Brigadier General Janis Karpinski told the Santa Clarita-based Signal newspaper on Monday that Pentagon documents would reveal that more stringent interrogation methods were personally approved by US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld.
During inquiries into the prisoner scandal, Karpinski maintained that overseeing the treatment and interrogation of Iraqi detainees was “taken out of her hands by higher-ranking officials, acting on orders from Washington”.
However, interviewed for four hours by Major General Antonio Taguba, she was heavily criticised for a lack of leadership at the prison.
A detailed account given to army investigators by Karpinski in May named two other officers who appear to have been at the heart of command decisions.
She claimed Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of ground forces in Iraq, and the new US prison chief, Major General Geoffrey Miller, are ultimately responsible for what happened at Abu Ghraib – including the decision to permit lethal force.
Karpinski’s account appeared in the classified annex to the army’s own investigation of prisoner abuse and has been confirmed by her attorney.
Formally admonished over the abuse scandal, she insisted that the decision to transfer control of Abu Ghraib to “military intelligence officials” came up at a September 2003 meeting with Miller, then in charge of the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison.
Reply to criticism
The brigadier general is now telling the Signal that methods she alleges were approved by Rumsfeld included “dogs, food deprivation and sleep deprivation”.
Karpinski (L) claims Rumsfeld
But a spokesman for the Pentagon retorted: “Mr Rumsfeld did not approve any interrogation procedures in Iraq.
“The Secretary of Defence was not in the approval chain for interrogation procedures, which would have remained within the purview of Central Command, headed by Gen John Abizaid,” he told The Telegraph of London.
Moreover, in May, Stephen Cambone – the under-secretary of defence for intelligence – publicly denied charges Rumsfeld had approved Guantanamo-style interrogations in Iraq.
But measures taken by the government to prove its innocence may have complicated the issue.
Last month, the White House took the unusual step of releasing hundreds of internal documents and debates concerning interrogation procedures at Guantanamo.
Extreme interrogation techniques at the camp, it was revealed, now require the explicit approval of Rumsfeld.
The Bush administration insists, however, that the notorious abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib was an aberration on the part of a handful of rogue soldiers.
A Pentagon spokesman said that all relevant documents on interrogation techniques in Iraq would be made public but could not say when.
In the meantime, Karpinski has been suspended from duty pending ongoing investigations into abuse of prisoners at the Baghdad prison.
Major General Geoffrey Miller (C)
In a recent interview with the BBC, she complained of being turned into a scapegoat for the scandal, arguing that the running of the prison was taken out of her hands.
Karpinski, who was responsible for military police guarding all Iraqi jails at the time prisoners were abused by US troops there, also told the BBC she met what she thought was an Israeli specialist at a Baghdad interrogation centre.
“He was clearly from the Middle East and he said: ‘Well, I do some of the interrogation here and of course I speak Arabic, but I’m not an Arab. I’m from Israel’,” she said.
“My initial reaction was to laugh because I thought maybe he was joking, and I realised he was serious,” said Karpinski who has been suspended from her command for failings at Abu Ghraib but has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
The Israeli government denied that any of its security personnel had been active in Iraq.