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Army Adds Farce to Abu Ghraib Shame

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Message Sam Provance
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Breaking News: The Army officer in charge of the interrogation/torture operation at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 is being court-martialed. My first thought was: Finally an officer is being held accountable. In view of the repeated rebuff to my own attempts to stop the torture and identify those responsible, however, you will perhaps excuse my skepticism that justice will be done.

An Army intelligence analyst, my job at Abu Ghraib was systems administrator (“the computer guy”). But I had the bad luck to be on the night shift. And so I saw the detainees dragged in for interrogation, heard the screams, and saw many of them dragged out.

Watching Act I of the faux-trial of Lt. Col. Steven Jordan last week at Fort Meade, Maryland, confirmed my worst suspicions. I know Jordan; I was in place for his entire tenure at Abu Ghraib, including when prisoners were being tortured; he was an immediate boss.

Enter from the wings reserve Maj. Gen. George Fay. MG Fay was handpicked to run interference for then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by conducting the same kind of “full and thorough investigation” that former President Richard Nixon ordered for Watergate.

With Fay, too, I speak from personal experience. Shortly after photos of the torture at Abu Ghraib were published, I found myself being interviewed by Fay on May 1, 2004. It was a surreal performance, with Fay seeming to take his cue at times from Peter Seller’s Inspector Clouseau.

Except it wasn’t funny then; and it is not funny now. To me, Fay showed himself singularly uninterested in what really was going on at Abu Ghraib. I had to ask him repeatedly to listen to my account. Whereupon he said he would recommend action against me for not reporting what I knew sooner for, if I had done that, I could have prevented the scandal. Right.

In my view, it was clear that Fay’s job was to quiet any discordant notes from noncommissioned officers like me and help Rumsfeld push the responsibility down to “bad apples” at the bottom of the chain of command.

When Maj. Gen. Taguba’s Abu Ghraib investigation report was leaked to the press on May 4, 2004, I was very surprised to find myself listed as the only military intelligence soldier to witness to the truth. And for my conscientiousness, the Army imposed an exclusive gag order on me 10 days later; a week after that my top-secret clearance was suspended, and eventually I was reduced in rank.

Memory Loss

So it came as no surprise to me that Fay would continue to play a disingenuous role at the court-martial of Lt. Col. Jordan.

Jordan is the only officer and the last of the 12 persons charged in the scandal to go to trial. Eleven enlisted soldiers have been convicted of crimes, with the longest sentence, 10 years, given to former Cpl. Charles Graner, Jr., in January 2005.

Two of the charges against Jordan (together punishable by eight years in prison) were obstruction of justice and lying to Fay.

On the day before Jordan’s trial began, Fay contacted Army prosecutors to claim that he “misspoke” in earlier testimony that he had advised Jordan of his rights before interviewing him in 2004. The Army judge was quick to approve a defense motion to dismiss the false-statement and obstruction of justice charges.

Eight years off a possible sentence even before the trial begins! Not bad.

The next stiffest possible sentence was five years for disobeying Fay’s ban on discussing the investigation with others. But not to worry. Testifying last Wednesday, Fay could not remember when he had told Jordan to avoid discussing the investigation.

Enter Defense Attorney Maj. Kris Poppe: (To Fay) “Today you testified you gave a specific order not to discuss—to speak to no one. And that testimony is based on your memory, is it not, sir?”

“It is,” Fay replied.

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I am an old soul but will always be young at heart. I strive for honesty and truth, no matter what. I miss dearly everyone I have lost and hope to see them again in eternity.

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