Campaign 2010

May 23, 2004

Under Oath

Seattle Times:

Presented last fall with a detailed catalog of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison, the U.S. military responded Dec. 24 with a confidential letter to a Red Cross official asserting that many Iraqi prisoners were not entitled to the full protections of the Geneva Conventions.


The letter, drafted by military lawyers and signed by Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, emphasized the “military necessity” of isolating some inmates for interrogation because of their “significant intelligence value” and said prisoners held as security risks could legally be treated differently from prisoners of war or ordinary criminals..

But the military insisted there were “clear procedures governing interrogation to ensure approaches do not amount to inhumane treatment.”


In recent public statements, Bush administration officials have said that the Geneva Conventions were “fully applicable” in Iraq. That has put U.S.-run prisons in Iraq in a different category from those in Afghanistan and in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where members of al-Qaida and the Taliban have been declared unlawful combatants not eligible for protection.


Until now, the only known element of the Dec. 24 letter had been a provision described by a senior Army officer as having asserted that the Red Cross should not seek in the future to conduct no-notice inspections in the cellblock where the worst abuses took place.

In congressional testimony last week, Lt. Gen. Lance Smith, the deputy commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, asserted that the Dec. 24 response demonstrated that the military had fully addressed the Red Cross complaints.



“Any instructions that have been issued or anything that’s been authorized by the department was checked by the lawyers .. . and deemed to be consistent with the Geneva Conventions,” Rumsfeld testified before the Senate’s Armed Services Committee.

Want the latest updates? Follow the DCCC on Facebook and Twitter: