Clarification on the Last Post

May 4, 2004

[UPDATE 5/6: Sy Hersh revealed on last night’s O’Reilly Factor that this third report was written by Major General Douglas Miller, former head of the detention complex at Guantanamo Bay. Mr. Hersh claims that General Miller’s report showed full knowledge of the abuses at Abu Ghraib and was highly approving of them, not condemnatory of them. See this post for more, including a transcript.]

In my last post, I was curious about a potential slip of the tongue by Seymour Hersh as he was emphasizing on last night’s Charlie Rose show that Major General Taguba was but one of three major (i.e., 2-star) generals asked to investigate prison conditions in Iraq since late summer 2003:

…if you keep on reading [in the 53 page report by Major General Antonio Taguba that he was leaked and writes about here in the New Yorker], you discover that there have been 2 other Army—secret Army—investigations into the prison conditions beginning in late summer [of 2003]. So we have a situation where 3 two-star generals—6 stars in all—were involved in investigating the prison conditions. And the only conclusion you could bring, as the general* did, was that you really had an institutional issue: that the abuses began early, and they stayed.

[* Just Major General Taguba? Or was it a slip of the tongue, misusing the singular when the plural was meant? I’m curious what the other 2 secret reports concluded.]

Rereading Mr. Hersh’s article in The New Yorker on General Taguba’s report, I see that one of these other major generals was mentioned explictly. Namely, he is Major General Donald Ryder, Provost Marshall (i.e., chief law enforcement officer) of the US Army. Mr. Hersh condemns General Ryder’s report as highly euphemistic and hence extremely mild in his criticisms of inappropriate orders to military police by military intelligence to soften up prisoners before interrogation. Mr. Hersh concludes that General Ryder’s report was “at best a failure and at worst a coverup.” Specifically, the key paragraphs pertaining to General Ryder in The New Yorker article:

Last fall, General Sanchez ordered Ryder to review the prison system in Iraq and recommend ways to improve it. Ryder’s report, filed on November 5th, concluded that there were potential human-rights, training, and manpower issues, system-wide, that needed immediate attention. It also discussed serious concerns about the tension between the missions of the military police assigned to guard the prisoners and the intelligence teams who wanted to interrogate them. Army regulations limit intelligence activity by the M.P.s to passive collection. But something had gone wrong at Abu Ghraib.

There was evidence dating back to the Afghanistan war, the Ryder report said, that M.P.s had worked with intelligence operatives to “set favorable conditions for subsequent interviews”—a euphemism for breaking the will of prisoners. “Such actions generally run counter to the smooth operation of a detention facility, attempting to maintain its population in a compliant and docile state.” General Karpinski’s brigade, Ryder reported, “has not been directed to change its facility procedures to set the conditions for MI interrogations, nor participate in those interrogations.” Ryder called for the establishment of procedures to “define the role of military police soldiers . . .clearly separating the actions of the guards from those of the military intelligence personnel.” The officers running the war in Iraq were put on notice.

Ryder undercut his warning, however, by concluding that the situation had not yet reached a crisis point. Though some procedures were flawed, he said, he found “no military police units purposely applying inappropriate confinement practices.” His investigation was at best a failure and at worst a coverup.

However, I could not find any mention in Mr. Hersh’s article of the existence of a third investigation of the sort that he mentioned on Charlie Rose last night. I imagine though that we’ll all soon be hearing more than we ever wanted to know about this third report.

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