Brigadier-General Janis Karpinski told The New York Times in a telephone interview the special high-security cellblock at the Abu Ghuraib prison outside Baghdad had been under the direct control of army intelligence officers, not the reservists under her command.
Her comments follow a report in The New Yorker magazine, which indicated that abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghuraib might have been ordered by US military intelligence to extract information from the captives.
Seymour Hersh, investigative reporter for The New Yorker, said Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick, one of six US military policemen accused of humiliating Iraqi prisoners, wrote home in January that he had "questioned some of the things" he saw inside the prison, but that "the answer I got was: 'This is how military intelligence wants it done'."
Karpinski was formally admonished in January and "quietly suspended" from commanding the 800th Military Police Brigade while under investigation.
The Times quotes Karpinski as saying she believed military commanders were trying to shift the blame exclusively to her and other reservists and away from intelligence officers still at work in Iraq.
"We're disposable," she is quoted as saying. "Why would they want the active-duty people to take the blame? They want to put this on the MPs and hope that this thing goes away. Well, it's not going to go away."
Karpinski says intelligence
officers are still at work in Iraq
Karpinski said the special cellblock, known as 1A, was one of about two dozen cellblocks in the large prison complex and was essentially off limits to soldiers who were not part of the interrogations, including virtually all of the military police under her command, the paper said.
Round the clock
She said she was not defending the actions of the reservists who took part in the brutality, who were part of her command.
But she added she was also alarmed that little attention had been paid to the army military intelligence unit that controlled Cellblock 1A, where her soldiers guarded the Iraqi detainees between interrogations, The Times said.
She said military intelligence officers were in and out of the cellblock "24 hours a day," often to escort prisoners to and from an interrogation centre away from the prison cells.
"They were in there at two in the morning, they were there at four in the afternoon," General Karpinski is quoted as saying. "This was no nine-to-five job."
Karpinski also said CIA employees often participated in the interrogations at the prison complex, according to the report.