Interrogation tactics such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation and forced nudity did not violate laws against torture when there was no intent to cause severe pain, according to the Bush-era memos on the tactics released by the Obama administration April 16th.
A Senate report declassified last week says senior Bush administration officials authorized the aggressive interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists, despite concerns from military psychologists and attorneys.
But when the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke in 2004, it was soldiers and officers who took the blame, including the prison’s commander, former Brigadier General Janis Karpinski. She was demoted to colonel over the scandal. Karpinski joined John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Thursday.
John Roberts: You read these memos, I assume, when they were released by the Obama administration. What did you think when you were reading them?
Janis Karpinski: I was shocked. And then I felt this sense of exhilaration or relief. Finally, finally, finally - I did a lot of talking back to my computer screen as I was reading them. And I immediately felt sympathy again for the soldiers who were blamed and accused and imprisoned. Remember, they were all packaged up as seven bad apples out of control on the night shift. Where were the people who were defending these decisions, these memorandums then? Why weren't they intervening? They let these soldiers go to prison for these accusations.
Roberts: You felt vindication when you read these memos? What was the thought here? That this type of behavior was authorized so why are people being prosecuted for it?
Karpinski: For five years, I was repeating the truth - the truth is easy to repeat because it's the same truth over and over again. So from the beginning, I knew that I didn't know anything about this. I knew I was being kept from having any information. And five years later to discover they had the information all along, very, very troubling; very disappointing.
Roberts: So, these memos detail a number of tactics that the Justice Department believed were allowable. But when you look at the photos that came out of Abu Ghraib and you see naked prisoners stacked up like a cord of wood with the service members laughing about it. The fellow on the box with the hood over his head and the blanket draped over him and the wires attached to his fingers to suggest to him that he could have been executed through electricity. None of that was in the memo. Did these soldiers here at Abu Ghraib go well beyond what the Justice Department said was allowable?
Karpinski: The soldiers at Abu Ghraib were receiving instructions from people who obviously had experience at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or Bagram Air Force Base, or somewhere in between. The people who were giving them those orders or those instructions certainly had access to, if not directly to, the memorandums. They understood the permissions given to them in those memorandums. And, in some cases, you look at the memorandums, you look at the photographs that were kind of hand-drawn to support the instructions in those memorandums, then you see in living-color in a photograph taken from Abu Ghraib what those memorandums produced. So five years ago I believed, and now I really believe, from those memorandums, the administration, the people in the Pentagon, the people in the White House, the top level of our government, they were terrified because these photographs were the photographic evidence of what the memorandums were saying.
Roberts: What do you think should happen as a result of this, particularly to the soldiers who were convicted and put in jail?
Karpinski: Well, five years. Give them their lives back. Revoke the accusations. Certainly release the last soldier remaining in prison. Release him.
Roberts: Do they deserve a presidential pardon?
Karpinski: They do. And they deserve to have all of the convictions overturned. They deserve certainly to have their discharges dishonorable or bad conduct discharges overturned.
Roberts: And what about you? You were brigadier general in charge of the Abu Ghraib prison, demoted to colonel because of that. A lot of ramifications on your career, pensions, and things like that. Will you seek recompense from the Pentagon?
Karpinski: Well, I will if nothing is done automatically. But as a result of this, they owe this to each one of us. Give it back to us because these mistakes have now been exposed.