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Journalist: Pentagon culture led to prison abuse

New article has photo of dogs, naked Iraqi prisoner


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Unidentified U.S. soldiers surround an Iraqi detainee in this photo obtained by The New Yorker.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Journalist Seymour Hersh wrote a new article in The New Yorker magazine this week that includes a photograph that shows American guards apparently setting dogs on a naked prisoner at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison.

It is the second consecutive week that Hersh has written in the magazine about abuses by U.S. soldiers at the prison in Iraq.

Such revelations, along with the publication of graphic photographs from the prison, have put Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other Pentagon officials under pressure to explain how the abuse happened.

In his latest article, Hersh writes that Abu Ghraib's problems stemmed from a Defense Department thick with patterns of secrecy, disdain for the Geneva Conventions and indifference to the possibility that plans could be wrong.

"It's not because it's a cover. It's because they don't listen to what they don't want to hear," Hersh told CNN.

In an interview Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition," Hersh said he learned that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the American commander in Iraq, put U.S. prisons under the command of military intelligence in November and changed procedures that allowed military police to participate in interrogations.

Hersh said he believed the pressure was on last fall to end a steadily rising insurgency -- and that military intelligence officers being pressured from above passed it on to military police guarding detention facilities.

A recommendation from Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller -- then commander of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and now in charge of all U.S. detention centers in Iraq -- made that concept easier to put into play, Hersh writes.

Miller's recommendation suggested a more active role for military police in interrogation procedures, prompting Sanchez to give military intelligence command over the facilities, Hersh reports in his article.

Military intelligence, in turn, pushed MPs to "loosen up" their prisoners, Hersh told CNN.

"The evidence suggests that cameras were part of the interrogation process," said Hersh, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his article on the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War.

"One of the ways you could get more leverage was shame, humiliation, to threaten to show these photos to neighbors, others."

New photo

Hersh's latest article -- "Chain of Command" -- includes a new photograph that shows American guards apparently setting dogs on a naked prisoner.

The photo was one of about 20 pictures in a series Hersh says were taken by a soldier in the one of the MP units at the prison.

"[The prisoner's] hands are clasped behind his neck and he is leaning against the door to a cell, contorted with terror, as the dogs bark a few feet away," Hersh writes.

"In another, taken a few minutes later, the Iraqi is lying on the ground, writhing in pain, with a soldier sitting on top of him, knee pressed to his back. Blood is streaming from the inmate's leg."

In his article, Hersh says commanders did nothing about allegations of abuse from the International Committee of the Red Cross until a military policeman turned over a computer disk containing graphic images of prisoners forced to simulate homosexual acts while American soldiers watched.

Although the military put out a news release in January announcing an investigation into the allegations, Rumsfeld told Congress last week he did not see the full set of images until the night before his testimony Friday.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified that he did not see the photographs until late in the game.

But, Hersh writes, "he knew enough about the abuses" to talk CBS's "60 Minutes II" into delaying a report on the abuses that included the photographs. The CBS report, broadcast April 28, was the public's first view of the images.

Afghanistan connection suggested

In his article, Hersh quotes a Pentagon official who said Rumsfeld's indifference was typical of those at the top.

"They always want to delay the release of bad news in the hope that something good will break," the official said, according to Hersh.

Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who compiled a scathing report on the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, suggested a link between interrogation techniques used in Afghanistan and those used at Abu Ghraib.

Late last year, Sanchez had Maj. Gen. Donald Ryder, the Army provost marshal, look at prisons in Afghanistan.

Taguba, citing Ryder's still-classified report, revealed what Hersh calls a "dehumanizing interrogation process" that was not random at all and apparently began in Afghanistan after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Hersh writes that since September 11 "President Bush and his top aides have seen themselves as engaged in a war against terrorism in which the old rules did not apply."

In his article, Hersh says that culture extended to the treatment of prisoners. In a news conference in February 2002, Rumsfeld called complaints about how the United States treats its prisoners nothing more than "isolated pockets of international hyperventilation."

The recent investigations, Hersh writes, including inquiries into 25 suspicious deaths, concern the role played by civilian as well as military intelligence.

Hersh told CNN that the photographs have burned uncomfortable and lasting images into the minds of Iraqis already ill at ease with U.S. presence in their country.

"The Arab world, it's not just disliking us," he said. "They think we're perverse. It shows how America is off the wall, no longer to be trusted."


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