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MP commander: 'No knowledge' of alleged abuse

'I certainly take the responsibility for some of this'

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, former military police commander at Abu Ghraib Prison
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Former military police commander at Abu Ghraib prison says she had 'absolutely no knowledge' of prisoner abuse.

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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski is the former military police commander at the Abu Ghraib Prison, where U.S. troops allegedly mistreated Iraqis being held there.

Karpinski, who has since rotated out of Iraq, spoke with CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien on Monday, along with her attorney, Neal Puckett.

O'Brien asked Karpinski about her reaction to allegations of abuse.

KARPINSKI: The accusations were without foundation that this was not a military police leadership issue, specifically.

This was a much broader responsibility, and that particular cellblock was under the control of the military intelligence command at the time and, in fact, from November on Abu Ghraib Prison was under the control of the military intelligence command.

O'BRIEN: You had no control over this facility after a certain point?

KARPINSKI: I can't say no control at a certain point, but it was certainly far less control. And the reason I retained any control is because I had MPs that were still working out there and they remained under the 800th MP Brigade.

O'BRIEN: Were you aware that some of your soldiers were involved in this or were taking pictures of some of the things that were going on?

KARPINSKI: Absolutely not, absolutely had no knowledge, not even a hint or a suggestion of any such activities.

O'BRIEN: And one of the most disturbing things I think about these pictures is the service men and women who are standing there smiling with thumbs up while people are...


O'BRIEN: Who are these soldiers? Are they your soldiers?

KARPINSKI: Yes, and those particular pictures that have been released, they are my MP soldiers, yes. The ones that you can see.

O'BRIEN: Explain that to me. That kind of behavior just seems so out of left field to me.

KARPINSKI: And I agree.

O'BRIEN: Is it just a few bad eggs or apples as we heard Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers sort of refer to over the weekend, or is it a much bigger problem than that? Because they don't look embarrassed ... . They're posing for a picture like it's the one they're going to send back home to their friends.

KARPINSKI: Setting them up. I mean and enjoying it. And that was one of the most despicable aspects of those pictures, those faces on those soldiers, those soldiers who belong to one of my MP companies. Absolutely. I don't know how they [could] do this. I don't know how they allow these activities to get so out of control. But I do know with almost absolute confidence that they didn't wake up one day and decide to do this.

O'BRIEN: So you think what happened?

KARPINSKI: I think it is likely that the military intelligence people used the military police personnel in a support way. In other words -- leave the lights on in the cell, turn the lights off in this cell, make sure that they get their meal late, take them out more often, don't let them get any sleep -- because they were conducting the detention operations. They could control the light switches, they could control the food processing, whatever goes with detention operations.

O'BRIEN: None of your soldiers said, 'This is not a gray area, I'm not supposed to do this?'

KARPINSKI: They may have said it, but they didn't say it to me and they didn't say it to a battalion commander who would have said it to me and they didn't say it to a company commander who would have said it to a battalion commander who would have said it to me. They did not.

If they said it to anybody, if they mentioned it or had any concerns, then I believe that they would have mentioned it to the MI people who were instructing them or encouraging them. I don't know if that's too strong of a word to follow these particular procedures.

O'BRIEN: You deserve some of the blame in this that's going around?

KARPINSKI: I certainly take the responsibility for some of this, yes. Because those soldiers were assigned to a company under my command. Blame? I don't think that the blame rests with me or with the 800th MP Brigade. In fact it's unfair because we had 3,400 soldiers and 16 facilities and this was the only facility where interrogation operations were taking place and this is the only facility where there were infractions.

O'BRIEN: Let's bring your attorney in. What's her status right now -- what happens?

PUCKETT: The results of the investigation recommended that she be relieved of command and reprimanded. However, the direction given to the investigating officer was [to] go out and find out what's wrong with the 800th MP Brigade. The direction was not "something terrible has happened, go find out what went wrong and come back and tell us what went wrong and then we'll deal with it."

O'BRIEN: Are you saying that it's done because they're trying to move the attention away from the military interrogation team?

PUCKETT: Well, we don't know. Because the MPs are all reservists and the military intelligence people are all active duty people and what's clear in all of this and what's apparently yet to be investigated is that the military intelligence personnel were the folks [who] had complete, exclusive control over what went on in the interrogation rooms.

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