First MP to face trial speaks up

Whose version of the truth is the truth?

Richard Serrano breaks an exclusive story in the LA Times this evening about what Army SPC Jeremy Sivits will confess to after the pleads guilty to a special court martial next week in Iraq. So far, military law pundits like me think that Sivits is being induced to plead guilty so that prosecutors will have at least one MP on the inside testifying for them, if for no other reason than to explain what's going on in all those awful photographs.
Sivits, who according to sources is expected to plead guilty at a court-martial proceeding next week in Baghdad, also gave fresh details about the other suspects in the beating of Iraqi prisoners - for the first time describing their moods as the prisoners were stripped and abused.

He also maintained, according to the documents, that all of this was done without the knowledge of their superiors in the Army chain of command.

"Our command would have slammed us," he said. "They believe in doing the right thing. If they saw what was going on, there would be hell to pay."

He said Graner warned him not to say anything, telling him: "You did not see (this)."

Graner's lawyers have said he and other soldiers were under pressure by military interrogators to "soften up" the detainees to get intelligence. All the other soldiers are expected to plead not guilty.

Sivits said he first became aware of the abuse, and began photographing much of it, on Oct. 3, nearly a month before the early November dates believed to have been the start of the harsh treatment against inmates in the overcrowded prison.
Analysis: I'm not yet ready to believe everything this guy says, or buy into this Specialist's testimony as the absolute truth. But if he's right, it still may not let the command off the hook. The fact that they didn't know about these events isn't enough. If they should have known about them, by doing proper nighttime inspections and spot-checks, and they didn't know, then they're still legally culpable. More to follow...

Update I -- Pointing Fingers: Chris Cooper reports in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) on the story being advanced by Army SPC Charles Graner, which predictably, is at odds with that being advanced by SPC Sivits. What's the real truth? Who knows -- I'm sure it's out there somewhere. But in SPC Graner's case, he's got another strike against him: an adultery charge founded on his apparent affair with PFC Lynndie England (who is now pregnant with Graner's baby). This charge will probably have some effect on SPC Graner's credibility, and it'll probably be a slam dunk for the prosecution assuming they can medically prove paternity.

To me, this is starting to look like the final fatal scene in Quentin Tarantino's cult classic Resevoir Dogs, where all of the main characters engage in an armed standoff that ends in absolute bloodshed. Of course, the defendants here don't have pistols pointed at each other; just their future court testimony. But I still predict the same outcome -- total failure for all of these defendants when they try to point fingers in their courts martial. You see, military juries are really good at cutting through the smoke & mirrors typically thrown up by defense attorneys. The saying goes that if you're innocent, it's good to be before a military jury, but if you're guilty, it's bad to be before a military jury. I think these MPs are about to find out the reason for that maxim.

Update II: Noah Shachtman has an interesting article today in Wired News on lie detectors and whether the most advanced of these devices can accurately do its job. Polygraph evidence is generally inadmissable, even in military courts. But I wouldn't be surprised to see one of these MPs strapping on a polygraph to win some points in the court of public opinion.

Update III -- BG Karpinski speaks: The Washington Post hosted a live online discussion with BG Janis Karpinski, the commander of the 800th MP Brigade, which deserves a read from anyone interested in this story. She still hedges a bit on her command responsibility, but I think she actually acquitted herself quite well in this online discussion.
The political book of 2004
: Whether you love, hate, or feel indifferently towards him, if you care about American politics, you have to read Bill Clinton's new autobiography My Life, scheduled for release on June 30. Amazon.Com just sent me an e-mail letting me know I could pre-order a copy, which I will probably do, though I doubt I'll read it until after the California bar exam in late July.
A change in leadership at Abu Ghraib

Shift from reserve to active MPs should make a big difference

The Washington Post has a good report today on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's trip to Iraq and the Abu Ghraib prison. Whether he can salvage his job and our nation's image from this morass remains an open question. But one thing jumped out at me from the text of this story:
Rumsfeld arrived in Baghdad about 1 p.m. (5 a.m. EDT). He met with several top generals, including Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and was briefed on the status of general activities in Iraq as well as specific issues related to the abuses at Abu Ghraib, before visiting the prison facility.

That tour was bleak. Under a hazy sky, detainees rushed to the edge of concertina wire fences, their raggedy clothes flapping in the wind, many giving thumbs-down gestures to the convoy. Some raised their arms, others shouted, some just stood and watched.

"What are you going to do about this scandal?" read one handwritten sign held by two detainees, who chased the buses as they turned a corner. Another detainee stood nearby and waved a bandaged stump of a leg. "Help," read another sign.

Col. David E. Quantock, commander of the 16th Military Police Brigade and now in charge of the embattled prison's detention operations, said he had to clean up a significant mess upon arrival earlier this year. He said "leadership challenges" before he arrived left some policies in a shambles and necessitated complete overhaul, but now morale is high and the soldiers are working to correct the problems of the past.

"The door was open for abuses," Quantock said. "We had soldiers we put trust in who didn't deserve that trust. The leadership oversight was not in place when I took over. Things have changed."
Analysis: I know Col. Quantock by reputation; a number my soldiers served under him in previous assignments. He is one of the best MP officers in the Army, as evidenced by his command of the 16th Military Police Brigade at Fort Bragg, one of a handful of active-duty MP brigades in the Army. He could not be a more different officer than BG Janis Karpinski, the commander of the 800th MP Brigade. Though she's a 1-star general, she is a reservist, with a fraction of the active-duty time that an equivalent active-duty general would have. I have also been less than impressed by her public statements thus far, which do everything but take responsibility for the things that happened in her unit. In moving to put an active-duty officer like COL Quantock in charge of Abu Ghraib, the Army has effectively replaced a slug with a stud. This is a smart move, and it's long overdue.

I spoke yesterday to a group of Army ROTC cadets on Abu Ghraib, and its leadership and legal issues. Afterwards, we spent a long time discussing the lessons to be learned from this incident. One clear lesson, especially to those who have served both on active duty and in the reserves like me, is that America may need to rethink its policy of relying on the reserves for so much of its military capacity -- especially in critical areas like MP work and Civil Affairs work. Reserve soldiers are great patriotic Americans, and their leaders are too. But quite simply, these reserve officers and NCOs don't have the professional experience, maturity or knowledge to do their jobs as leaders. BG Karpinski may have been a general officer, but in reality, she had only a fraction of the military experience and training that a general should have. Many reserve leaders have civilian jobs, like police work, that reinforce their military occupations. But many more don't. Reserve officers simply can't develop the skill sets necessary for effective command with just 39 days of training per year.

As this investigation goes forward, I think you're going to see a lot more pinned on the leadership failures of the officers in the 800th MP Brigade. Without a doubt, they will say that they weren't themselves trained, or that they weren't competent because they were just reservists. To some extent, they will be right, though I don't think that should excuse them from criminal culpability. What it should do, however, is make us think very hard about our expectations from reserve units. It may not be a good idea to stake so much of our national security on these units when they are underresourced, undertrained, and underequipped. Particularly in the age of the "strategic soldier", where one private's mistake can land on CNN and affect the entire outcome of the war.

Correction: Earlier today, I wrote that BG Karpinski had only a few years of active-duty time, based on my estimate of what a reservist would accrue over a 25-year career. I subsequently learned that I was mistaken, and that she did in fact have a 10-year active duty career before entering the Army Reserve. This note has been adjusted to reflect that fact.
How far can you go in an interrogation?

CIA used coercive measures to question Al Qaeda leaders

That's the implicit question behind this New York Times article, which details some of the interrogation tactics used against top leaders like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. These tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) are coming to light now because of the incidents at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Many think that the overall environment of permissiveness towards coercive interrogations that has been endorsed by the White House and CIA somehow led to the abuses at Abu Ghraib. Perhaps. As the NYT story points out, the CIA will do a lot to squeeze information from those it has in custody.
In the case of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a high-level detainee who is believed to have helped plan the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, C.I.A. interrogators used graduated levels of force, including a technique known as "water boarding," in which a prisoner is strapped down, forcibly pushed under water and made to believe he might drown.

These techniques were authorized by a set of secret rules for the interrogation of high-level Qaeda prisoners, none known to be housed in Iraq, that were endorsed by the Justice Department and the C.I.A. The rules were among the first adopted by the Bush administration after the Sept. 11 attacks for handling detainees and may have helped establish a new understanding throughout the government that officials would have greater freedom to deal harshly with detainees.

Defenders of the operation said the methods stopped short of torture, did not violate American anti-torture statutes, and were necessary to fight a war against a nebulous enemy whose strength and intentions could only be gleaned by extracting information from often uncooperative detainees. Interrogators were trying to find out whether there might be another attack planned against the United States.

The methods employed by the C.I.A. are so severe that senior officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation have directed its agents to stay out of many of the interviews of the high-level detainees, counterterrorism officials said. The F.B.I. officials have advised the bureau's director, Robert S. Mueller III, that the interrogation techniques, which would be prohibited in criminal cases, could compromise their agents in future criminal cases, the counterterrorism officials said.

After the attacks of Sept. 11, President Bush signed a series of directives authorizing the C.I.A. to conduct a covert war against Osama bin Laden's Qaeda network. The directives empowered the C.I.A. to kill or capture Qaeda leaders, but it is not clear whether the White House approved the specific rules for the interrogations.

The White House and the C.I.A. declined to comment on the matter.

* * *
The C.I.A. has been operating its Qaeda detention system under a series of secret legal opinions by the agency's and Justice Department lawyers. Those rules have provided a legal basis for the use of harsh interrogation techniques, including the water-boarding tactic used against Mr. Mohammed.

* * *
So far, the Bush administration has not said what it intends to do over the long term with any of the high-level detainees, leaving them subject to being imprisoned indefinitely without any access to lawyers, courts or any form of due process.
More analysis to follow on this subject... stay tuned.
Explaining military justice
: To learn more about the military justice system and the way that SPC Jeremy Sivits' special court martial will work in Iraq next week, see this background briefing given by a JAG officer at the Pentagon. It covers all of the important legal details, from jury selection to available punishment.
"A Failure of Leadership" - Part II

James D. Villa, an attorney in Washington DC who used to command the now-infamous 372d MP Company, has an excellent op-ed in Wednesday's Washington Post. He makes a number of solid points in this column, and I imagine these abuses would have been caught much earlier had he been in command in late 2003. Here's the part of his argument resonated the most with me:
These actions were the result of huge command failures. The senior person charged thus far is Ivan L. Frederick, a staff sergeant. In an MP company, a person of his rank is normally placed in charge of a squad of 11 soldiers. I refuse to believe that no leader above Frederick was aware of or complicit in the abuses that were apparently widespread throughout the prison. While certain officers were relieved of their commands and other leaders were given letters of reprimand, the failure of unit leaders, from company to brigade, is stunning.

The 372nd has approximately 150 soldiers and is divided into five platoons, four of which consist of MPs. The company commander is directly responsible for all actions taken by his soldiers, or those that they fail to take. The 372nd's commander and the relevant platoon leader either knew or should have known of the actions of their subordinates, as should have their noncommissioned officers. All these leaders failed in their most basic responsibilities of supervising their soldiers in the performance of their duties.

Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski, commander of the 800th MP Brigade, which ran the prison, has spent most of the past week on television telling the same story: that she never knew about this, that her MPs were working for military intelligence people, that she was not to blame. Had she spent as much time leading her troops as she apparently has preparing for appearances on MSNBC (with her lawyer in tow), the Army might have stemmed these incidents early on. I was taught in ROTC that a leader is responsible for what his or her unit does or fails to do. I was also taught that a leader takes responsibility for his or her soldiers. Either by commission or omission, Karpinski and her chain of command have failed those soldiers in her brigade and, ultimately, this country.
Right... but until we see charges preferred against these senior officers and NCOs, the message is that the Army condones and tolerates this derelict behavior by the commanders in the 800th MP Brigade. I'm not really sure what the Army is waiting for. It seems like there's plenty of material in MG Taguba's 6,000-page report upon which to substantiate criminal charges, especially where we're talking about such a clear leadership failure.
"A Failure of Leadership"

The New York Times has the full transcript of today's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing online, and the L.A. Times has a good report on the hearing too. But all you really need to read is the following excerpt from the transcript, involving an exchange between Sen. John Warner and Army MG Antonio Taguba:
SEN. WARNER: I ask the same question to you. In simple laymen's language, so it can be understood, what do you think went wrong, in terms of the failure of discipline and the failure of this interrogation process to be consistent with known regulations, national and international? And also, to what extent do you have knowledge of any participation by other than U.S. military, namely Central Intelligence Agency and/or contractors, in the performance of the interrogations?

GEN. TAGUBA: Sir, as far as your last question, I'll answer that first. The comments about participation of other government agencies or contractors were related to us through interviews that we conducted. It was related to our examination of written statements and, of course, some other records. With regards to your first question, sir, there was a failure of leadership --

* * *
SEN. WARNER: Can you give us a quick synopsis of participation by other U.S. government agencies?

GEN. TAGUBA: Sir, they refer to them as OGAs or MIs. And when I asked for clarification it's because of the way they wore their uniforms. Some of them did not wear a uniform, and so how would I ask them to clarify further if they knew any of these people? And they gave us names, as stipulated on their statements. They also gave us names of those who are MI, uniformed MI in personnel in the U.S. Army, and that was substantiated by the comments made to us by other witnesses as we conducted our interviews.

SEN. WARNER: Right. In simple words, your own soldiers' language, how did this happen?

GEN. TAGUBA: Failure in leadership, sir, from the brigade commander on down; lack of discipline; no training whatsoever; and no supervision. Supervisory omission was rampant. Those are my comments.
Roger that. The brigade commander, BG Janis Karpinski, has become quite proficient at pointing fingers downwards, sideways, and anywhere else but her own chest. So has the battalion commander, LTC Jerry Phillabaum. I have yet to see a military officer in this chain of command fall on his or her sword by taking command responsibility. A military commander is responsible for all that his/her unit does or fails to do. Period. End of discussion. Admirably, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld took this to heart with his opening statement to SASC last week. Unfortunately, the key leaders in the 800th MP Brigade still don't get it. They still blame others, from the CIA to their own troops, for the things that happened in their units on their watch.

The burden of command is very heavy; it's not an easy job. Commanders must do more than set standards -- they must enforce them too. You can't just tell soldiers to conduct Preventive Maintenance Checks & Services ("PMCS" in Army-speak), you have to physically visit the motor pool to make sure they're doing it. You don't just tell your soldiers to fill their canteens with water; you check them before a patrol to make sure they did. Soldiers do what leaders check. Over time, you may develop trust in a unit that lets you back off some aspects of direct supervision. But even then, you still go down to the motor pool during PMCS, even if it's just to shoot the breeze with your troops. That's what leadership is all about. It's not enough to simply pass on policy guidance from higher HQ about the Geneva Conventions and prisoner treatment. Leaders must physically check their soldiers' performance to ensure the standards are being met. Higher level commanders must also physically inspect what's going on, to ensure that the right thing is being done.

Soldiers do what leaders check. It's a fundamental principle hammered into every lieutenant at the National Training Center, Joint Readiness Training Center, Ranger School, and countless other leadership-training courses. But it wasn't followed here. The leaders in this MP brigade slacked off. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt -- they probably did establish some standards of behavior for their MPs. But they failed to enforce them. They failed to get up and make midnight spot-checks on their troops. They failed to establish supervisory systems to ensure the standards were being met. And the result was that this behavior went on for far too long, undetected and unchecked.

Ultimately, these leaders must be held accountable for these failures. Administrative reprimands, like the ones given so far, are wholly insufficient in my opinion. The Army is prosecuting soldiers for criminal conduct at Abu Ghraib; it should prosecute their leaders as well. What sort of a messages does it send to the average soldier in the field when you hammer these junior troops but let their officers off with a slap on the wrist? Not a good one, in my opinion.
Another sign of military overstretch

Bradleys near the DMZ go without parts because of war in Iraq

Seth Robson reports in Pacific Stars & Stripes that the Army's 2nd Infantry Division is having difficulty maintaining its fleet of M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles because of spare parts shortages caused by the war in Iraq. Specifically, Bradleys are forced to drive on worn-out tracks because there is a global shortage of this part right now, driven by the use of Bradleys in Iraq.
All 58 Bradleys operated by 2nd Infantry Division's 2nd Battalion are running on worn-out track, said Capt. Robert Richardson, maintenance officer for the 2nd Infantry Division's 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment.

Each Bradley has 166 blocks of track. The blocks, which cost $140 each to replace, are made of steel and rubber. Dozens of pins link them together to form the tracks. When the rubber on the blocks wears out, they need to be replaced, just like bald tires.

"Our track is getting worn out by all the driving we do on concrete and roads. I have got one over there with no rubber on the left side," Richardson said, pointing to a disabled Bradley languishing in a corner of the maintenance bay at Rodriguez Range.

Normally, the mechanics would replace worn out blocks with new track. However, the need to supply track to vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan means there is not enough for vehicles in South Korea, he said.

"It becomes a safety issue after a while," Richardson said.

* * *
At least one of 2-9's Bradleys is out of commission because mechanics have taken the good track from it to use on other vehicles, Richardson said.

"We're not allowed to cannibalize. It is called controlled substitution," Richardson explained. "It is something we are having to do because we are not getting replacements."

If war with North Korea broke out tomorrow, some of 2-9's Bradleys would not be able to move immediately because of worn out tracks, Richardson said.
Analysis: And that's the bottom line, folks. If we have to go to war tomorrow in Korea, or anywhere else, we will be less ready to fight as a direct consequence of the war in Iraq. This is a point that I wrote about in this American Prospect article "Be Unprepared", and a point I reiterated in this Slate article "Hollow Force." It is also a point hammered home by Nick Confessore in his March 2003 article "GI Woe", as well by James Fallows' article "Hollow Army" in the Atlantic Monthly. Ideally, our military should retain some amount of excess capacity at any given time with which to respond to immediate crises. This capacity shouldn't just mean tanks and planes and soldiers, but spare parts to fix the force and bombs to arm it. The military spent some of this capacity for Operation Desert Fox in 1998, and for Kosovo in 1999, but it rebuilt those shortages with funding in 2000 and 2001. Unfortunately, the military expended nearly all of its surplus capacity to fight the war in Iraq, with the result that we are now less ready to respond to threats abroad if/when they should arise.
Marines decorated for valor in Iraq

Amidst the news of prison abuse by U.S. soldier and civilian interrogators in Iraq, I think it's important to recognize the fact that the overwhelming majority of American military personnel do an outstanding job, wherever they're stationed. It's also important to recognize that some American warriors go much, much further than what's expected of them, demonstrating courage and valor in ways that make Hollywood movies look tame by comparison.

Recently, the Marine Corps recognized several of its young warriors who clearly went above and beyond the call of duty in Iraq. Separately, the Marine Corps has also recognized 608 of its personnel in the 1st Marine Divisions with Purple Heart medals for wounds sustained in combat as the result of enemy action. Here are a few of the stories relating to Marines recognized for valor in action:

Captain Brian R. Chontosh - The Navy Cross
While leading his platoon north on Highway 1 toward Ad Diwaniyah, Chontosh's platoon moved into a coordinated ambush of mortars, rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire. With coalitions tanks blocking the road ahead, he realized his platoon was caught in a kill zone.

He had his driver move the vehicle through a breach along his flank, where he was immediately taken under fire from an entrenched machine gun. Without hesitation, Chontosh ordered the driver to advanced directly at the enemy position enabling his .50 caliber machine gunner to silence the enemy.

He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rifle and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack.

When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers.

When his audacious attack ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench, killing more than 20 enemy soldiers and wounding several others.
Pfc. Joseph B. Perez - The Navy Cross
1st Platoon came under intense enemy fire while clearing near Route 6 during the advance into Baghdad. Perez, the point man for the lead squad, and therefore the most exposed member of the platoon, came under the majority of these fires.

Without hesitation, he continuously fired his M16A4 rifle to destroy the enemy while calmly directing accurate fires for his squad. He led the charge down a trench destroying the enemy and while closing and under tremendous enemy fire, threw a grenade into a trench that the enemy was occupying.

While under a heavy volume of fire, Perez fired an AT-4 rocket into a machine gun bunker, completely destroying it and killing four enemy personnel. His actions enabled the squad to maneuver safely to the enemy position and seize it.

In an effort to link up with 3rd Platoon on his platoon's left flank, Perez continued to destroy enemy combatants with precision rifle fire. As he worked his way to the left, he was hit by enemy fire, sustaining gunshot wounds to his torso and shoulder. Despite being seriously injured, Perez directed the squad to take cover and gave the squad accurate fire direction to the enemy that enabled the squad to reorganize and destroy the enemy.
Cpl. Armand E. McCormick - Silver Star
Under heavy fire McCormick, a lance corporal at the time, exhibited exceptional bravery when the lead elements of his battalion were ambushed with mortars, rocket propelled grenades, and squad automatic weapons fire. Fearlessly he drove his lightly armored vehicle directly at an enemy machine gun position and purposely crashed it into an occupied trench line.

With the initial breach of the enemy defense now gained for his unit, he sprang from the vehicle and began assaulting the berm and ambush line with two Marines. Taking direct fire, and outnumbered, he pressed forward, firing his M9 pistol at enemy forces. Moving through the trench, he repeatedly came under enemy fire, each time calmly taking well-aimed shots.

As the group ran low on ammunition, he collected enemy rifles and a rocket-
propelled grenade and continued to press the attack forward several hundred meters. As
a follow-on company began to make their entrance into the berm, he returned to his vehicle and backed it out of the trench. McCormick's boldly aggressive actions greatly reduced the enemy's ability to inflict casualties on the rest of his battalion.
Cpl. Robert P. Kerman - Silver Star
Kerman exhibited exceptional bravery when the lead elements of the battalion were ambushed with mortars, rocket propelled grenades and automatic weapons fire.

As the vehicle he was traveling in drove directly into machine gun fire and into a trench line, Kerman sprang from the vehicle and began assaulting down the enemy occupied trench with two other Marines. As the enemy soldiers fired at him, he fearlessly plunged towards them firing his M16 with lethal accuracy. Continuing to move through the trench he repeatedly came under enemy fire.

Each time he would calmly occupy a steady firing position and take well-aimed shots that had devastating effects in the enemy.

As the group ran out of ammunition, they pressed forward 200 to 300 meters utilizing captured enemy AK-47s.

He showed no regard for his own personal safety, and his actions directly contributed to the successful outcome of the engagement.
Cpl. Timothy C. Tardif - Silver Star
During the At Tarmiyah Battle, located 30 kilometers north of Baghdad, Tardif and his squad reinforced his platoon, which was pinned down in a violent enemy crossfire ambush.

Immediately assessing the situation, he directed Marines to return fire into enemy positions in a town. He identified the location of the enemy, and determined the precise point in which to assault the enemy.

Tardif then charged across a road under intense small arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire, inspiring his Marines to follow his example. Engaged in an intense close-quarters battle, he received shrapnel wounds from an enemy grenade. Tardif refused medical attention and continued leading his squad in an assault on an enemy-held compound.

After securing the compound, Tardif egressed on order and led his reinforced squad in a fighting withdrawal. Tardif collapsed after traveling 150 meters from wounds suffered during fighting.
Comment: The actions of these Marines speak for themselves, and require little analysis or commentary from me. However, I would like to point out the humility with which these Marines responded to their recognition. These guys, like Pat Tillman, ask for nothing in return save the brotherhood of their units, and the accomplishment of their mission.

"I was just doing my job, I did the same thing every other Marine would have done, it was just a passion and love for my Marines, the experience put a lot into perspective," said Chontosh.

"It's an honor of course, it is just another day in the Marine Corps," said McCormick. "To me I did what I was suppose to do, I did what was expected," he added.

"I was pretty scared at the time, but we knew what we had to do and we did it," said Kerman. "I did not expect (the award), maybe I just did the right thing."

"It is unreal, it is not what I expected, it is unbelievable," Perez said. "This is real weird for me, because, I am not big on special events," said Perez.

"This award means a lot to me, personally," said Tardif. "But it's not just about me. It's about my platoon and everyone else out there."

The Dark World of American Interrogations

Dana Priest and Joe Stephens have a must-read article in today's Washington Post on the tactics being employed by U.S. military and civilian intelligence officers abroad in the war against terrorism. This article refers to some earlier reporting by The Post in December 2002, which indicated the U.S. was running secret interrogation centers abroad to conduct questioning sessions that might not be kosher under U.S. or international law.

For more on this subject, I highly recommend reading Mark Bowden's "Dark Art of Interrogation" article from the October 2003 issue of the Atlantic Monthly. Also, see Jess Bravin's article in the April 26, 2002 issue of the Wall Street Journal titled "Interrogation School Tells Army Recruits How Grilling Works." I used both articles in my Law & Terrorism seminar to discuss interrogation and how it might relate to the Supreme Court's 5th Amendment jurisprudence, and they both do a good job of describing exactly what goes on behind closed doors.
First court-martial set in the Abu Ghraib mess

Adam Liptak, one of the New York Times' legal writers, has a sidebar in Tuesday's paper describing the special court-martial scheduled to begin in 9 days for Army SPC Jeremy Sivits. The article discusses some of the procedural issues that may arise during the trial, and speculates on the background for the reasons to prosecute this case so quickly.
Both the speed with which the policeman, Specialist Jeremy Sivits, has been brought to trial and the relatively minor sanctions he faces suggest that prosecutors are working their way up the chain of culpability from the bottom. These factors also suggest that Specialist Sivits has entered into a plea agreement in exchange for his testimony at later trials. Six other soldiers are also facing criminal charges in the abuse and humiliation of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

"They've probably got a domino theory of prosecutions," said John D. Hutson, the dean of the Franklin Pierce Law Center and a former judge advocate general of the Navy. "And there may be a race to the courthouse among the potential defendants to see who can get the best deal."

If there is a plea agreement, it is likely that only limited evidence, relevant to the appropriate punishment, will be presented.

"The facts are probably not going to be aired at the first trial," said Michael F. Noone Jr., a law professor at Catholic University and an expert in military justice. "Critics of the administration are going to say there is a cover-up here."

* * *
Mr. Hutson said the nature of the case might account for the pace.

"It's not really a terribly complicated case," he said. "You've got pictures, for God's sake."

Holding the trials in Iraq rather than in the United States is also unremarkable, legal experts said.

"It is not at all unusual to conduct courts-martial in the theater of operations," said Ronald W. Meister, a New York lawyer who served in the Judge Advocate General's Corps in the Navy. Mr. Meister said about 25,000 courts-martial were held in Vietnam.

Holding trials near the scene of the crime also makes it easier to secure evidence and testimony, he added.
Analysis: The first thing to note is that this is a special court martial, not a general court martial. There really isn't an analogous distinction in the civilian world, except perhaps the distinction between a trial in federal district court and a misdemeanor bench trial before a federal magistrate. Basically, special courts martial are limited to certain crimes (generally), and they carry certain maximum punishments that are less than a genearl court martial. The military jury is also smaller (or non-existent) in a special court martial, as opposed to a general one. Otherwise, the procedures are almost identical.

In this case, it appears that the first prosecution out the gate is not the most serious. The pundits quoted in Mr. Liptak's article think that the military prosecutors are using the old organized crime model of prosecution, where you go after the lower-ranking guys first in order to roll them and secure their testimony against the higher-ranking individuals. Perhaps. Although in the military context, you don't need to do this for quite the same reasons. In the military justice system, you have a doctrine known as "command responsibility", which holds superior officers in command positions vicariously liable for the actions of their subordinates in certain circumstances. Once you prove (through conviction) the acts of the subordinates, you establish a prima facie case for the superiors' responsibility. Thus, the testimony of the lower-ranking soldiers is less important than the testimony of a Mafia hitman against his big boss. But we'll see how this prosecutorial strategy unfolds. I think we may be in for a few surprises.

For more on the military justice system, see this primer that I wrote for Findlaw.Com's Writ legal magazine in December 2002. Also, check out the National Institute for Military Justice's website, which has links to everything you could ever want to know on this subject.
President views more photos, videos from Abu Ghraib

Will they be released by the government? Will they be leaked?

The Los Angeles Times reports this morning on the viewing of new photos and videos from Abu Ghraib prison that was staged for President Bush yesterday at the Pentagon. These graphic depictions of U.S. soldiers' conduct are being kept close-hold by DoD officials, ostensibly because of their heinous nature.
Defense officials were weighing whether and how to release the remaining images to members of Congress and the public. Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said the photographs, which a senior military official said number more than 1,200, included "inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature." Di Rita did not elaborate.

The president viewed about a dozen images, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said, including photographs and still images taken from video footage, most of which have not been made public.

"The president's reaction was one of deep disgust and disbelief that anyone who wears our uniform would engage in such shameful and appalling acts," McClellan said. "It does not represent our United States military, and it does not represent the United States of America."

* * *
A military official who has seen the photos said that one depicts soldiers sodomizing prisoners with chemical lights and another depicts sex between two U.S. soldiers. The official could not confirm a CNN report that said a video exists that shows guards fondling and kissing a female detainee.

"They apparently show some fooling around and some horseplay. There are some that show detainee abuse," the official said. He added that of the more than 1,200 images being reviewed by Pentagon investigators, fewer than 400 are "bad."

It appeared Monday that the Pentagon would make some, but not all, of the images available to some members of Congress, but details were still under discussion.

"We haven't ruled [release] in or out," Di Rita told reporters at the Pentagon.

The Pentagon's inching toward release of the images and the president's show of support for Rumsfeld did not quell congressional clamor over the abuse scandal. The Senate adopted a resolution, 92-0, Monday to condemn "in the strongest possible terms the despicable acts at Abu Ghraib prison," the detention center near Baghdad where the photos involving U.S. personnel that have come to light were taken.

"This body is shocked," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said on the Senate floor. "We cannot undo the abuse those Iraqi prisoners suffered but we can, through our actions, show the Iraqi people that the transgressions of a few do not represent America."
Analysis: I can be naive when it comes to Washington power politics and power journalism. But one rule of Washington seems to be quite apt here. The news will come out. This rule applies with particular force to bad news, or news with the potential to do some political damage. It always comes out. And when it does, it always looks worse to have concealed the news than to have released it. Of course, there are legitimate reasons to be squeamish about these images' release. Indeed, they may even be considered obscene if/when published, according to the community standards of decency in some parts of America. (Probably not L.A. though) Nonetheless, I see it as inevitable that these photos and videos will come out somehow, at some point, in the future. Therefore, it behooves the administration to release them now, on its own terms, with appropriate warnings and blurring of faces and body parts. Will it be graphic? Yes. But unfortunately, it's also a big news story, and holding onto this information merely whets the hunger of the American public for it.
Commentary on Blogs
: NPR's "The Connection" devoted its show this morning to blogging and a recent article by George Packer in Mother Jones that was somewhat critical of this medium. David Adesnik and Kevin Drum appeared as featured guests on the show, and Kevin even plugged this blog as an example of a blog that gains notoriety because of events in the news. (Thanks Kevin!)

My thoughts? I agree with Kevin and David. I think weblogs are here to stay, and that their variety is what makes them valuable. The navel-gazing "diary" weblogs serve a purpose, and they're good for that. The online op-ed blogs, such as mine, serve a purpose too, and they will stay alive as long as they provide value to the reader. In many ways, the blogosphere is a large marketplace of ideas. In this case, the low barriers to entry may allow for a glut of blogs in relationship to the demand, but that's okay too. We have Google; we have blogrolls; we have other tools to sift through the chaff in order to find the wheat. Eventually, the blogosphere may have to organize itself better. But not yet... it seems to be thriving in a state of semi-organized chaos.
Admin notes
: I now have some extra time on my hands before the start of my bar exam study course, so I plan to move Intel Dump to its new server sometime this month. I'm planning to use the Powerblogs software/server that Eugene Volokh has switched to, but if you have a recommendation for something else, please let me know.

Also, I've switched my e-mail address to inteldump -at- My UCLA e-mail inbox will soon convert to an alumni account with very little storage space, and it won't be able to accomodate the message traffic I get from this site. If you need to reach me, please use this new address. Thanks.
Dissent in the ranks

Tom Ricks reported in Sunday's Washington Post on some extraordinary comments from senior military leaders about the war in Iraq. Most notably, the commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division said that we were be losing the war on the strategic level. These comments come at a time when many Democratic and Republican politicians are asking whether we should craft an exit strategy for Iraq, and what that plan might look like.
Army Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who spent much of the year in western Iraq, said he believes that at the tactical level at which fighting occurs, the U.S. military is still winning. But when asked whether he believes the United States is losing, he said, "I think strategically, we are."

Army Col. Paul Hughes, who last year was the first director of strategic planning for the U.S. occupation authority in Baghdad, said he agrees with that view and noted that a pattern of winning battles while losing a war characterized the U.S. failure in Vietnam. "Unless we ensure that we have coherency in our policy, we will lose strategically," he said in an interview Friday.

"I lost my brother in Vietnam," added Hughes, a veteran Army strategist who is involved in formulating Iraq policy. "I promised myself, when I came on active duty, that I would do everything in my power to prevent that [sort of strategic loss] from happening again. Here I am, 30 years later, thinking we will win every fight and lose the war, because we don't understand the war we're in."

The emergence of sharp differences over U.S. strategy has set off a debate, a year after the United States ostensibly won a war in Iraq, about how to preserve that victory. The core question is how to end a festering insurrection that has stymied some reconstruction efforts, made many Iraqis feel less safe and created uncertainty about who actually will run the country after the scheduled turnover of sovereignty June 30.

Inside and outside the armed forces, experts generally argue that the U.S. military should remain there but should change its approach. Some argue for more troops, others for less, but they generally agree on revising the stated U.S. goals to make them less ambitious. They are worried by evidence that the United States is losing ground with the Iraqi public.

Some officers say the place to begin restructuring U.S. policy is by ousting Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, whom they see as responsible for a series of strategic and tactical blunders over the past year. Several of those interviewed said a profound anger is building within the Army at Rumsfeld and those around him.

A senior general at the Pentagon said he believes the United States is already on the road to defeat. "It is doubtful we can go on much longer like this," he said. "The American people may not stand for it -- and they should not."

* * *
The top U.S. commander in the war also said he strongly disagrees with the view that the United States is heading toward defeat in Iraq. "We are not losing, militarily," Army Gen. John Abizaid said in an interview Friday. He said that the U.S. military is winning tactically. But he stopped short of being as positive about the overall trend. Rather, he said, "strategically, I think there are opportunities."

The prisoner abuse scandal and the continuing car bombings and U.S. casualties "create the image of a military that's not being effective in the counterinsurgency," he said. But in reality, "the truth of the matter is . . . there are some good signals out there."
Analysis: First off, it's hard to overstate just how amazing these quotes are. Remember how LTG William Wallace said during the war that "The enemy we're fighting is different from the one we'd war-gamed against"? Remember what a stink that caused? That was only a field commander saying that the plan might need to be tweaked because of calculations about the enemy's strength and will. This is something altogether different. Here we have a field commander, just returned from Iraq, saying that we are losing the war on the strategic level. That's the level managed by the President and Secretary of Defense. Essentially, this two-star general is saying that "we won the war at our level, but the SecDef screwed the pooch." That's huge.

Second, these questions come at a very critical time. The casualty toll from April and the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal have made many Americans (and their political leaders) ask a simple question: is it worth it? If we're not winning, or we're not going to win in the long run, one might start wondering whether it's worth it to continue reinforcing failure. Until this prison scandal broke, I believed that we could win in Iraq by leaving a lasting, secure democracy (of sorts) built on the foundation of a market economy and civil society. Now, I'm not so sure. We may have reached the point of diminishing returns, or the point where strategic victory in Iraq is not possible without a deliberate U.S. withdrawal. I'm not ready to make a conclusion on this point yet, but it's something worth considering.
In the line of fire

The Washington Post published my review this morning in Sunday's Book World of Thunder Run, a new book by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Zucchino on the armored assaults which took Baghdad during the war with Iraq. I thought the book was quite excellent, and I recommend it as one of the better military history books I've read in recent years.
When asked to describe a battle as seen through the camera of an unmanned aerial vehicle, one Army brigade commander said it was like watching a football game through a straw.

The same metaphor could be used to describe the pictures and stories relayed by embedded reporters in Iraq. This innovative program took civilian reporters and attached them to combat units on the ground and at sea. The downside was that these journalists often saw little more than their unit's piece of the battlefield. Fortunately, this cannot be said of David Zucchino's Thunder Run, which chronicles the armored assaults on Baghdad by the 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division. Zucchino paints a vivid picture of the battle by stitching together the narratives of soldiers, officers, generals and Iraqis whom he interviewed during and after the war. As a result, his book goes far beyond the "first draft of history" that he filed from Baghdad in April 2003.

Zucchino wasn't meant to cover the Spartan Brigade or its thunder runs. He was originally embedded with the 101st Airborne Division, a light infantry force that was supposed to get the mission to assault Baghdad. But in the fog of war, both things changed. Zucchino and his equipment were dumped into a canal by a vehicle accident, and he decided to hitch a ride with the 3rd Infantry Division instead of the 101st. As it turned out, his instincts paid off, and he accidentally found himself with a ringside seat for the war's pivotal battle.
Check out the book -- it's worth it.
Saturday evening
: I'm tentatively scheduled to appear on At Large with Geraldo Rivera tonight to discuss the events at Abu Ghraib and the issue of private contractors in Iraq. The show airs live at 10pm EST/7pm PST on Fox News Channel.
Admin note
: Intel Dump will slow down until Monday to accomodate my law school's graduation weekend, and all the family events associated with this day and Mother's Day. If some big story breaks, like additional photos or videos from Abu Ghraib, I'll try to post something. Otherwise, I'll be back Monday. Please come back then.
The ICC and Abu Ghraib
: Slate just posted my Jurisprudence essay on how the International Criminal Court may play a role in this developing incident. The ultimate point is that the U.S. should act decisively here because it's the right thing to do. But if the U.S. does not do so, the threat of an ICC prosecution should induce the U.S. to take its investigative and prosecutorial obligations seriously.
Taguba reassigned from CENTCOM to Pentagon
: In what has to be a poorly timed announcement, the Pentagon said today that it was moving Army Major General Antonio Taguba from Southwest Asia to a bureaucratic post in Washington. No effective date for the transfer was given.
Major General Antonio M. Taguba, Deputy Commanding General (Support), Third United States Army, Camp Doha, Kuwait to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness, Training and Mobilization, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, Washington, DC.
Uh... doesn't this guy need to stay in the CENTCOM area of responsibility for some reason? Wouldn't he be a good resource to keep in theater for investigators to talk to? I don't understand the timing or wisdom of this move. I should be clear that I don't think there's anything improper here. This is almost surely a normal personnel move, to be conducted during the summer reassignment season. However, the timing couldn't be worse, could it?

Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee

Here are some stream of consciousness thoughts on the testimony regarding Abu Ghraib by the Defense Secretary and other top DoD officials today before the Senate and House Armed Services Committees. Interestingly, Sen. Warner swore all of the witnesses in for their testimony today, something not always done for habitual witnesses like the SecDef.

"On my watch": Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld opened his testimony today to the Senate Armed Services Committee with a contrite expression of command responsibility for the actions at Abu Ghraib. We'll see how far he goes in apologizing for these actions and recommending a course of action for dealing with these abuses. My sense is that he'll go far enough to meet the standards of the military justice system, but not far enough for the average American citizen who's appalled by these acts. Still, I was impressed by his taking of responsibility. Now, I guess we wait to see if he really falls on his sword.

McCain grills Rumsfeld: Sen. John McCain's audition for a job in the U.S. Attorney's office went quite well, in my opinion. He asked simple, direct questions like "What is the chain of command from the guards to you, Sec. Rumsfeld?" and "What were the guards' orders?" These questions are critical. Anyone who's been through basic training can tell you that one of the first things you learn is your chain of command, from you to the President. Moreover, every recruit learns the general orders of a sentry, and learns that knowing one's orders is critical to mission success. Yet, Secretary Rumsfeld could not answer either simple question. He tapdanced around the question, but ultimately, never gave Sen. McCain an answer as to the line of command from PV2 Joe Snuffy up to the Secretary of Defense. PV2 Snuffy has to know that; shouldn't the SecDef? That's bad.

41,000 detainees in Iraq: On questioning from Sen. Ted Kennedy, Sec. Rumsfeld announces that we have detained more than 41,000 Iraqis during the course of combat and post-war operations, and that we have released more than 31,000 detainees pursuant to Art. V tribunals under the 3rd Geneva Convention. That's a huge number. But I'm curious to know the disposition of the remaining 10,000 detainees. (Post-script: Sec. Rumsfeld tells Sen. Lieberman that every detainee in Iraq is to be treated under the Geneva Conventions, unlike those detainees at Gitmo.)

The conscience of the Senate. With a raspy voice from laryngitis, Sen. Robert Byrd expressed disappointment that the Defense Department was not being run according to the principle found in a placard on President Harry Truman's desk: "The Buck Stops Here". Sen. Byrd has been a sharp critic of the Pentagon and the White House for its conduct of the war in Iraq, so I'm not surprised that he would focus on accountability issues here.

"I read the executive summary." In response to a question from Sen. Byrd about whether he had read the Taguba 15-6 report, Sec. Rumsfeld said that he not yet read it. Say again? That's right. Despite the importance of this issue, and the fact that this document was now public and available for those who might draft questions for the committees, Sec. Rumsfeld has still not read the full report. I find that quite startling. Now, the SecDef is a busy guy -- he has the largest federal agency to run, in addition to dealing with this scandal. But at some point, when you're decisively engaged, you have to shift fire to the things that actually matter the most at the moment. This scandal is what matters most right now for the Pentagon and Sec. Rumsfeld's future. I should think that he would take the time to read the report. Update: Several people have told me that the 50+ page report posted online is the executive summary, although it's not marked as such. If that's true, this statement by Secretary Rumsfeld isn't as bad as it sounds. However, I think he did sound flip in saying that he'd only read the ExecSum; he might have used a different phrase.

Two wrongs don't make a right, Joe: If there's one guy who can muster moral indignation in the Senate, it's Sen. Joe Lieberman. Unfortunately, I found his question to the SecDef to be quite disappointing. He basically said that America never got an apology from the insurgents who desecrated those four contractors' bodies in late March, and that we're better than that because we did apologize in this case. But the implication to me was that our enemies resort to bruatality, and that we should be excused for using some brutal means too. This almost sounds like the argument made by Rush Limbaugh on his radio show this week. Personally, I couldn't disagree more. Counterinsurgency is a messy business. But we can't allow ourselves to step onto the slippery slope of reprisals and reciprocity where atrocities are concerned. Once we do, we lose any moral credibility we have, something that matters very much to the successful prosecution of the war on terrorism.

One standard: One of the best responses of the day came from Army Gen. Pete Schoomaker, the Chief of Staff of the Army. At some point, a Senator implied there might have been different standards and leadership in the 800th MP Bde by virtue of its reserve status. Gen. Schoomaker jumped on that assertion, saying that all soldiers regardless of component were subject to the same standards. He's right, of course. There is only one standard for performance by any soldier -- regardless of MOS, component or unit type. No soldier should have committed these abuses.

However, I can't help but think that there were some salient differences between this MP unit and the active-duty MP units I served with. You see, in the Army, active-duty MP units are as anal-retentive as they come when it comes to discipline. I used to say that an MP soldier would get an Article 15 for something that a scout would get a beer for. And it's true -- MP commanders typically are very strict with their soldiers, in order to set the standard of "no slack" and establish a clear moral framework for their soldiers. Young MP soldiers have a staggering amount of responsibility for their age and training, and it takes strict discipline to keep everyone in line and make sure that little abuses of authority don't become big ones. In my personal experience, this attitude towards discipline does not exist in many reserve component MP units, though that varies widely based on the individual unit leadership of the unit. It's too early to tell whether this was part of the problem at Abu Ghraib, but the investigations will certainly focus on this aspect of the issue.

Larger questions loom for America's policy in Iraq

Carla Anne Robbins, Jackie Calmes and Greg Jaffe have a masterful article in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) on the larger questions being asked about America's policy in Iraq -- principally, whether we should 'stay the course' or seek an 'exit strategy'. These questions have always lingered in the background, ever since we invaded Iraq in March 2003. But with the exceptional lethality of April 2004 for American troops, and the shocking photos from Abu Ghraib, many have begun asking these questions with increased interest and intensity.
On an extraordinary day of turmoil in Washington, Mr. Bush issued his first clear apology for the abuse and rejected growing demands for the ouster of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But there were signs of exasperation with the military situation in Iraq even among some Republicans who fear the U.S. is losing not only blood but also honor in Iraq.

Among Mr. Bush's challenges: finding a way to get more help from the United Nations and other countries to restore peace in Iraq. Many on Capitol Hill are also calling for military changes in Iraq to soften the image of the U.S. as a heavy-handed occupier. The most extreme option would be to pull troops out of Iraq.

* * *
In Congress, there are signs of growing unease about the Bush administration's approach to Iraq even among some who backed Mr. Bush's campaign to depose Saddam Hussein. Republicans' exasperation with the administration and the president himself was evident in a private meeting of Republican Senate committee chairmen this week in Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's office. Mr. Frist at one point said he'd like to sit down with Mr. Bush and ask which two or three people in the administration could tell him what's really going on with Iraq, according to one person in the room. "I don't think he knows who could do that," replied Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Richard Lugar.

The questioning of Mr. Bush's military strategy was illustrated yesterday by the public concerns of Mr. Murtha, one of the most hawkish Democrats on Capitol Hill and a Marine Corps veteran of Vietnam. "The direction's got to be changed or it's unwinnable, in my estimation," he said. He warned the administration that it must commit itself to a fuller mobilization of U.S. forces to restore calm and establish democracy in Iraq -- or pull out altogether. He said he had struggled "for six weeks, trying to figure out something else to do. And the only conclusion I can come to is either mobilization or get out," he said.

"So far, I'd prefer the mobilization side of it," he said, because leaving abruptly would be "a devastating international blow to us." But he also admitted that the window may have already closed politically at home. "I don't know if we have the will to mobilize now that the public has turned against" the war, he said. In the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, one in four Americans say troops should leave Iraq as soon as possible and another 30% say they should come home within 18 months. Some of Mr. Bush's supporters fear that reaction to the prison abuses will so sway public opinion against U.S. involvement in Iraq that he won't be able to accept the losses needed to achieve military success and impose order there.

But sharply reducing American troop strength in Iraq, no matter how politically attractive in the U.S. right now, raises significant problems. A lower U.S. profile could invite a civil war and tempt Iraq's neighbors -- Turkey, Syria, Iran and perhaps even Saudi Arabia -- to intervene to protect their interests.

The Pentagon is showing no signs that it intends to reduce U.S. troops in Iraq. Mr. Rumsfeld announced earlier this week that he was shipping as many as 20,000 new soldiers to the country to keep troop levels, which were supposed to fall to 115,000 this spring, at about 135,000 through the summer.

* * *
"I think we are asking ourselves what is the art of the doable in the near term," said one Pentagon consultant who returned recently from Iraq. "We are not going to build a Jeffersonian democracy throughout Iraq. What we have to do is put an Iraqi face on security."
Ultimately, I think that's likely to be the U.S. exit strategy: build an Iraqi security apparatus as quickly as possible, and then withdraw U.S. forces as the Iraqis demonstrate the ability to secure their own country. Of course, this task is easier said than done, otherwise we'd have done it already.
Developments in the Abu Ghraib case
: I don't have time this morning to write fully on all of these developments, I but I would like to highlight them.

Justice Department claims jurisdiction for civilians at Abu Ghraib: The Washington Post reports that AG John Ashcroft has finally stepped up to the plate to push for federal prosecutions against the civilians involved at Abu Ghraib -- including CIA employees and private contractors. I have long argued that DOJ has jurisdiction under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000, however, DOJ told the Wall Street Journal earlier this week that it was not "rushing in" to exercise its prerogatives in this case. Glad to see that DOJ is on board.

Red Cross says it knew about Abu Ghraib abuses for some time: The New York Times reports that officials at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) knew about these prison abuses, and other prison abuses, in Iraq because of their visits to those facilities. But in keeping with their traditions, the ICRC only told U.S. officials about those problems -- not the public. The story raises obvious questions about the way the ICRC does business, and the wisdom of its policy to keep abuse allegations secret. (The Wall Street Journal has excerpts from the report on its subscriber website.)

More examination of the role of private contractors at Abu Ghraib: The New York Times also offers this story on the role of private contractors at Abu Ghraib, where they were employed to support interrogations with translation support and other support. This is something I've written on too, and I imagine its an issue which will be debated as Congress deliberates over this year's National Defense Authorization Act. The use of contractors by the American military is at an all-time high, and it's not clear this is the best course of action for the U.S. or its interests abroad.

SecDef, President's comments may have created unlawful command influence problem: Gail Gibson writes in teh Baltimore Sun about whether the remarks by President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- who sit atop the military command structure -- might be seen as "unlawful command influence" of the kind that could deny soldiers a fair trial in this case. The military justice system is particularly sensitive to this issue, because of its unique structure which places justice in the hands of commmanders (known as convening authorities), and the fact that military juries are composed of officers and NCOs who ultimately report to these commanders. Rule 104 of the UCMJ expressly prohibits unlawful command influence, and commanders can actually be disciplined themselves for breaking this rule. It remains to be seen how this issue will play out in the Abu Ghraib criminal cases, but I think it's safe to say that it will give the soldiers at least one basis for an appeal if they're found guilty.