Shoplifting Charge Dogs Iraq Gen.

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski denies the shoplifting allegation to CBS' David Martin.
CBS
An American general caught up in the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal is now at the center of a new controversy involving allegations about her past, but she's calling it a smear campaign.

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who claims she has been made a scapegoat for the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, is the subject of an investigation by the Army Inspector General involving an alleged shoplifting incident in October of 2002, one year before the abuses began, reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin.

According to military sources, Karpinski was caught shoplifting a $22 bottle of perfume from a military department store — or PX — at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

When CBS News asked her about it, she said it never happened.

When CBS' Martin asked if Karpinski denied she was ever arrested or picked up in the MacDill Air Force Base store for shoplifting, she responded, "That's correct."

Sources say an Air Force report details the shoplifting incident, but Pentagon officials refuse all comment, saying that would violate Karpinski's rights under the Privacy Act.

Karpinski says if such a document exists, it's a forgery designed to discredit her for speaking out.

Karpinski was a colonel at the time of the alleged shoplifting, but when she showed Defense Secretary Rumsfeld around Abu Ghraib, she was wearing the one star of a brigadier general.

The Army is investigating how — despite the shoplifting report — she was promoted and placed in command of all the prisons in Iraq.

Sources say Karpinski was able to go into counseling and do community service because she was a first-time offender and the dollar amount was so small. That apparently kept the incident out of court records and her service file.

But Army officers say it still should have surfaced in the course of background checks that normally include questionnaires asking if you've been arrested in the past seven years. Whether that lapse was the Army's fault or Karpinski's is now under investigation. Her attorney promises she will cooperate fully in any investigation.