FOX's Cowan denied that interrogators participated in Abu Ghraib abuse


FOX News contributor and retired Marine Lieutenant Colonel Bill Cowan claimed that it was "guards, not interrogators" who allegedly committed abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. In fact, the official Pentagon report examining the role of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib concluded that military intelligence officers had committed abuses during interrogations.

From the February 15 edition of FOX News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: Now, Colonel Cowan, do you think that there's a "torture crisis," as [Sen. Edward] Kennedy [D-MA] put it?

COWAN: No, not at all, Bill, but there are instances certainly of torture happening, and, you know, we have to remember that after Abu Ghraib, after the revelations of what guards, not interrogators, what guards had done at Abu Ghraib to prisoners, that indeed, that reflected in how hostages were then handled inside Iraq.

According to the report by Major General George R. Fay, whom the Pentagon assigned to specifically examine the role of military intelligence in the alleged misconduct, both military police ("guards") and military intelligence personnel ("interrogators") committed abuses, and a few military intelligence officers also condoned abuses that they did not themselves commit. From the Fay report:

MG [Major General] Fay has found that from 25 July 2003 to 6 February 2004, twenty-seven 205 MI BDE [Military Intelligence Brigade] Personnel allegedly requested, encouraged, condoned or solicited Military Police (MP) personnel to abuse detainees and/or participated in detainee abuse and/or violated established interrogation procedures and applicable laws and regulations during interrogation operations at Abu Ghraib. Most, though not all, of the violent or sexual abuses occurred separately from scheduled interrogations and did not focus on persons held for intelligence purposes.

The Fay report also found that Colonel Thomas M. Pappas, commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, bears "responsibility as the Commander ... for the abuses that occurred and went undetected for a considerable length of time" in part because he "[f]ailed to take aggressive action against Soldiers who violated the ICRP [Theater Interrogation and Counter-Resistance Policies], the CJTF-7 [Combined Joint Task Force Seven] interrogation and Counter-Resistance Policy and the Geneva Conventions" and because he "[f]ailed to take appropriate action regarding the ICRC [International Committee for the Red Cross] reports of abuse." The New York Times reported on January 17 that according to a lawyer for a sergeant accused of abuse at Abu Ghraib, a military judge refused to allow Pappas and other high-ranking officers to testify in his client's case "because prosecutors planned to charge them."

A report by the ICRC, whose staff visited Abu Ghraib, also chronicled alleged abuse at Abu Ghraib during interrogations:

In certain cases, such as in Abu Ghraib military intelligence section, methods of physical and psychological coercion used by the interrogators appeared to be part of the standard operating procedures by military intelligence personnel to obtain confessions and extract information. Several military intelligence officers confirmed to the ICRC that it was part of the military intelligence process to hold a person deprived of his liberty naked in a completely dark and empty cell for a prolonged period to use inhumane and degrading treatment, including physical and psychological coercion, against persons deprived of their liberty to secure their cooperation.


In mid October 2003, the ICRC visited persons deprived of their liberty undergoing interrogation by military intelligence officers in Unit 1A, the "Isolation section" of "Abu Ghraib" Correctional Facility. Most of these persons deprived of their liberty had been arrested in early October. During the visit, ICRC delegates directly witnessed and documented a variety of methods used to secure the cooperation of the persons deprived of their liberty with their interrogator. In particular they witnessed the practice of keeping persons deprived of their liberty completely naked in totally empty concrete cells and in total darkness, allegedly for several consecutive days. Upon witnessing such cases, the ICRC interrupted its visits and requested an explanation from the authorities. The military intelligence officer in charge of the interrogation explained that this practice was "part of the process". The process appeared to be a give-and-take policy whereby persons deprived of their liberty were "drip-fed" with new items (clothing, bedding, hygiene articles, lit cell, etc) in exchange for their "cooperation".

The investigation of Abu Ghraib by Major General Antonio M. Taguba found that interrogators had specifically asked military police to "set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation" of detainees:

I find that contrary to the provision of AR 190-8, and the findings found in MG Ryder's Report, Military Intelligence (MI) interrogators and Other US Government Agency's (OGA) interrogators actively requested that MP guards set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses. Contrary to the findings of MG Ryder's Report, I find that personnel assigned to the 372nd MP Company, 800th MP Brigade were directed to change facility procedures to "set the conditions" for MI interrogations.

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