Last month, the
U.S. Army announced 17 soldiers in Iraq, including
a brigadier general, had been removed from duty
after charges of mistreating Iraqi
But the details of what happened have been kept
secret, until now.
It turns out photographs surfaced showing
American soldiers abusing and humiliating Iraqis
being held at a prison near Baghdad. The Army
investigated, and issued a scathing report.
Now, an Army general and her command staff may
face the end of long military careers. And six
soldiers are facing court martial in Iraq -- and
possible prison time. Correspondent Dan Rather
talks to one of those soldiers. And, for the first
time, 60 Minutes II will show some of the pictures
that led to the Army investigation.
According to the U.S. Army, one Iraqi prisoner
was told to stand on a box with his head covered,
wires attached to his hands. He was told that if he
fell off the box, he would be electrocuted.
It was this picture, and dozens of others, that
prompted an investigation by the U.S. Army. On
Tuesday, 60 Minutes II asked Brig. Gen. Mark
Kimmitt, deputy director of coalition operations in
Iraq, what went wrong.
"Frankly, I think all of us are disappointed by
the actions of the few," says Kimmitt. "Every day,
we love our soldiers, but frankly, some days we're
not always proud of our soldiers."
For decades under Saddam Hussein, many prisoners
who were taken to the Abu Ghraib prison never came
out. It was the centerpiece of Saddam's empire of
fear, and those prisoners who did make it out told
nightmarish tales of torture beyond imagining
&endash; and executions without reason.
60 Minutes II talked about the prison and shared
pictures of what Americans did there with two men
who have extensive interrogation experience: Former
Marine Lt. Col. Bill Cowan and former CIA Bureau
Chief Bob Baer.
"I visited Abu Ghraib a couple of days after it
was liberated. It was the most awful sight I've
ever seen. I said, 'If there's ever a reason to get
rid of Saddam Hussein, it's because of Abu
Ghraib,'" says Baer. "There were bodies that were
eaten by dogs, torture. You know, electrodes coming
out of the walls. It was an awful place."
"We went into Iraq to stop things like this from
happening, and indeed, here they are happening
under our tutelage," says Cowan.
It was American soldiers serving as military
police at Abu Ghraib who took these pictures. The
investigation started when one soldier got them
from a friend, and gave them to his commanders. 60
Minutes II has a dozen of these pictures, and there
are many more &endash; pictures that show
Americans, men and women in military uniforms,
posing with naked Iraqi prisoners.
There are shots of the prisoners stacked in a
pyramid, one with a slur written on his skin in
In some, the male prisoners are positioned to
simulate sex with each other. And in most of the
pictures, the Americans are laughing, posing,
pointing, or giving the camera a thumbs-up.
60 Minutes II was only able to contact one of
the soldiers facing charges. But the Army says they
are all in Iraq, awaiting court martial.
"What can the Army say specifically to Iraqis
and others who are going to see this and take it
personally," Rather asked Kimmitt, in an interview
conducted by satellite from Baghdad.
"The first thing I'd say is we're appalled as
well. These are our fellow soldiers. These are the
people we work with every day, and they represent
us. They wear the same uniform as us, and they let
their fellow soldiers down," says Kimmitt.
"Our soldiers could be taken prisoner as well.
And we expect our soldiers to be treated well by
the adversary, by the enemy. And if we can't hold
ourselves up as an example of how to treat people
with dignity and respect
We can't ask that
other nations to that to our soldiers as well."
"So what would I tell the people of Iraq? This
is wrong. This is reprehensible. But this is not
representative of the 150,000 soldiers that are
over here," adds Kimmitt. "I'd say the same thing
to the American people... Don't judge your army
based on the actions of a few."
One of the soldiers facing court martial is Army
Reserve Staff Sgt. Chip Frederick.
Frederick is charged with maltreatment for
allegedly participating in and setting up a photo,
and for posing in a photograph by sitting on top of
a detainee. He is charged with an indecent act for
observing one scene. He is also charged with
assault for allegedly striking detainees &endash;
and ordering detainees to strike each other.
60 Minutes II talked with him by phone from
Baghdad, where he is awaiting court martial.
Frederick told us he will plead not guilty,
claiming the way the Army was running the prison
led to the abuse of prisoners.
"We had no support, no training whatsoever. And
I kept asking my chain of command for certain
things...like rules and regulations," says
Frederick. "And it just wasn't happening."
Six months before he faced a court martial,
Frederick sent home a video diary of his trip
across the country. Frederick, a reservist, said he
was proud to serve in Iraq. He seemed particularly
well-suited for the job at Abu Ghraib. He's a
corrections officer at a Virginia prison, whose
warden described Frederick to us as "one of the
Frederick says Americans came into the prison:
"We had military intelligence, we had all kinds of
other government agencies, FBI, CIA ... All those
that I didn't even know or recognize."
Frederick's letters and email messages home also
offer clues to problems at the prison. He wrote
that he was helping the interrogators:
"Military intelligence has encouraged and told
us 'Great job.' "
"They usually don't allow others to watch them
interrogate. But since they like the way I run the
prison, they have made an exception."
"We help getting them to talk with the way we
handle them. ... We've had a very high rate with
our style of getting them to break. They usually
end up breaking within hours."
According to the Army's own investigation,
that's what was happening. The Army found that
interrogators asked reservists working in the
prison to prepare the Iraqi detainees, physically
and mentally, for questioning.
What, if any actions, are being taken against
"I hope the investigation is including not only
the people who committed the crimes, but some of
the people that might have encouraged these crimes
as well," says Kimmitt. "Because they certainly
share some level of responsibility as well."
But so far, none of the interrogators at Abu
Ghraib are facing criminal charges. In fact, a
number of them are civilians, and military law
doesn't apply to them.
One of the civilian interrogators at Abu Ghraib
was questioned by the Army, and he told
investigators he had "broken several tables during
interrogations, unintentionally," while trying to
"fear up" prisoners. He denied hurting anyone.
In our phone conversation, 60 Minutes II asked
Frederick whether he had seen any prisoners
"I saw things. We had to use force sometimes to
get the inmates to cooperate, just like our rules
of engagement said," says Frederick. "We learned a
little bit of Arabic, basic commands. And they
didn't want to listen, so sometimes, you would just
give them a little nudge or something like that
just to get them to cooperate so we could get the
Attorney Gary Myers and a judge advocate in Iraq
are defending Frederick. They say he should never
have been charged, because of the failure of his
commanders to provide proper training and
"The elixir of power, the elixir of believing
that you're helping the CIA, for God's sake, when
you're from a small town in Virginia, that's
intoxicating," says Myers. "And so, good guys
sometimes do things believing that they are being
of assistance and helping a just cause. ... And
helping people they view as important."
Frederick says he didn't see a copy of the
Geneva Convention rules for handling prisoners of
war until after he was charged.
The Army investigation confirms that soldiers at
Abu Ghraib were not trained at all in Geneva
Convention rules. And most were reservists,
part-time soldiers who didn't get the kind of
specialized prisoner of war training given to
regular Army members.
Frederick also says there were far too few
soldiers there for the number of prisoners: "There
was, when I left, there was over 900. And there was
only five soldiers, plus two non-commissioned
officers, in charge for those 900 -- over 900
Rather asked Kimmitt about understaffing. "That
doesn't condone individual acts of criminal
behavior no matter how tired we are. No matter how
stretched we are, that doesn't give us license and
it doesn't give us the authority to break the law,"
"That may have been a contributing factor, but
at the end of the day, this is probably more about
leadership, supervision, setting standards, abiding
by the Army values and understanding what's right,
and having the guts to say what's right."
Brig. Gen. Janice Karpinsky ran Abu Ghraib for
the Army. She was also in charge of three other
Army prison facilities that housed thousands of
The Army investigation determined that her lack
of leadership and clear standards led to problems
system wide. Karpinski talked with 60 Minutes'
Steve Kroft last October at Abu Ghraib, before any
of this came out.
"This is international standards," said
Karpinski. "It's the best care available in a
But the Army investigation found serious
problems behind the scenes. The Army has
photographs that show a detainee with wires
attached to his genitals. Another shows a dog
attacking an Iraqi prisoner. Frederick said that
dogs were "used for intimidation factors."
Part of the Army's own investigation is a
statement from an Iraqi detainee who charges a
translator - hired to work at the prison - with
raping a male juvenile prisoner: "They covered all
the doors with sheets. I heard the screaming.
...and the female soldier was taking pictures."
There is also a picture of an Iraqi man who
appears to be dead -- and badly beaten.
"It's reprehensible that anybody would be taking
a picture of that situation," says Kimmitt.
But what about the situation itself?
"I don't know the facts surrounding what caused
the bruising and the bleeding," says Kimmitt. "If
that is also one of the charges being brought
against the soldiers, that too is absolutely
unacceptable and completely outside of what we
expect of our soldiers and our guards at the
Is there any indication that similar actions may
have happened at other prisons? "I'd like to sit
here and say that these are the only prisoner abuse
cases that we're aware of, but we know that there
have been some other ones since we've been here in
Iraq," says Kimmitt.
When Saddam ran Abu Ghraib prison, Iraqis were
too afraid to come ask for information on their
When 60 Minutes II was there last month,
hundreds had gathered outside the gates, worried
about what is going on inside.
"We will be paid back for this. These people at
some point will be let out," says Cowan. "Their
families are gonna know. Their friends are gonna
This is a hard story to have to tell when
Americans are fighting and dying in Iraq. And for
Cowan, it's a personal issue. His son is an
infantry soldier serving in Iraq for the last four
Rather asked Cowan what he would say to "that
person who is sitting in their living room and
saying, 'I wish they wouldn't do this. It's
undermining our troops and they shouldn't do
"If we don't tell this story, these kinds of
things will continue. And we'll end up getting paid
back 100 or 1,000 times over," says Cowan.
"Americans want to be proud of each and everything
that our servicemen and women do in Iraq. We wanna
be proud. We know they're working hard. None of us,
now, later, before or during this conflict, should
wanna let incidents like this just pass."
Kimmitt says the Army will not let what happened
at Abu Ghraib just pass. What does he think is the
most important thing for Americans to know about
what has happened?
"I think two things. No. 1, this is a small
minority of the military, and No. 2, they need to
understand that is not the Army," says Kimmitt.
"The Army is a values-based organization. We live
by our values. Some of our soldiers every day die
by our values, and these acts that you see in these
pictures may reflect the actions of individuals,
but by God, it doesn't reflect my army."
Two weeks ago, 60 Minutes II received an appeal
from the Defense Department, and eventually from
the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen.
Richard Myers, to delay this broadcast -- given the
danger and tension on the ground in Iraq.
60 Minutes II decided to honor that request,
while pressing for the Defense Department to add
its perspective to the incidents at Abu Ghraib
prison. This week, with the photos beginning to
circulate elsewhere, and with other journalists
about to publish their versions of the story, the
Defense Department agreed to cooperate in our
report.© 2004, CBS
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