Accused GI May Call Cheney, Rummy

Spc. Lynndie R. England, from the 372nd Military Police Company U.S. Army Reserve Center in Cumberland, Md., is shown in an undated photo displayed Friday, April 30, 2004, on the LaVale, Md., Wal-Mart's 'Wall of Honor' with more than 30 other photos of local men and women currently serving or retired from the U.S. military.
AP
Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld are on a "catchall list" of potential witnesses in the case of Pfc. Lynndie England, an Army reservist facing a court-martial for alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners, her attorneys said Thursday.

England is featured in some of the photos taken at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad that have made the case an international scandal. Six other soldiers also face military charges in the case.

The list of potential witnesses for a hearing this month includes Cheney, Rumsfeld and 134 others.

"It's a catchall list of everyone who's had connections to the investigation," said lead attorney Richard A. Hernandez.

Administration officials have resisted subpoenas in civilian cases in the past. Neither Hernandez nor the three other attorneys on England's defense team would speculate on the likelihood that Cheney or Rumsfeld would be asked to testify.

It will be up to the investigating officer presiding over a June 22 hearing to determine which civilian witnesses should testify, the defense team said.

At the hearing, roughly the military equivalent of a preliminary hearing, a judge will determine if the evidence is strong enough to send the case to trial.

The hearing will be in Fort Bragg, N.C., where England is stationed. She is performing clerical duties for a military police unit, her lawyers said.

A crucial question in the prisoner abuse scandal is whether the soldiers who are charged with criminal offenses were acting on their own or following orders from military intelligence officers or commanders.

England's attorneys plan to argue she was ordered to appear in the pictures, which show her pointing at one Iraqi prisoners' genitals and holding a leash attached to another inmate, Hernandez said.

"A private first-class does not do anything unless told to do so," Hernandez said.

Lawyers for the other accused soldiers make similar contentions.

Some revelations since the scandal broke may suggest wider problems of detainee mistreatment than involve the seven accused soldiers.

The summer before the abuse took place, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller — then the commander at the Guantanamo Bay detention center — toured Abu Ghraib and other Iraqi prisons.

According to Army reports, he recommended that military police guards like England help "set the conditions" for interrogations.

Miller has denied that he suggested any abusive practices. But Army investigator Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba said the recommendation was inappropriate.

In November, control of the Abu Ghraib prison was turned over from a military police unit to a military intelligence unit.

Some reports indicate that besides the recommendation to "set the conditions," Miller also helped to import to Iraq some harsh interrogation practices from Guantanamo Bay, including the use of dogs. A commander was supposed to approve those harsh conditions. Some of the Abu Ghraib photos involve dogs.

Even more severe interrogation tactics were employed at Guantanamo Bay, The New York Times has reported, including dunking a detainee in water until he thinks he might drown.

Reports also indicate a wider scope of abuse, involving not just sexual humiliation but also deaths in custody, thefts and beatings.

The military intelligence interrogators at Abu Ghraib during the abuse had come from a facility in Afghanistan where two detainees died. Some of the deaths in custody that are under investigation involved the CIA. The CIA is also alleged to have held Iraqis as "ghost detainees," meaning there was no record of their detention.

An Army general who visited Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq last fall complained that the military was violating international war standards by incarcerating common criminals along with insurgents captured in attacks against U.S.-led forces.

"Due to operational limitations, facility limitations and force protection issues, there are criminal detainees collocated with other types of detainees, including security internees," wrote Maj. Gen. Donald Ryder, the Army's provost marshal general. "However, the Geneva Convention does not allow this."

Ryder warned that mixing such prisoners "invites confusion about handling, processing and treatment."

The report described a chaotic prison system, with staff lacking "basic necessities" such as food, cleaning supplies and hygiene items, and carrying little accountability for providing adequate health care.

At some facilities, contractors were allowed to use "unsecured" and "unsupervised" tools, while soldiers carried weapons when interacting with detainees — "an unacceptable risk inside a confinement facility," according to the report. The report does not specify what the tools were.

Moreover, it charged, Abu Ghraib "lacks hospital beds, diagnostic equipment" and is unprepared to care for chronically sick and mentally ill detainees.

Ryder's 64-page report, dated Nov. 5, concludes that "there were no military police units purposely applying inappropriate confinement practices."

Ryder did mention use of "improper restraint techniques" and "flawed or insufficiently detailed use of force and other standing operating procedures" at some unspecified prisons in Iraq.

According to Times, Ryder found that many detained at Abu Ghraib — even in the high-security wing where the alleged abuses took place — were held on scant evidence. Some had merely expressed "displeasure or ill will" toward U.S. troops.

However, Ryder concluded that military police weren't asked to help prepare prisoners for interrogations, a determination that was contradicted later during a broad investigation into prison abuses by Taguba, who said that "it is obvious ... that this was done at lower levels."

Some Pentagon critics have questioned how Ryder could have investigated Iraq's prisons last fall — the period during which some of the Abu Ghraib abuses took place — without seeing any abuse.