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Iraq prisons chief claims she was overruled

May 13, 2004 01:17 IST

Tales of an intense power struggle for jails in Iraq have surfaced with a general in charge of prisons in the Gulf country claiming her superiors overruled her in handing control of prisons to military intelligence officials who wished to "handle interrogation".

Brigadier General Janis L Karpinski, head of the 800th Military Police Brigade told army investigators that two of the highest-ranking army officers in Iraq, Maj Gen Geoffery Miller and Lt Gen Ricardo Sanchez ignored her concerns about the military takeover and use of deadly force in Iraqi prisons, a media report said Wednesday.

Karpinski said the decision to transfer control of the Abu Ghraib prison to military intelligence officials was broached at a September 2003 meeting with Miller, who was then in charge of the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The army formally admonished Karpinski for her actions in Iraq. A US government official described her account to the Washington Post. Hher attorney confirmed the account.

Miller was in Iraq at the insistence of top political officials in the Pentagon who were frustrated by the meagre intelligence coming from prisoners there, the Post said.

Karpinski had told investigators that Miller told her he wanted to "Gitmo-ize" the prison -- referring to the aggressive interrogation techniques used to extract information from suspected terrorists at Guantanamo.

Undersecretary of Defence Stephen A Cambone said at a Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday that the concept had been misunderstood. All the Pentagon had in mind was "a cooperative attitude, team-building, call it what you will, between intelligence interrogators and military police to produce more and better information," he said.

According to Karpinski's account, the surrender of authority to military intelligence did not go over easily.

"This prison is not mine to give you," she said she told Miller.

He apparently responded: "You own the MPs (Military Police) and you supply them."

Karpinski replied: "It belongs to the CPA," or the Coalition Provisional Authority.

According to Karpinski's account, he said, "I have permission to take any facility I want from General Sanchez. We are going to get Military Intelligence procedures in place in that facility because the Military Intelligence is not getting the information from these detainees that they should ... We are going to send MPs in here who know how to handle interrogation."

Miller said through a military spokesperson that he never made those comments. He did not provide his own account of the meeting.

Karpinski said it was Sanchez who decided at a meeting in November 2003 to loosen the military's rules of engagement so that prison guards could use lethal force to put down any disturbance.

Consulted by the Post, Sanchez denied having said he did not care about the rules of engagement.

Major General Antonio Taguba, who helped uncover the prison abuse scandal, said in his report that the shift in responsibility, which was formalised on November 19, 2003, produced "clear friction and a lack of effective communication" between commanders.

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