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Torture in Iraq is routine

PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2005 9:04 pm
by nomo
Tuesday, November 15th, 2005<br><br><!--EZCODE BOLD START--><strong>Former U.S. Army Interrogator Describes the Harsh Techniques He Used in Iraq, Detainee Abuse by Marines and Navy Seals and Why “Torture is the Worst Possible Thing We Could Do”<br></strong><!--EZCODE BOLD END--><br><br><!--EZCODE AUTOLINK START--><a href=""></a><!--EZCODE AUTOLINK END--><br><br>With deep remorse, former U.S. Army interrogator Specialist Tony Lagouranis talks about his own involvement with abusing detainees in Iraq and torture carried out by the Navy Seals. He apologizes to the Iraqi people and urges U.S. soldiers to follow their conscience. Lagouranis returned from Iraq in January and until now had given no live interviews. But Lagouranis says he now feels it his duty to speak out about what he witnessed in Iraq:<br><br> * His use of harsh interrogation techniques on prisoners in Iraq including dogs, sleep deprivation, prolonged isolation and dietary manipulation.<br> * How Navy SEALS induced hypothermia by using ice water to lower the body temperature of prisoners.<br> * Serving in Fallujah and going through the clothes and pockets of some 500 dead bodies to try and identify them.<br> * The corpses on men, women and children in Fallujah, which had been lying in the streets for days and had been "eaten by dogs and birds and maggots," were then stacked up in a warehouse where U.S. soldiers ate and slept.<br><br><br>=====================================<br>RUSH TRANSCRIPT<br><br><br>AMY GOODMAN: He joins us from a studio in Chicago. Tony, welcome to Democracy Now!.<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Good morning, Amy.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. Well, why don't you start by telling us how you joined the Army?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: I had a lot of student loans, so I was looking for a way to pay those off. I also was interested in learning Arabic. I had met a former Army interrogator, who had learned Russian and German in the Army. And it just seemed like an attractive deal to me.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: So, where did you first go? Where did you train?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, basic training was at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Then I went to Ft. Huachuca, which is where they do most of the intelligence training. That's where I learned to do interrogations and general human intelligence collecting. After that, I went to Monterey, to DLI, where they teach languages, and I learned Arabic there.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Did you join before or after the September 11 attacks?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: I joined in May of 2001.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Right before.<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Right.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Did things change after those attacks, in terms of the climate, when you were training?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: No. Not really. I mean, certainly, I was in interrogation school at the time of the attacks. So the doctrine stayed the same. They didn't have time to change it. They also didn't know where we'd be fighting. We really didn't have a clear picture of what the enemy would be at that time, so the doctrine just stayed the same.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: So talk about going to Iraq, when you went.<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: OK. We flew to Kuwait first and then we convoyed up to Abu Ghraib, which is just outside of Baghdad. We were in humvees with no armor. But it was relatively safe at that time. The insurgency was just beginning. I arrived at Abu Ghraib, and as soon as we arrived there, the events that caused the scandal had already happened, in November of 2003, and I arrived there in January of 2004. So, they told us that bad things had happened, that, MPs had gotten in trouble for detainee abuse and that everything was going to change. But no one was really allowed to talk about it. So, we didn't know what had happened, exactly.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: So, you knew as you got there that military police had abused prisoners?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Right. Yeah, the first briefing we got from the colonel at Abu Ghraib told us this. And, you know, there were interrogators who had been there during the time of the events of the scandal, but they weren't allowed to talk about it, and we really didn't ask them about it. So, we didn't know what was going on.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: And the month you arrived at Abu Ghraib?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: It was January of 2004.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: And who were you responsible to? Who was the general in charge as you were military interrogator?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Honestly, I don't remember at that time who was in charge. I was only at Abu Ghraib for about a month, month-and-a-half until I got sent off on a mobile team. So, I don't know who it was.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Tell us what happened at Abu Ghraib.<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, you know, things had started to get a lot cleaner there. There was a lot more oversight. That progressed in the month that I was there and also -- all of my friends, my unit was working there the whole time. They saw things progress. So, Abu Ghraib became a pretty sterile interrogation facility by the time we left Iraq.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Did you interrogate prisoners at Abu Ghraib?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: I did, yes. I was on a team that was -- we were the special projects team at that time we were working on people who were arrested with Saddam Hussein, and arrests that surrounded that case.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: And who did you interrogate? Do you remember their names?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: I can't say that.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: And how did you interrogate them?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: It was totally straightforward at Abu Ghraib. It was just like we were trained in the schoolhouse, right out of the Army field manual. We would just talk to them, ask them questions, maybe, you know, use some psychological approaches but nothing -- nothing too serious. But I knew that some interrogators there were still at that time, in January of 2004, using a little bit harsher techniques. Like, they -- if a prisoner wasn't cooperating, they could adjust his diet. People were in deep, deep isolation for months there, which I believe is illegal, according to Army doctrine. They would also take their clothes and their mattress so they would be cold in their cells if they weren't cooperating.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Naked?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: I don't know if naked, but they would take blankets and take extra clothes that they would need to stay warm.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Tony, can you talk about the use of dogs?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: We were using dogs in the Mosul detention facility which was at the Mosul airport. We would put the prisoner in a shipping container. We would keep him up all night with music and strobe lights, stress positions, and then we would bring in dogs. The prisoner was blindfolded, so he didn't really understand what was going on, but we had the dog controlled. He was being held by a military police dog handler on a leash, and the dog was muzzled, so he couldn't hurt the prisoner. That was the only time I ever saw dogs used in Iraq.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Did the prisoner know that there was a muzzle on the dog?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: No, because he was blindfolded. So, the dog would be barking and jumping on the prisoner, and the prisoner wouldn't really understand what was going on.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: What did you think of this practice that you were engaging in?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I knew that we were really walking the line, and I was going through the interrogation rules of engagement that was given to me by the unit that we were working with up there, trying to figure out what was legal and what wasn't legal. According to this interrogation rules of engagement, that was legal. So, when they ordered me to do it, I had to do it. You know, as far as whether, you know, I thought it was a good interrogation practice, I didn't think so at all, actually. We never produced any intelligence.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: At this point when you got there, the photos were out. If not out to the public, they came out in April of 2004, certainly being circulated among soldiers. Had you seen pictures?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: I only saw the pictures when they came out on the news. In fact, I was up there using the dogs like at the very time that the scandal broke. But I don't think those pictures were being circulated among soldiers. I mean, I certainly never saw them before they came out on 60 minutes.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: So, when you saw them, and you yourself were engaging in this practice, what were your thoughts?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: I think my initial reaction was that these were bad apples, like the White House line, but you know, it's funny, like I didn't really tie it to what we were doing up there. We were using some pretty harsh methods on the prisoners. I had seen other units that were using -- like, really severe methods, but I didn't tie it to the scandal. It just seemed like -- I don't know why. I don't know.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean by really harsh methods?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, we were an army detention facility, and we would get prisoners from other units that were arresting people up there. For instance, the Navy SEALS.<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: When the Navy SEALS. Would interrogate people, they were using ice water to lower the body temperature of the prisoner and they would take his rectal temperature in order to make sure that he didn't die. I didn't see this, but that's what many, many prisoners told me who came out of the SEAL Compound, and I also heard that from a guard who was working in our detention facility, who was present during an interrogation that the SEAL had done.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Where is the SEAL Compound.<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: It was in the same place. It was at the Mosul airport, but I never actually went inside the compound myself.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Did you use hypothermia as a means of interrogating?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: We did. Yeah, we used hypothermia a lot. It was very cold up in Mosul at that time, so we -- it was also raining a lot, so we would keep the prisoner outside, and they would have a polyester jumpsuit on and they would be wet and cold, and freezing. But we weren't inducing hypothermia with ice water like the SEALS were. But, you know, maybe the SEALS were doing it better than we were, because they were actually even controlling it with the thermometer, but we weren't doing that.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: At what point did you start to ask questions? When you say about the pictures that you didn't associate what you did with the scandal of the photographs that had come out, but when did you start to say -- is this right?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I always was, and it's funny, Amy, because I was sort of pushing to back away from the harsh tactics, but at the same time I was-- in a way, I sort of wanted to push, because we were frustrated by, you know, not getting intel. I don't know why. So, I was on both sides of the fence. I don't know.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Were you having discussions with other interrogators?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Sure. We all talked about it. I discussed this with my team leader all the time. The people I was working with all the time. You know part of the problem back then too, is that I was still under the impression that we were getting prisoners who had intel -- who had intel to give us, and you know, I still thought that these were bad guys.<br><br>I was believing the intelligence reports that came in with the prisoner. I believed the detainee units, but later it became clear to me that they weren't -- they were picking up just farmers, you know, like these guys were totally innocent and that's why we weren't getting intel. And it just made what we were doing, like, seem even more cruel.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: You said that you engaged in abuse, specifically what did you feel was your most egregious abuses that you engaged in?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, as I said, in Mosul, I was using dogs and hypothermia, I was using sleep deprivation, isolation, dietary manipulation, you know, that's all abuse, according to the army field manual, the army doctrine and certainly according to the Geneva Conventions.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Did you understand the Geneva Conventions?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: No. Particularly because I didn't understand what classification the prisoners that we had were, because, you know, you can get an E.P.W., an Enemy Prisoner of War, you can get a-- I don't know, a Security Internee, you can get Protected Persons. They have different classifications in the Geneva Conventions and they get different treatment by interrogators. I didn't know what their classification was in Iraq. I was being told by my leaders that these people were not enemy prisoners of war, and therefore, we could really sort of do whatever we wanted, but I don't know if that's even true. I don't know.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Tony Lagouranis, a former U.S. Army interrogator in Iraq, at Mosul, and Abu Ghraib. Where else?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: I was in north Babel at FOB CALSU, I was also at Al Asad Airforce base which is in the western desert in the north. I was also in Fallujah during the last offensive.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: You were in Fallujah?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Right.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: What were you doing there?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: My job in Fallujah was to go through the clothes and pockets of the dead bodies that we were picking up on the streets, and we would bring them back to a warehouse, and I would go through their pockets and try to identify them, and read whatever intel or anything that they had on them.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Because you spoke Arabic?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Right. Right. That's why I was sent there.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: How many dead bodies, corpses did you go through?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: 500.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about that experience?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Sure. I mean, you know, obviously it was terrible, you know, like these bodies had been laying out in the street in the sun for days, for sometimes ten days before we picked them up. They had been eaten by dogs and birds and maggots, and the Army thought -- actually, it wasn't the Army, it was the Department of Defense had sent this electronic equipment for us to use to like take the retinal scans and take their fingerprints, but it was just impossible because these guys -- they didn't have eyes anymore. They didn't have fingerprints anymore.<br><br>Then we couldn't bury the prisoners, either. Because they hadn't really figured out how they were going to do that, so they were just stacking up in the warehouse in Fallujah, and that's where we were living and sleeping and eating. With all of those dead bodies.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean they didn't have eyes, they didn't have fingerprints, they were burned?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, certainly, some of them were burned. I mean, some of them didn't have arms anymore or whatever, but I mean, they were just so rotten that their eyes were gone. They were just sockets with maggots.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: We did a piece recently on the use of white phosphorus, “Whiskey Pete,” I think it's referred to in the military. There was an Italian documentary that just came out talking about the use of this, not to light up the sky, but to burn, to incinerate the victims in Fallujah at the time that you were there. Did you see use of this?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: No, well, not that I know of. I don't know. I mean, I only heard about that recently, probably from your report, but no, I don't know anything about that.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Hmm. You slept with the bodies, meaning that they were at the -- you had to sleep in this warehouse?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Right.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about that? And who you understood the people who were dead to be?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, a lot of them were certainly insurgents. You know, a lot of them had weapons. They had hand grenades, they had ammo vests, but a lot of them weren't, either. We had women and children, old men, young boys. So, you know, it's hard to say. I think initially, the reason that we were doing this was they were trying to find foreign fighters. They were trying to prove that there were a lot of foreign fighters in Fallujah. So, mainly, that's what we were going for, but most of them really didn't have I.D.'s but maybe half of them had I.D.'s. Very few of them had foreign I.D.'s. There were people working with me who would -- in an effort to sort of cook the books, you know they would find a Koran on the guy and the Koran was printed in Algeria, and they would mark him down as an Algerian, or you know guys would come in with a black shirt and khaki pants and they would say, well, this is the Hezbollah uniform and they would mark him down as a Lebanese, which was ridiculous, but -- you know.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: So, what did you say?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I was only a specialist, so actually, you know, I did say something to the staff sergeant, who was really in charge, and you know, I just got yelled down you know, shot down.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean shot down?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, he just told me, just put me in my place. He said, this is not for you to decide. I'm saying he's Lebanese, he's Lebanese. That's it.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: What about the women and kids?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: I don't know. I mean, I don't know, I would get a kid burnt to a crisp. I don't know. I don't know what to say. We had women and children.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Did you have discussions about that?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Not really. No. I mean, we just sort of like noted it. Too bad, a kid died. Too bad, we had a woman. We didn't really talk about that.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: How many people would you estimate died in Fallujah.<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: I have no idea. I don't know. I remember hearing the -- a number of 10,000 out there from the marines, but I don't know if that's accurate.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: And could you estimate how many of them were what the U.S. Military calls “insurgents”?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I think we probably got-- we got a small number, we got 500 bodies. And from that sample, I would say about 20% of them actually had weapons on them. But -- so, who knows. I don't know. I imagine, I think most people left Fallujah who weren't going to stay there and fight. But I really don't know. I cannot really say.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Did you ever deal with ghost detainees? This whole issue of people who were brought in, who were not on the books, so that the red cross wouldn't know about them to ask about them?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Sure. Yeah. That happened pretty often. In a way, that was a good thing because sometimes they wanted to just, bring somebody in and just get a little bit of information out of them, and then release him, which would have been difficult if they had actually registered him in the prison. Because then he would be caught up in the bureaucracy, and he might be there for weeks. In a way, the ghosting was a good thing.<br><br>But sometimes it wasn't, like, you know, the SEALS. Or the FBI would put somebody in the prison, and there were no records of what physical damage had been done to him, just nothing. There were no records of it, so it probably made abuse -- you know, a lot more easy to do.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Were you able to get intelligence out of your sessions with these men?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Sometimes. Pretty rarely, honestly. I did more than 300 interrogations in Iraq, and I'm guessing like 20 people, I got any like real intel out of. And when I did it was when I would sort of form a rapport with the person and get them to trust me. Nothing ever came out of the harsh interrogation sessions.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Tony Lagouranis, former U.S. Army interrogator. Time Magazine this week is reporting that CIA Interrogators apparently tried to cover up the death of an Iraqi ghost detainee who died while being interrogated at Abu Ghraib. Autopsy reports showed that the detainee, his name is Manadel al-Jamadi died of blunt force injuries and asphyxiation, believed to have suffocated after an empty sandbag was placed over his head while his arms were secured up and behind his back in a crucifixion-like pose.<br><br>To cover up the killing, blood was mopped up with chlorine before the scene could be investigated. A blood stained hood that covered his head disappeared. The CIA ruled the killing a homicide, the CIA Interrogator involved in his death remains free and continues to work at the agency.<br><br>Jamadi was being held in a secret part of the Abu Ghraib prison that's off-limits to international observer, including the Red Cross. Concern has been growing, as you know, about the whole issue of secret CIA prisons and even places within known prisons that are sort of off the books. Do you know about this man, Jamadi?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: No. I never heard about that case at all.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Does this story sound familiar in other cases that you know, or were involved with?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Yeah. North Babel was probably the place where I saw the worst evidence of abuse. This was from August to October of 2004, so, it was well after the Abu Ghraib scandal. And we were no longer using any harsh tactics within the prison, but I was working with a marine unit, and they would go out and do a raid and stay in the detainee's homes, and torture them there. They were far worse than anything that I ever saw in a prison. They were breaking bones. They were smashing people's feet with the back of an axe head. They burned people. Yeah, they were doing some pretty harsh stuff.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Who is they?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: This particularly was Force Recon. I don't know if they were subordinate to the 24th MEW. 24th MEW was running the detention facility there and running the FOB CALSU and Force Recon was stationed there. I don't know who they were subordinate to. These are marines.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Can you, for people who are not familiar with the military, what these words are short for? What's Force Recon?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Oh, FOB? Force Recon is-- they're reconnaissance, so their job is to go out and spy on people, basically. But it's not -- they're not really intel. They're much more like special forces unit.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: And FOB?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: FOB is Forward Operating Base. So, it's Forward Operating Base CALSU that I was at.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: That's where, exactly.<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: It’s in north Babel, south of Baghdad.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: We're going to go to break and then come back to you. We're talking about Tony Lagouranis US Army interrogator from 2001 to 2005 in Iraq. For a year, at Abu Ghraib, at al Asad, at Mosul and at North Babel. We'll talk more in just a minute. [break]<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: If it you could once again repeat what it is you saw there in Babel. Who were the forces involved, and what they were doing?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I was interrogating at the detention facility at Forward Operating Base, CALSU. I was getting prisoners that were arrested by Force Recon marines, and they -- every time Force Recon went on a raid, they would bring back prisoners who were bruised with broken bones, sometimes with burns. They were pretty brutal to these guys, and I would ask the prisoners what happened, you know, how they received these wounds, and they would tell me that it was after their capture, while they were subdued, while they were handcuffed and they were being questioned by the force recon marines.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: And what did they say happened to them?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: They were being punched, kicked, you know, hit with -- as I said the back of an axe head. One guy was forced to sit on an exhaust pipe of a humvee. I would check out that story with other people that they had been arrested with, and they were consistent. So, I tended to believe what they were telling me.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean one was forced to sit on the exhaust pipe on the back of a humvee. So, what would happen to him?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, he had a giant blister, third degree burn on the back of his leg.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Because it was so hot?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Right.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: And then at this point, you're supposed to question them?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Right. So I was supposed to interrogate these guys. Yeah.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: And how do you go about doing that, as they're in front of you with broken bones, beaten, smashed, punched, burned?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, as you know, as I said, this was really late in the year, and I had really sort of given up using any harsh tactics, so, I was trying to get these guys to trust me, telling them I'm going to help them out, which I really couldn't help anybody out at that place, because everyone they arrested, innocent or guilty, no matter what I said, they would just send them to Abu Ghraib anyway. But --<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, you know, the interrogators-- I’m the only person who is going to talk to this guy. There's no officer that's going to talk to him. The person who decides whether to let them go or keep them is not going to interrogate them. So, my recommendation should count for something, you know, but it didn't at FOB CALSU with the 24th MEW Marines. Basically everybody who came to the prison, they determined, they were a terrorist, they were guilty and they would send them to Abu Ghraib.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: What did you determine?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: That like 98% of these guys had not done anything. I mean, they were picking up people for the stupidest things like -- there's one guy they picked up, they stopped him at a checkpoint, just a routine stop, and he had a shovel in his trunk, and he had a cell phone in his pocket. They said, well, you can use the shovel to bury an IED, you can use the cell phone to detonate it. He didn't have any explosives in his car, he had no weapons, nothing. They had no reason to believe that he was setting IED’s other than the shovel and cell phone. That was the kind of prisoner they were bringing us.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Did you ever call for a stop to this, or ask to speak to a higher up? Tony Lagouranis.<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: I did all the time. You know, at that point, I was like so pissed at the military for what they were doing, you know. And you know, I was yelling at the chief warrant officer marine who was in charge of the defense facility. I was making an issue about it to the major of the Marines, and the lieutenant colonel who was the JAG guy who was in charge of release, who organize keeping the prisoners. I mean, but they just wouldn't listen. You know? They wanted numbers. They wanted numbers of terrorists, apprehended at FOB CALSU, so they could brief that to the general?<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Who was the general?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: I don't know. Who knows. But you know, they were trying to impress somebody, so they wanted to say that we arrested this many terrorists. When I would say they were innocent in my interrogation reports, they would send the prisoner up to Abu Ghraib without my interrogation report. They would just send him up with no paperwork.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Who was in charge there, who was your immediate superior?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: My immediate superior was an army -- my team leader, an army sergeant, the guy in charge of the detention facility or rather the intelligence operations was Chief Warrant Officer Kern. He was a marine.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: And he was holding back your interrogation reports?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Whether it was him or somebody higher up, I don't know. But I know that he was the guy we were submitting the interrogation reports to. I was also submitting abuse reports at FOB CALSU. I really suspected that those didn't really get investigated.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean by abuse reports?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, any time I see abuse or prisoner tells me about abuse, I'm supposed to write a report about it. So that it can be investigated, and you know, see who abused them or whatever. I would send that up through the chain of command, but I don't think they were doing anything with these abuse reports. In the army, when you send this up, it should go to C.I.D., which is Criminal Investigations Division, I don't know what the 'D' stands for, division or department. I talked to those departments, those guys, five times in Iraq. I talked to them after I came back to Fort Gordon, Georgia. After I did an interview with Frontline, and told Frontline the same things that I told you, the C.I.D. Called me up and said we ran your name through the system, and we don't have any reports from you. Why didn't you report this stuff? So, like, I don't know what's happening to these abuse reports but I don't think they have been investigated.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Who called you?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: His name was special agent Kerr from C.I.D.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: From here in the United States?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Right. But he was in Iraq while I was there. Actually, I had filed one abuse report about the Navy SEALs that I told you about in Mosul with this guy's roommate in Iraq while that guy was there, and he still had no idea, you know, that I had ever filed a report.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: So, what did you tell him?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: I told him everything that I had reported on before, which is ridiculous, because I filed -- you know, I filed multiple reports about these things before.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: About how many, roughly.<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: I don't know how many I filed at CALSU, I think it was three, but I know for sure, two.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: And at Abu Ghraib?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: In Abu Ghraib, I filed two reports, and --<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Mosul?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: In Mosul, I don't remember. I actually don't think I ever actually filed a report in Mosul. I filed it when I came back to Abu Ghraib, so that was sort of included in one of the reports that I filed in Abu Ghraib.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: So, now that they tell you that they don't have any of your reports, on abuse, have you re-filed?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Yes. Yeah. When special agent Kerr called me up after the Frontline interview, he came out to Chicago, and we had like a six-hour interview, in my house, and I re-filed all of these sworn statements.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Are they being investigated now?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: I don't know. They wouldn't really tell me about that. I don't know. My guess is no, since they didn't do it before.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: There's a term in the military, but also in civilian society, Tony, called 'moral courage.' Can you talk about what that means to you?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I don't know if I'm really the right person to talk about that, Amy. I don't know.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Well --<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I sort of feel like, you know, I didn't really have enough of it over there. You know? Don't know.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: What when you look back now, do you wish you had done?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, you know, we were trained to do interrogations according to the Geneva Conventions with enemy prisoners of war. And we trained using role players using a conventional army prisoner, and also a terrorist organization, and we treated both of them as though they were enemy prisoners of war. We weren't allowed to cross any lines. So, I don't know why I allowed the army to order me to go against my training, and against my better judgment and against my own moral judgment. But I did. I should have just said no.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel like there's something that you can do now?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I guess talking about it on television is one thing. I don't know.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Would you say when you see the court-martial of a few low-level soldiers, would you say that will start to stop the abuse, or how high up do you feel it goes?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, it obviously goes right up to the Pentagon, because they were issuing the interrogation rules of engagement, and the interrogation rules of engagement are not in accordance with the army field manual and not in accordance with the Geneva conventions. So, it's all the way up. You know, obviously, Lindsey England and Grainer, these guys -- you know, they needed to be punished, but it's not just them. It's -- it should have gone all the way up the chain.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Did you see Donald Rumsfeld in Iraq? He went to al Assad. He went to Abu Ghraib, and in fact when we had former general Karpinski in our studio, now demoted, who was in charge of the military police at Abu Ghraib, she said she took him on a tour, and he went to the Saddam Hussein torture cells and she was taking him beyond, but he didn't want to go beyond. He just left after that photo op. Did you see him?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: I didn't. Actually, I was convoying back from Mosul when he was flying in. I would have gone to see him, but I didn't get a chance.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Vice president Dick Cheney is trying to get an exemption for CIA officers to be allowed to torture. What do you have to say to ice president Cheney?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: I think that using torture is the worst possible thing we could do. You cannot win a war against terrorism with bombs and force. It doesn't work. You have to win hearts and minds and we're really failing. You know, using torture is absolutely the wrong way to go. And we're not getting any intel out of it, either. Like how many people did we get intel out of in Guantanamo? You know, a small handful, and in Abu Ghraib also. I didn't work there for that long, but many of my friends did they worked there all of 2004, and they told me, they got nothing. They got no intel out of that place.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Sexual abuse?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I can't even understand like how anybody thinks that that's a good interrogation procedure, like what -- who is going to talk to you if you are going to like sexually abuse somebody? That's not -- that doesn't make any sense.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: What about giving false so-called intelligence just to stop the abuse?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Sure. Yeah. I'm sure that happens, too.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Did you witness sexual abuse?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: No. No. We never participated in anything like that.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Are you concerned about being retaliated against for speaking out?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Sure. Yeah. I think, you know, that when C.I.D. called me, when special agent Kerr called me after the Frontline interview is that the army was going to try to prosecute me. I'm a little bit more worried about some, just, like a navy SEAL. Or some marine is going to decide he hates me because I'm talking about this stuff, and come in to my house. I have been getting hate emails. My mom has received hate phone calls.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Yet you're speaking out?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Sure. Yeah.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Because --<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I feel like that's what my duty is right now, and I sort of want to correct some wrongs that I might have done.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: And to someone who is in Iraq right now, what would you say to them, and what would you say to Iraqis?<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I'd like to apologize to Iraq honestly, because I think we have done so many things wrong over there. I think the military guys wanted to go over there and really liberate Iraq, and we have just really screwed it up. So, that's terrible, but to the military guys in Iraq, I would say, follow your conscience, and don't do what everybody else is doing just because it seems like that's the right thing to do. It's not.<br><br>AMY GOODMAN: Tony Lagouranis, I want to thank you very much for being with us, former US Army interrogator in Iraq for a year. Thanks for speaking out.<br><br>TONY LAGOURANIS: Thank you, Amy. <p></p><i>Edited by: <A HREF=>nomo</A> at: 11/28/05 6:15 pm<br></i>

Frontline interview with Tony Lagouranis

PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2005 9:06 pm
by nomo
<!--EZCODE AUTOLINK START--><a href=""></a><!--EZCODE AUTOLINK END--><br><br><!--EZCODE ITALIC START--><em>Spc. Tony Lagouranis (Ret.) was a U.S. Army interrogator from 2001 to 2005, and served a tour of duty in Iraq from January 2004 to January 2005. He was first stationed at Abu Ghraib; in the spring he joined a special intelligence gathering task force that moved among detention facilities around the country. Here, he talks about how he found a "culture of abuse" permeating interrogations throughout Iraq. "The worst stuff I saw was from the detaining units who would torture people in their homes," he tells FRONTLINE. "… They would smash people's feet with the back of an axe-head. They would break bones, ribs, you know. That was serious stuff." He says he sent reports of the abuse he saw up the chain of command, but he does not believe his claims were followed up on. Lagouranis also talks about the confusion on the ground over whether Iraqi prisoners were subject to the Geneva Conventions. "I mean, there's just no way that what we were doing and what was sanctioned by the Pentagon through the IRE, the interrogation rules of engagement -- there's no way that fit in within the Geneva Conventions," he says. And he describes his own use of military working dogs to intimidate prisoners. This is the edited transcript of an interview conducted on Sept. 25, 2005.<br></em><!--EZCODE ITALIC END--><br><br><br><br>What had you heard about Abu Ghraib before you first went there?<br><br>I talked to some of the Arabic people who were in my company and also some of the translators. And they told me a little bit of the history of the prison, that it's notorious in the Arab world. And so they said every Arab will know what this place is, but Americans don't know.<br><br>And what did they mean by that?<br><br>You know, it was Saddam's torture chamber and execution chamber. And it's where thousands of Shi'a died after the uprising. So you know, it's sort of equivalent of Auschwitz for the Arab people. …<br><br>And the physical surroundings?<br><br>Well, one thing that was troubling was that it's a big compound surrounded by a tall wall. And we knew that the town was out there, and it was very hard for us to defend against the town. So we were getting mortared all the time. It was pretty, pretty dangerous.<br><br>What's that like? Can you hear it coming?<br><br>You can't hear it coming; you just hear it exploding. And there's often like a period of confusion. You don't know if it's outgoing or incoming. And so you don't want to hit the deck and look like a fool if it's outgoing, you know what I mean? But it's pretty terrifying, sure. You know, an attack starts and you hit the ground, and you expect "the next one's going to get me." You can't help that. And it didn't matter how long I was there.<br><br>Really, it never gets better?<br><br>No, not really.<br><br>How did the guys around you react? …<br>You just feel so isolated, and morally isolated, that you felt like you could do whatever you want to this guy, and maybe you even want to.<br><br>I remember doing interrogations while mortars were coming down and that tends to rev up the interrogation pretty much. You know, people are getting pissed … because they had the sense -- especially at that time, and I'm sure a lot of GIs still do -- that "We're sacrificing to help these people," and they don't understand why they might be attacked themselves. …<br><br>And the vibe in the camp from the other [Military Intelligence (MI)] people and the MPs, [Military Police] what did it feel like?<br><br>The other interrogators and the analysts, they tended to be pretty disillusioned and bored. Like they'd been there a whole year and had gone in, you know, experienced the frustration of not being able to get any intel, and having the wrong guys there and having that information to go on. So they tended to be pretty disillusioned with the whole process and just wanted to go home. …<br><br>So give me a sense, if you can, of your own preparation. … How did you become an interrogator?<br><br>Well I joined because I wanted to learn Arabic. I had no interest in interrogation. And this was before 9/11, so I didn't even expect we would go to war. So yeah, after basic training they sent me to Ft. Huachuca, Ariz., where they do MI training. And I went through the interrogation classes and after that I went to Monterey to learn Arabic. …<br><br>So they make you an interrogator. What do they teach you about the techniques and methods?<br><br>… 9/11 happened while I was in interrogation classes, and nothing changed. We hadn't invaded Afghanistan yet; the doctrine stayed the same. But mainly what they were teaching us was Cold War-style interrogation where we would be dealing with a soldier that came off the battlefield, as in the first Gulf war, for instance.<br><br>And they had so many willing detainees in the first Gulf war that they didn't really have to work on breaking people down. If the person didn't want to cooperate, they just didn't talk to them. And they were trying to find out things like how much gasoline does this unit have, what are there movements, how many working tanks did they have. Really benign stuff.<br><br>And so the process you use to break down a prisoner is called an "approach." We only spent two days on approaches, and they were pretty much by the book and nothing like we did in Iraq. And when you got to Iraq, everything was approaches. And what they taught us about, like, questioning methods and stuff like that, we rarely even got that far because we had prisoners who weren't talking to us. …<br><br>… We've talked to people who say [there was] incredible variance in terms of what are the rules? What can we do? What can't we do?<br><br>When we were trained in the schoolhouse about what we could and couldn't do, it was very strict and it came from the Geneva Conventions, the law of land warfare based on enemy prisoners of war. And we never expected that we would interrogate anybody who wasn't an enemy prisoner of war.<br><br>And it's still unclear to me what the status of the Iraqis that we had were. Well, I know that they weren't being afforded the legal status of enemy prisoners of war. But supposedly, we were treating them as though they were, but we weren't. I mean, there's just no way that what we were doing and what was sanctioned by the Pentagon through the IRE, the interrogation rules of engagement -- there's no way that fit in within the Geneva Conventions. …<br><br>What was happening, for example?<br><br>Well hypothermia was a widespread technique. I haven't heard a lot of people talking about that, and I never saw anything in writing prohibiting it or making it illegal. But almost everyone was using it when they had a chance, when the weather permitted. Or some people, the Navy SEALs, for instance, were using just ice water to lower the body temperature of the prisoner. They would take his rectal temperature to make sure he didn't die; they would keep him hovering on hypothermia. That was a pretty common technique.<br><br>A lot of other, you know, not as common techniques, and certainly not sanctioned, was just beating people or burning them. Not within the prisons, usually. But when the units would go out into people's homes and do these raids, they would just stay in the house and torture them. Because after the scandal, they couldn't trust that, you know, the interrogators were going to do "as good a job," in their words, as they wanted to.<br><br>"Torture" -- what do you mean?<br><br>Well, that's a good question. I mean, according to the Geneva Conventions, you're not really supposed to use coercive techniques. I'm not getting the technical language right, but if somebody's not cooperating with you, you can't even threaten to cause them any physical harm or coerce them in any way. It all has to be just verbal, psychological; you shouldn't be causing them any physical discomfort.<br><br>But people were using, you know, harsh, stressed positions for long periods of time, isolation, taking people's clothes and mattresses. And so you saw that ran into problems at Abu Ghraib. I think the MPs there who committed these crimes were taking cues from the interrogators and the CIA who were coming in there and stripping the prisoners down, and leaving them naked in their cells.<br><br>So I would consider that torture, especially in an interrogation environment where you're supposed to be a professional, and the safety and well being of the prisoner falls on you. They told us that in training, but that didn't translate in the field.<br><br>How soon after you got into the business of interrogating at Abu Ghraib did it become obvious to you that rapport-building was not the norm around interrogation cells?<br><br>Rapport-building was being used among the smarter interrogators; among the more experienced interrogators. And I think that's the only thing I ever saw work, was rapport-building. So it was sort of 50-50, at that point.<br><br>But then I got out and worked with other units … and they weren't as interested in rapport-building. That took too much time, they felt, and it wasn't how they wanted to see themselves as interrogators. They wanted to be like Hollywood interrogators, you know.<br><br>What does that mean?<br><br>Well, it's funny. I noticed in Mosul, for instance, they were playing movies all the time, DVDs were pretty available over there. And just how many movies and TV shows have interrogation scenes in them? These interrogation scenes usually involve a hard-hitting interrogator running psychological circles and intimidating the prisoner at appropriate times, and maybe even sometimes physical torture. So that's how they wanted to see themselves. But that's not how an interrogation plays out in reality, you know? It's this long process of back and forth, and it's a lot more complicated than that.<br><br>[When and why] would somebody resort to something more than even "psychological games," as you say?<br><br>That's a good question. I think a lot of it was frustration that we weren't getting good intel. You know, we rarely got good intel from the prisoners, and I blame that on that we were getting bad prisoners. Or "good" prisoners, prisoners who were innocent and didn't have intel to give us. And also that when they were arrested, we didn't get all the information that the unit should have given us in order to interrogate this guy.<br><br>And so you can't just go in and talk to somebody -- I mean, he's going to figure out pretty fast that you're pretty ignorant, and that he doesn't have to tell you anything. So you're not going to get intel that way. So people were getting frustrated, and they wanted to step it up. …<br><br>How?<br><br>In Mosul, again, I remember the chief warrant officer in charge of the interrogation facility. He'd heard about how the SEALs had set up a "discotheque" with loud music and strobe lights in order to disorient the prisoner, and he heard about the ice water. We didn't use the ice water; he felt that was too dangerous, somebody might die.<br><br>But it was cold, so we were keeping them hovering around hypothermia in this environment of what they call "environmental manipulation" with the music and strobe lights. And then we would bring in military working dogs and use those on the prisoners. Even though it was controlled; like the dogs were muzzled, they were being held by a handler. But the prisoner didn't know that because he was blindfolded.<br><br>So he'd hear growling, or what?<br><br>Right. I mean, you know, these are big German Shepherds. So when I would ask the prisoner a question and I didn't like the answer, I would cue the handler so the dog would bark and jump on the prisoner, but he wasn't able to bite him.<br><br>Now how would the prisoner react?<br><br>Fear. I mean, sometimes they wet their jumpsuits because they were so scared, you know? Especially because they'd have a blindfold and they can't figure out -- you know, that's a pretty terrifying position to be in.<br><br>I know that at Guantanamo, at the earliest stages there was this kind of urban myth -- maybe, maybe not -- that Arab men had an inordinate fear of dogs. Did you hear that?<br><br>I heard that all the time, but not from Arabs. I mean, that just seems silly. It's like everyone has a fear of a growling German Shepherd when you're tied up and helpless. And it's like when people were saying, "Arabs, they really hate being sexually humiliated." But who doesn't? I mean, who wants to be sexually humiliated? That's not a cultural thing, that's a human thing. So I attribute a lot of those comments to just pure racism. You hear a lot of comments like that, that really don't make sense.<br><br>Like what?<br><br>Soon as I got to Abu Ghraib, we were given a brief by a psychiatrist, an Army psychiatrist. He didn't know anything about Arabs or Arabic or Islam, but he'd read a few books and told us things like, "Don't expect to ever get a timeline out of an Arab. They can't think like that, they can't think linearly; they have to think associatively." You know, things like that. Or that "Arabs, it's part of their culture to lie," you know. "They just lie all the time and don't even know that they're doing it." It's like ridiculous, you know?<br><br>… What was the effect of that kind of information on [people]?<br><br>They believed it, and they continued throughout the whole year that we were there with that idea about Arabs, that they're liars and they don't make sense; they're not rational.<br><br>And so what happens in an environment … where that becomes the way you feel about the people in your control?<br><br>Well, partly that lends to the frustration. Because they're blaming their lack of ability to get intelligence on the fact that a logical argument presented to somebody, or whatever psychological way that you're going to back them into a corner isn't going to work on an Arab. You point out a contradiction to them and they don't care, then they just have a new story and that's it. But I think that's true for anybody who's a prisoner being interrogated. You know, they feel helpless, so their story's going to change. It's going to be very hard to back them into a corner. So yeah, I think it added to the frustration and probably contributed to this culture of abuse.<br><br>Talk to me about the "culture of abuse." How quickly would it ramp up? How bad would it get?<br><br>Well, I never saw too much with the interrogators who were actually professional interrogators that they were doing much more than what I described to you: the dogs, the stress positions, the hypothermia. Which ended up not really causing severe bodily harm, anyway, to the prisoner. The worst stuff I saw was from the detaining units who would torture people in their homes. They were using things like … burns. They would smash people's feet with the back of an axe-head. They would break bones, ribs, you know. That was serious stuff.<br><br>When you say "burns," what do you mean?<br><br>I remember one guy who was forced to sit on an exhaust pipe on a humvee, and he had a pretty huge blister on his leg. Another guy, I don't know what they used to burn him, his legs. He was blindfolded so he didn't know either, but it looked like it might have been a lighter. He had some pretty big, [some] smaller blisters, but a lot of them.<br><br>Why would they do that?<br><br>Part of it is, they were trying to get information, but part of it is also just pure sadism. You just kept wanting to push and push and push, and see how far you could go. And it seems like that's just part of human nature. I mean, I'm sure you've read studies conducted in American prisons where you put a group of people in charge of another group of people, and give them control over them, and pretty soon it turns into cruelty and torture, you know? So it's pretty common.<br><br>And I saw it, every detention facility I went to. If there wasn't really strong, strong leadership that said, "We're not going to tolerate abuse," … in every facility there would have been abuse. And even among people like the MPs who aren't trying to get intel -- they just do it because it's something people do there, if they're not controlled either inwardly or from above. …<br><br>When you take an environment like Abu Ghraib -- regular mortar attacks, lot of emotionality about that, … you've got a massive population and very few people to guard them or debrief them. It's like the recipe for bad stuff.<br><br>It is, because you really do feel like you're outside of normal society, you know? Your family, your friends, they're not there to see what's going on. And everybody is sort of participating in this I don't know what -- psychosis, or for want of a better word, this delusion about what you're doing there. And what becomes OK as you look around gets broken down, you know?<br><br>And I mean, I felt it myself. I remember being in that shipping container in Mosul. You know, I'd been with a guy all night long. And you just feel so isolated, and morally isolated, that you felt like you could do whatever you want to this guy, and maybe you even want to. But then in the daylight when I would talk to the other soldiers or see other prisoners, that was unacceptable to me. …<br><br>We weren't concerned with intel anymore; we just wanted confessions from people. So some of these people that we had in there, they weren't even being accused of anything that we could have gotten intel out of. They had been accused of petty criminal acts or something like that, so why are we even doing that? It's not our jobs. …<br><br>And I saw that over and over again. And some of the worst cases that I saw of abuse coming out of the Force Recon Marines in North Babel -- I was writing reports about this, abuse reports and sending it up through the Marine chain of command. And I know that nobody ever investigated these things because I had taken pictures of the wounds. I had organized the medical reports that the Corpsmen had put down, and taken sworn statements from the prisoners.<br><br>Nobody ever came to look at that stuff; no one ever came to talk to me about it. I just felt like I was sending these abuse reports to nowhere. And no one was investigating them, or they had no way to investigate them, or maybe no desire. …<br><br>[Did] Abu Ghraib [get] better [after the scandal broke]?<br><br>Yeah, it got better almost immediately, and progressed also, you know? Like they keep making it more and more sterile, which is good, you know? I mean, I'm glad they're doing that, but that also frustrated the interrogators… You get more and more oversight and more and more focus on Abu Ghraib or anything in the Army, and it turns into a lot of bureaucracy. So they were slowed down in their ability to do their jobs. But at least it did prevent abuse at Abu Ghraib.<br><br>But basically, they weren't getting anything then, at all?<br><br>Yeah, and I don't think they ever really did, honestly. … You know what they were getting? I can't tell you exactly what the HCRs are -- they're human collection requirements, and you have to be answering one of these in order to write an intelligence report. And there was just pressure from higher so that they could look better and show that we're doing something, to just generate more and more of these reports.<br><br>And a lot of them have -- I mean, they have no intelligence value, you know? Like a lot of it's just sort of PR stuff or psych ops stuff -- you know, how do Iraqis feel about this and this, or this and this? -- which you can go in and get that in an interrogation, no problem. And so people were writing tons of these things, and that would go into the PowerPoint slide and they'd brief the general on this, and everybody'd get patted on the back. But they weren't getting intel that people could use. …<br><br>They were telling us all the time, "We need timely, actionable intelligence." And that psych ops stuff isn't that; that's not our job to get that stuff.<br><br>"Timely, actionable intelligence" means what to you? …<br><br>It means that we could give this information to a unit, an infantry unit, and they could act on it, and they could shut down an insurgency cell or they could find the weapons, or whatever. …<br><br>The low-hanging fruit that people were getting. … In interrogation, you ask them "How do Iraqis feel about this or that, [Prime Minister Ayad] Allawi or whatever?" They're going to say, "Oh, I love him, I love Americans!" Who isn't going to say that, you know? But once they tell you that lie, then you can just write your report and you're done, and you know, you're done for the day. …<br><br>You know, people just wanted numbers. North Babel was one of the worst places I saw for this. Like they would stop a guy at a checkpoint, and he had in his car a shovel and a cell phone. And they'd say, "Well, you can use a shovel to dig an IED [improvised explosive device], to bury an IED, and you can use a cell phone to detonate it. But they didn't find anything else, and there was no reason for them to believe that this guy was setting IEDs. But I have to talk to him. I have to interrogate him three times. If I say he's innocent, they won't believe me. I'd use his cell phone to call his boss and check out his entire story, what he was doing that day, why he might have his cell phone and a shovel. It all checked out, but still he gets sent up. And somebody gets on a PowerPoint slide that this guy was a terrorist bearing IEDs. And they were just doing that all over the place.<br><br>And he might, along the way find himself stripped--<br><br>Yes. Right. I mean, when I felt that people were being frank, and they were telling me why they joined the insurgency or why they gave money to whatever, they were telling me that it was because somebody had been killed in their family by the Americans, or somebody had been arrested and humiliated. …<br><br>The pictures [of Abu Ghraib] when you saw them, where were you and what was the feeling?<br><br>I was in Mosul at the time, and I think I really felt like, you know, it really was a few people who had just gotten out of control. My first impression was "bad apples." But I got back, and talked to more people and thought about this more, and it's not bad apples. Because as I said before, these MPs were taking their cues from interrogators and CIA agents who'd they'd seen sexually humiliate prisoners. And I think if they hadn't seen that, then this wouldn't have happened. And if there hadn't been controls over it, then it wouldn't have happened. So my view on it did change.<br><br>When you say "controls over it," what do you mean?<br><br>Well I mean leadership that says all the time, and reinforces all the time, "Your job as an MP is to protect and maintain the welfare of the prisoner. And any abuse that you do, or any humiliation that you do, will not be tolerated and it will be punished." And that's what you do in the military, you know? That's the kind of structure we have.<br><br>And as opposed to that, what conditions existed at Abu Ghraib?<br><br>Well apparently, no one felt like their job was the well being of the prisoner. They felt that their job was dehumanizing and breaking them down for interrogation purposes, and with the MPs, [for] God knows what, you know? So I don't know. …<br><br>I think the interrogators were using sexual humiliation and some harsh tactics. And the MPs felt like, "Well, we're in a culture now where this is OK." And that's really powerful. When you don't have anybody saying that's not OK, it becomes, "Well, I guess this is what we do in a prison, to prisoners." They chose, I think, prisoners at random or maybe prisoners that they just personally didn't like, and did these things to them. …<br><br>So add to that, or not, [Gen. Ricardo] Sanchez's rules which kind of come down in the fall that say dogs, and then environmental manipulation, all that stuff [can be used]. [Secretary of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld's rules, which come from Guantanamo, [allow] stress positions and lots of other things. Many of the Gitmo ideas that come with Gen. [Geoffrey D.] Miller and his crowd … it sounds like it's a system where as an individual interrogator, you could almost make up your own set of rules and feel pretty comfortable with the authorizations, long as you didn't cross some moral line that you drew.<br><br>That's certainly true. Even if you had a single document, a single IRE that some unit had given you, it was hard to make sense of that because there were contradictions within it. So in a way, you could really justify almost anything you wanted to do. So yeah, it made it pretty tough. So all you had to do was look around you and see, "Well, what seems to be acceptable?" And then you do that.<br><br>And what seems to be acceptable was a lot harsher than what the rules were, in a lot of ways?<br><br>Yes. Yeah.<br><br>How much harsher?<br><br>Well, it depends on what you're going to say the rules are. Because as I said, Geneva Conventions for prisoners of war don't allow us to really do anything to these prisoners other than talk to them. So all this other stuff we did with freezing them, starving them, sleep manipulation, isolation -- we're not allowed to do those things. …<br><br>[So it wasn't just a few bad apples doing things?]<br><br>No, not at all. I remember when we had that shipping container in Mosul. We were sort of close to the street, and of course with the loud music, the lights, the sometimes yelling, it would attract people and they wanted to participate in it. And it was very hard because sometimes it was in the middle of the night and I'd be the only person out there. So I was afraid to leave to go get help, to chase these guys off. But they might outrank me, there might be more of them than of me. …<br><br>I think it's systemic. And I say that because for instance, if you set up a prison like Abu Ghraib where you have maybe 10,000 Iraqi prisons there, and you have 18-year-old guards guarding them, you know that you're going to have abuse taking place. I mean, if you don't know that, you're an idiot. And that goes all the way up the chain of command. And so they did not create oversight. The Pentagon should have been on this and making sure that abuse wasn't happening.<br><br>And there are ways to be effective. I saw good, clean detention facilities and I saw detention facilities that were out of control. And it all came from the leadership. It wasn't because they got lucky and got good privates in there; that wasn't it. …<br><br>[Tell me about your feelings during your time in Iraq.]<br><br>Editor's Note: Lagouranis was given the task of searching Iraqi casualties for intelligence information. At one point, he says he was ordered to go through the pockets and personal effects of 500 dead Iraqis.<br><br>Well yeah, sleeping with 500 dead bodies and going through their pockets was -- I mean, it doesn't get much worse than that, you know? I mean, you really feel just a total sense of despair, and that you've crossed over into a realm where your friends and family are just never going to experience that, you know?<br><br>But I think that my experience of despair came in North Babel, when I had just all these prisoners that I knew were innocent, I was powerless to help them. And yet I was forced to interrogate them every day and listen to them cry, and tell me about their families. And I mean, that was just -- it was awful, and I think that's most of where my anger came from in the end, was that experience.<br><br>And how angry were you?<br><br>I was angry enough that I was being insubordinate to the Marine unit that we were working with. I was yelling at officers. And as I said, when I got back to the United States, it was hard for me to even participate in my unit. Like I just didn't believe in anything that we had done, and I was willing to say that to everyone. They ushered me out of the Army. …<br><br>Editor's Note: Lagouranis was given an honorable discharge from the Army.<br><br>Do you have any doubt that [interrogation techniques] migrated from Afghanistan to Guantanamo, to Abu Ghraib, to Iraq in general?<br><br>There were a lot of people and a lot of interrogators who had worked in all three places. And they were telling the less experienced interrogators about what interrogation is like, what you do, what's effective, what's not. And very little about what is not allowed.<br><br>Early on, it seemed like as long as you didn't seriously injure or kill a prisoner, you were within the guidelines. Because they were telling us all these stories about what happened at Camp Bagram in Afghanistan. And yet, they were there at the time when there were two deaths. And that was really all that was talked about as if these people had crossed the line.<br><br>Death crosses the line?<br><br>Death crosses the line, but you know, torture doesn't. …<br><br>And when you're in a room and a guy comes in, can you tell if bad things have happened to him, [if] he's been "softened up"?<br><br>Sure, sometimes it's really apparent. Sometimes they can't walk. Sometimes they're got bruises all over their faces, they have burns on them. Sure.<br><br>And have they been "softened up"?<br><br>Usually, yeah.<br><br>Has it worked?<br><br>Not that I saw. And that certainly wasn't an approach I would run. And you know, it might have worked on somebody who was guilty, but I so rarely saw guilty people; they were just picking up bummers. …<br> <p></p><i></i>

Re: Frontline interview with Tony Lagouranis

PostPosted: Mon Nov 28, 2005 9:43 pm
by Qutb
Thanks for posting this.<br><br>This is how "intelligence" is produced:<br><!--EZCODE QUOTE START--><blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>You know, people just wanted numbers. North Babel was one of the worst places I saw for this. Like they would stop a guy at a checkpoint, and he had in his car a shovel and a cell phone. And they'd say, "Well, you can use a shovel to dig an IED [improvised explosive device], to bury an IED, and you can use a cell phone to detonate it. But they didn't find anything else, and there was no reason for them to believe that this guy was setting IEDs. But I have to talk to him. I have to interrogate him three times. If I say he's innocent, they won't believe me. I'd use his cell phone to call his boss and check out his entire story, what he was doing that day, why he might have his cell phone and a shovel. It all checked out, but still he gets sent up. And somebody gets on a PowerPoint slide that this guy was a terrorist bearing IEDs. And they were just doing that all over the place.<hr></blockquote><!--EZCODE QUOTE END--><br><!--EZCODE QUOTE START--><blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>And when you're in a room and a guy comes in, can you tell if bad things have happened to him, [if] he's been "softened up"?<br><br>Sure, sometimes it's really apparent. Sometimes they can't walk. Sometimes they're got bruises all over their faces, they have burns on them. Sure.<br><br>And have they been "softened up"?<br><br>Usually, yeah.<br><br>Has it worked?<br><br>Not that I saw. And that certainly wasn't an approach I would run. And you know, <!--EZCODE BOLD START--><strong>it might have worked on somebody who was guilty, but I so rarely saw guilty people; they were just picking up bummers</strong><!--EZCODE BOLD END-->. …<hr></blockquote><!--EZCODE QUOTE END--><br><br><br> <p></p><i></i>

Latest Hostages in Iraq

PostPosted: Wed Nov 30, 2005 7:28 am
by Byrne
Watching Newsnight on BBC2 last night, the on-the-spot reporter in Baghdad stated that the 4 peace activists, from the UK, US and Canada, who were captured on Saturday, were investigating human rights abuses by the occupying US forces.<br><br>Upon browsing this morning, I found this story, giving further background on the British Hostage, Norman Kember :<!--EZCODE LINK START--><a href="" target="top"></a><!--EZCODE LINK END--> Excerpts:<!--EZCODE QUOTE START--><blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>The 74-year-old retired professor and life-long pacifist even made it to the door of No 10 before the 2003 invasion to present a petition warning of disastrous consequences for Iraq and its people. <br><br>Six months ago, he wrote: "Personally it has always worried me that I am a 'cheap' peacemaker. Being in Britain talking, writing, demonstrating about peace is in no way taking risks like young servicemen in Iraq. <br><br>Two weeks ago, the professor left the modest detached house he shares with his wife in a tree-lined avenue in Pinner for the battle-scarred streets of Baghdad. In circumstances that remain unclear, he was kidnapped along with two Canadians and an American in a suburb of the city. <br><br>Kember, a father-of-two and grandfather, is a leading member of his local Baptist church. He was a radiation physicist at Barts Medical College and the University of London. <br><br>His group, <!--EZCODE ITALIC START--><em><!--EZCODE BOLD START--><strong>who were investigating human rights abuses</strong><!--EZCODE BOLD END--></em><!--EZCODE ITALIC END-->, had reportedly been travelling with "minimal security" when they were seized in the west of the city after dark on Saturday local time. The men were in the final days of a two-week fact-finding trip with a Canada-based humanitarian organisation, Christian Peacemaker Teams. <br><br>The group were working with Iraqis and were not involved in missionary work. <br><br>Kember was part of a delegation of about eight people who had gone to Iraq to meet local human rights campaigners and assist with the setting up of a Muslim peacemakers' organisation. <hr></blockquote><!--EZCODE QUOTE END-->Also from <!--EZCODE LINK START--><a href="" target="top"></a><!--EZCODE LINK END--><!--EZCODE QUOTE START--><blockquote><strong><em>Quote:</em></strong><hr>"The team's work has <!--EZCODE BOLD START--><strong><!--EZCODE ITALIC START--><em>focused on documenting and focusing public attention on detainee abuses</em><!--EZCODE ITALIC END--></strong><!--EZCODE BOLD END-->, connecting citizens of Iraq to local and international human rights organizations, and accompanying Iraqi civilians as they interact with multinational military personnel and Iraq's government officials," the group said. <hr></blockquote><!--EZCODE QUOTE END--><br>The group that has 'claimed responsibility', a previously unknown 'militant group', the Swords of Truth Brigade, claimed the captives had been undercover spies working as Christian peace activists. <br><br>Why would any 'insurgent' group wish to capture these Peace Activists who would be exposing the abuses of the occupying forces?<br><br>From a BBC News report at <br><!--EZCODE LINK START--><a href="" target="top"></a><!--EZCODE LINK END-->, BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera said <!--EZCODE ITALIC START--><em><!--EZCODE BOLD START--><strong>"It bears all the hallmarks of a political kidnapping, not one for money".</strong><!--EZCODE BOLD END--></em><!--EZCODE ITALIC END--><br><br>It wouldn’t surprise me if the occupying forces were behind these events, in order to scare off further humanitarian investigators. It will be interesting to see if the lives of these hostages will be terminated, as has happened with previous TV displays of hostages, including Margaret Hassan, the director of CARE International in Iraq, who was kidnapped in October 2004 -her body has never been found.<br><br>.<br><br> <p></p><i></i>