Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Accountability for Private Military Contractors
I appear here this afternoon in support of H.R. 369, the Transparency and Accountability in Security Contracting Act, co-sponsored by Representatives Price, Schakowsky, and 39 other Members, as well as H.R. 2740, which pulls out the provisions of H.R. 369 relevant to the Judiciary Committee. The focus of this bill is highly technical – expansion of the scope of the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (“MEJA”). But it addresses a fundamental and pressing problem: lack of accountability of U.S. private military contractors to the “law of war” and the principles of the Geneva Conventions. By making MEJA applicable to all persons employed under a contract (or subcontract) written by any agency of the U.S. Government which is being performed outside of the United States and in connection with a contingency operation, H.R. 369 would address an serious gap in the current system. Its passage would help to ensure that private security contractors understand and adhere to the laws of war which govern U.S. military actions around the world.
“Here . . . comes . . . that famous General Taguba—of the Taguba report!” Rumsfeld declared, in a mocking voice. The meeting was attended by Paul Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld’s deputy; Stephen Cambone, the Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence; General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (J.C.S.); and General Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, along with Craddock and other officials. Taguba, describing the moment nearly three years later, said, sadly, “I thought they wanted to know. I assumed they wanted to know. I was ignorant of the setting.”
In the meeting, the officials professed ignorance about Abu Ghraib. “Could you tell us what happened?” Wolfowitz asked. Someone else asked, “Is it abuse or torture?” At that point, Taguba recalled, “I described a naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum, and said, ‘That’s not abuse. That’s torture.’ There was quiet.”
Rumsfeld was particularly concerned about how the classified report had become public. “General,” he asked, “who do you think leaked the report?” Taguba responded that perhaps a senior military leader who knew about the investigation had done so. “It was just my speculation,” he recalled. “Rumsfeld didn’t say anything.” (I did not meet Taguba until mid-2006 and obtained his report elsewhere.) Rumsfeld also complained about not being given the information he needed. “Here I am,” Taguba recalled Rumsfeld saying, “just a Secretary of Defense, and we have not seen a copy of your report. I have not seen the photographs, and I have to testify to Congress tomorrow and talk about this.” As Rumsfeld spoke, Taguba said, “He’s looking at me. It was a statement.”
Taguba said, “Rumsfeld was in denial.” Taguba had submitted more than a dozen copies of his report through several channels at the Pentagon and to the Central Command headquarters, in Tampa, Florida, which ran the war in Iraq. By the time he walked into Rumsfeld’s conference room, he had spent weeks briefing senior military leaders on the report, but he received no indication that any of them, with the exception of General Schoomaker, had actually read it. (Schoomaker later sent Taguba a note praising his honesty and leadership.) When Taguba urged one lieutenant general to look at the photographs, he rebuffed him, saying, “I don’t want to get involved by looking, because what do you do with that information, once you know what they show?”
Sy Hersh today in The New Yorker.
Read it and weep.
The team spent much of February, 2004, in Iraq. Taguba was overwhelmed by the scale of the wrongdoing. “These were people who were taken off the streets and put in jail—teen-agers and old men and women,” he said. “I kept on asking these questions of the officers I interviewed: ‘You knew what was going on. Why didn’t you do something to stop it?’ ”
Taguba’s assignment was limited to investigating the 800th M.P.s, but he quickly found signs of the involvement of military intelligence—both the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, commanded by Colonel Thomas Pappas, which worked closely with the M.P.s, and what were called “other government agencies,” or O.G.A.s, a euphemism for the C.I.A. and special-operations units operating undercover in Iraq. Some of the earliest evidence involved Lieutenant Colonel Steven L. Jordan, whose name was mentioned in interviews with several M.P.s. For the first three weeks of the investigation, Jordan was nowhere to be found, despite repeated requests. When the investigators finally located him, he asked whether he needed to shave his beard before being interviewed—Taguba suspected that he had been dressing as a civilian. “When I asked him about his assignment, he says, ‘I’m a liaison officer for intelligence from Army headquarters in Iraq.’ ” But in the course of three or four interviews with Jordan, Taguba said, he began to suspect that the lieutenant colonel had been more intimately involved in the interrogation process—some of it brutal—for “high value” detainees.
“Jordan denied everything, and yet he had the authority to enter the prison’s ‘hard site’ ”—where the most important detainees were held—“carrying a carbine and an M9 pistol, which is against regulations,” Taguba said. Jordan had also led a squad of military policemen in a shoot-out inside the hard site with a detainee from Syria who had managed to obtain a gun. (A lawyer for Jordan disputed these allegations; in the shoot-out, he said, Jordan was “just another gun on the extraction team” and not the leader. He noted that Jordan was not a trained interrogator.)
Taguba said that Jordan’s “record reflected an extensive intelligence background.” He also had reason to believe that Jordan was not reporting through the chain of command. But Taguba’s narrowly focussed mission constrained the questions he could ask. “I suspected that somebody was giving them guidance, but I could not print that,” Taguba said.
After all Jordan’s evasiveness and misleading responses, his rights were read to him,” Taguba went on. Jordan subsequently became the only officer facing trial on criminal charges in connection with Abu Ghraib and is scheduled to be court-martialled in late August. (Seven M.P.s were convicted of charges that included dereliction of duty, maltreatment, and assault; one defendant, Specialist Charles Graner, was sentenced to ten years in prison.) Last month, a military judge ruled that Jordan, who is still assigned to the Army’s Intelligence and Security Command, had not been appropriately advised of his rights during his interviews with Taguba, undermining the Army’s allegation that he lied during the Taguba inquiry. Six other charges remain, including failure to obey an order or regulation; cruelty and maltreatment; and false swearing and obstruction of justice. (His lawyer said, “The evidence clearly shows that he is innocent.”)
Taguba came to believe that Lieutenant General Sanchez, the Army commander in Iraq, and some of the generals assigned to the military headquarters in Baghdad had extensive knowledge of the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib even before Joseph Darby came forward with the CD. Taguba was aware that in the fall of 2003—when much of the abuse took place—Sanchez routinely visited the prison, and witnessed at least one interrogation. According to Taguba, “Sanchez knew exactly what was going on.”
Sy Hersh todays New Yorker.
How well is it working, having a parallel fighting force, ostensible on the same side but so different in just logistical terms? How does it affect the moral of the troops would be another question in my mind as well. I'd suspect that contractors get paid much better, and possibly get better medical benefits as well.Post a Comment