16 May 2004
Rumsfeld's Secret OK Led to Abu Ghraib Interrogations: Report
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved a secret program that
encouraged interrogation methods used at Abu Ghraib prison, where
Iraqi prisoners were abused, it was reported.
Rumsfeld had approved "a highly secret operation" last year,
which "encouraged physical coercion and the sexual humiliation of
Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the
growing insurgency in Iraq," New Yorker magazine investigative
reporter Seymour Hersh wrote, citing current and former intelligence
Excerpts of Hersh's report have been released ahead of publication
The New Yorker reported that the clandestine Defense Department
operation was known as a Special-Access Program (SAP).
Its rules were: "Grab whom you must. Do what you want," according to
one former intelligence official cited by Hersh.
Rumsfeld's decision to import such techniques into Iraq, after their
use in Afghanistan, was opposed by members of US intelligence
organizations, the report said.
"They said, 'No way. We signed up for the core program in
Afghanistan, preapproved for operations against high-value terrorist
targets, and now you want to use it for cabdrivers, brothers-in-law,
and people pulled off the streets,'" the former intelligence official
The source said the CIA objected to the program's use inside Abu
Ghraib, where a scandal involving the mistreatment of Iraqis has
sparked Democratic calls for Rumsfeld's resignation. The CIA ended
its SAP involvement in the jail.
Leaked photos from Abu Ghraib have shown US soldiers abusing Iraqi
inmates, forcing them into sexually humiliating positions.
Hersh writes that Rumsfeld left the detailed planning to Pentagon
intelligence chief Steve Cambone, but that the program was ultimately
approved by Rumsfeld and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
General Richard Myers.
The Pentagon wanted to use tougher interrogation techniques as the US
plan to occupy Iraq was hindered by a growing insurgency, Hersh
wrote. "So here are fundamentally good soldiers -- military
intelligence guys -- being told that no rules apply," a former
military intelligence official told Hersh.
When the New Yorker and CBS published photographs showing US soldiers
sexually abusing Iraqi inmates at Abu Ghraib amid allegations of
assaults and beatings, "the (Pentagon) cover story was that some kids
got out of control," Hersh said.
"As far as they're concerned, this is a covert operation, and it's to
be kept within the Defense Department channels," the former
intelligence official told Hersh.
Hersh is an award-winning US journalist who broke the story of the
1968 My Lai massacre, when US soldiers executed Vietnamese civilians
during the war in Vietnam.
Also Saturday The New York Times reported that the mistreatment of
Iraqi inmates at Camp Cropper, near Baghdad airport, predates abuse
of Abu Ghraib prisoners by US soldiers.
A prisoner told the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
that he had been beaten by interrogators, hooded, handcuffed,
threatened with torture and murder, urinated on and kicked in the
head, lower back and groin, the daily said.
He was also kept awake for four days and had a baseball tied into his
mouth with a scarf, it added.
The ICRC lodged formal complaints with US officials in February, the
Times said, and eventually documented 50 cases of abuse.
An examination "revealed hematoma in the lower back, blood in urine,
sensory loss in the right hand due to tight handcuffing with flexi-
cuffs and a broken rib," said a Red Cross panel report, which US
officials received in February, according to the Times.
"Sometimes they treated them good and sometimes they didn't treat
them so good," US military policeman Floyd Boone told the Times,
describing the work of Camp Cropper interrogators of the 205th
Military Intelligence Brigade, based in Weisbaden, Germany.
In October, the US Army struck Camp Cropper's tents and barbed-wire
The 205th Military Intelligence Brigade was reassigned to Abu Ghraib
prison outside Baghdad and given control over the 800th Military
Police Brigade, under Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, the Times