areas of intelligence fusion, interrogation and humane detention that laid out those requirements, laid the basis that they must be in concert with the Geneva Convention, and gave recommendations from our experience about how those three functions could be done successfully.

MCCAIN: There must have been a breakdown somewhere.

MILLER: Sir, in my estimation, it’s a breakdown in leadership on how that the follow-on actions may have occurred, but I was not present at that time, so it would be difficult for me to give…

MCCAIN: General Sanchez — my time has expired.

WARNER: Go ahead.

MCCAIN: General Sanchez, please?

SANCHEZ: Senator, I wanted to make one clarification: that General Miller did not issue any orders, and he has not issued any orders until he arrived as the deputy commanding general for detainee operations. Those orders were my orders, sir.

MCCAIN: I guess my question was better directed to you. Were those orders misinterpreted?

SANCHEZ: Sir, I do not believe those orders were misinterpreted. The procedures that General Miller and I had discussed, that he had recommended, were very detailed. And it very clearly stated that M.P.s were involved in passive enabling of those operations and had no involvement in the conduct of interrogations. Those were the orders in the SOPs that remained after General Miller’s visit.

MCCAIN: Thank the witnesses. 

My time has expired. Thank you very much.

WARNER: Senator Kennedy?

KENNEDY: Thank you very much, General. And I echo the sense that all of us feel of the great respect we all have for you and the troops that you’re commanding.

We’ve lost 23 very brave soldiers in my state of Massachusetts and we’re all very mindful of the complexities, the difficulties that the uniformed service personnel are facing over there. So we thank you so much for your leadership and your careers and public service in serving our country.

I was, just quickly — General Sanchez, as an old M.P. myself, I’m surprised that you take that the military intelligence are better in force protection — in protecting the forces than the M.P.s. But we’ll leave that for another time.

When we had the secretary of defense here, General Abizaid, last week, he denied that there was any failure to take any of these reports seriously. 

"The military, not the media, discovered these abuses," he said. And Specialist Joseph Darby reported the acts of abuse in Abu Ghraib prison in mid-January. And, according to Secretary Rumsfeld, by the next day investigations were authorized.

Yet now we learn, both from the front page of the New York Times today and the front page of the Wall Street Journal today, that the International Committee on the Red Cross observed the abuses in the prison during the two unannounced inspections in October 2003, and they complained in a strongly-worded written report of November 6. 

This report was reviewed by senior military officials in Iraq, including two advisers to General Sanchez, according to this report.

KENNEDY: So it appears that the military’s first reaction was to restrict future Red Cross visits to the Abu Ghraib. That’s the story in here: After the Red Cross had provided two critical reports, the reaction of the military dealing with the prison then was to restrict. They said, "You have to give us notice." And all of us understand what that means: If you’re going to give notice prior to the inspections, it obviously compromises the inspections. 

So according to those news reports, nothing was done in the prison for two months. And the military previously acknowledged that the worst abuses continued into December 2003. 

So we have the secretary of defense saying one thing and we’re learning from two newspapers another story. And that’s why I think we are trying to find out what exactly, who was in charge, and who bears the responsibility, because these are completely conflicting stories within a period of just a few weeks here before this committee. 

I don’t know whether you have any reaction to those stories, whether you had a chance to see those this morning. I want to move on. 

Quickly, I suppose it’s fair to say who in Iraq or in CENTCOM is responsible for receiving and responding to the reports of violations of international law or conventions by U.S. military personnel.

SANCHEZ: I am responsible. If someone brings it to my attention, I am responsible. And I will not turn my back on any report that I receive.

KENNEDY: Well, you obviously didn’t get these reports.

SANCHEZ: No, I didn’t.

KENNEDY: Well, I’m asking who would have gotten these reports? Who would have received this report in the chain of command, General?

SANCHEZ: Senator, the November report was received by the brigade commander. And then the — as I found out now, the CJTF staff assisted her in responding to that report.

KENNEDY: Well, do they get — that brigade commander receive all of the reports or it’s just — who institutionally receives, within your organization, any of the — like for the Red Cross violations that come on in? Who’s in charge on that?

SANCHEZ: When the February ’04 report came in, that’s when I found out that the November working papers had been issued to the brigade commander. At that point, I immediately changed the procedure and required that those reports come to me as a senior commander in the country. 

KENNEDY: But there were…

SANCHEZ: That is the procedure now. 

KENNEDY: But there was no central receiving officer charged prior to what you’ve just established?

SANCHEZ: Prior to that, Senator, those all would come to the staff judge advocate’s office. That was the repository. And he was the point of contact in terms of commander. It would come in at the lowest level. 

KENNEDY: At the staff JAG — JAG office? 

SANCHEZ: Yes, sir, that is correct.

ABIZAID (?): If I may, sir, this system is broken. We’ve got a…

KENNEDY: Let me move on to General Miller. 

After your assessment of the detention and interrogation in Iraq, you stated that it was essential that the guard force be actively engaged in setting the conditions for the successful exploitation of the internees. 

And as you know, General Taguba strongly disapproved the recommendation, and he has stated that setting of the conditions for the detainees’ successful exploitation through interrogation is fundamentally inconsistent with Army regulations. It undermines the goals of running a safe and secure detention facility. That’s what he testified here for this committee.

So given the New York Times that reported yesterday that Colonel Pappas — Thomas Pappas, who’s the military intelligence brigade commander at Abu Ghraib — told General Taguba that there was no safeguards to ensure the M.P.s at Abu Ghraib behaved properly in setting conditions for the detainees. "There’d be no way for us to actually monitor whether that happened," Colonel Pappas said. "We have no formal system in place to do that."

KENNEDY: General Taguba also found the M.P.s hadn’t been trained on the Geneva Conventions. 

Wasn’t this a catastrophic failure of leadership? I mean, how would you expect an average soldier in the Army to understand the term "successful exploitation" isn’t simply a euphemism for "anything goes"? And do you take responsibility for that failure? 

MILLER: Thank you, Senator. 

The Taguba report was very thorough, but I would like to clarify on this one point. The recommendation that my team made in the September time frame was that the military police help set the conditions for successful interrogation as we had learned of their success in Guantanamo. 

The recommendation was that they conduct passive intelligence gathering during this process. And by that that meant to observe the detainees, to see how their behavior was, to see who they would speak with and then to report that to the interrogators so the interrogators could better understand the attitude with human dynamic of the detainee as he would come into the interrogation booth.

We also recommended that the military police, for security reasons, would accompany the detainee from the cell block, or the area where they were held, up to the interrogation booth because they are security risks. Then the M.P. would wait somewhere else, and then accompany the detainee back.

Our recommendations were that the M.P.s did not actively participate in any form of the interrogation itself. 

And that was explained in detail to the chain of command and giving them that for their opportunity. And the SOP that laid that out was provided to them. It’s about 200 pages long. It goes into great detail about how this system works, because, as it says in the SOP, the M.P.s are not trained intelligence officers, should not initiate questioning or anything like that. They were just to be observers of that process. 

And so that was the active support for the interrogation process that was recommended.

And so, Senator, I will tell you, with my utmost — I believe that the recommendations that we made, had they been implemented, would have not only increased the intelligence value of what was being done, but help to ensure that humane detention was accomplished throughout every facility.

WARNER: Thank you very much, Senator. 

Senator Roberts? 

Before responding, General Sanchez, you made four references to the brigade commander. Now that would be General Karpinski? 

SANCHEZ: Yes, sir, that is correct.

ROBERTS: All right. I want the record to reflect that.