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Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski Speaks Out

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," May 3, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST:  Now for the top story tonight.  Joining us here in the studio, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski (search) and her lawyer, Lieutenant Colonel Neil Puckett (search).

All right, general, everybody wants to know a simple question, how could it happen on your watch?

BRIG. GEN. JANIS KARPINSKI, U.S. ARMY RESERVE:  It happened because there was some instructions that were given to military police personnel that were performing detention operations that they were trained in, experienced with for the most part on how to run detention operations.

So they qualified that only by saying that they were specifically trained at their units at the home stations and mobile stations on handling enemy prisoner of war operations.  When the mission was almost complete with the prisoners of war, and the vast majority of  them were released, the unit, the 800th MP Brigade was given a new mission of restoring, rebuilding, and operating correctional  confinement facilities in the Baghdad and throughout Iraq, in fact, including detention operations and rebuilding operations at Abu Ghraib (search) prison.

Through the course of several months, the focus of the operations at Abu Ghraib prison became the interrogation effort.    And over the course of time, it shifted from standard detention operations or correctional confinement to an interrogation effort almost specifically.  And the largest population at Abu Ghraib were security detainees, awaiting or having undergone or undergoing interrogation.

And because the record number of security detainees who were in that category waiting or undergoing interrogation, the focus  was shifted.  And the responsibility was shifted to the military intelligence command.

And because of the number of detainees and the inability to  really effectively release the ones who no longer had any intel value, the numbers continued to grow.  That's an indication of the operations and the efforts that were being made by the divisions, of course.  And they were bringing in the people through raids or whatever.... 

O'REILLY:  All right.  And you got an overcrowded prison.

KARPINSKI:  Right.

O'REILLY:  You've got and interrogations going on every day.

KARPINSKI:  Right.

O'REILLY : Probably around 24, 7.  But the thing that disturbed me and I think many other Americans is that the soldiers, the few soldiers that we know so far who abused these prisoners did it in such a blatant way.  I mean, they took pictures of it.  They were standing there smirking about it.  They didn't seem to have any fear of being caught.  It seems like they were operating in a zone like we can do whatever we want because there's no accountability. 

KARPINSKI:  I disagree.  I think they were being instructed to do some of those things. 

O'REILLY:  Instructed to do those things and take pictures?

KARPINSKI:  No, I think -- let me qualify that.  They were given instructions initially to improve the situation for the interrogations to effectively take place. 

O'REILLY:  Soften them up?

KARPINSKI:  Soften them up, perhaps.  Yes, that expression has been used. 

O'REILLY:  And then...

O'REILLY:  Don't do that by taking their clothes off and  putting them in piles and standing there with a stupid grin on your face. 

KARPINSKI:  That's correct.  But I can also say with great confidence that those MPs did not wake up one morning and decide to do those things.  It just wouldn't occur that way. 

O'REILLY:  But they did them.

KARPINSKI:  Yes, they did.

O'REILLY:  And they didn't seem to me to be afraid of getting caught.  And that usually reflects -- now, you're at the top of the chain, but it usually reflects that mid management wasn't keeping an eye on these people.  Am I wrong?

KARPINSKI:  Or the people that were responsible for keeping an eye on them were perhaps participating or encouraging. 

O'REILLY:  You're talking about military intelligence now?

KARPINSKI:  The -- because they were responsible for the interrogation operations.  And that's where these photographs were taken. 

O'REILLY:  Are you telling me that military intelligence in the  Iraq theater is corrupt and do this all the time?

KARPINSKI:  No, I'm not telling you that, but I'm telling you that they were under tremendous pressure to get more actionable  intelligence and information from the detainees. 

O'REILLY:  And because they're under that pressure, they abuse the detainees on a consistent basis?

KARPINSKI:  Well, the photographs would indicate that, yes.  And now I'm not...

O'REILLY:  Then why didn't you know anything about it?

KARPINSKI:  At that particular time when they suggest that these photographs were taken in the November time frame, the detention operations, the Abu Ghraib prison was no longer under my control.

It -- because it was principally an interrogation and an  intelligence operation out  there for interrogation, it was transferred by official fragmentary order, FRAGO, under the control of the M.I. brigade. 

O'REILLY:  I understand they were in charge of the intelligence and the interrogation, but you were still in charge of the overall  prison?

KARPINSKI:  No, sir, I wasn't. 

O'REILLY:  When did you leave that charge?

KARPINSKI:  The FRAGO was cut approximately the 10th or the 12th of November.  And there is an official record... 

O'REILLY:  All right.  So you let the 10th or the 12th of November.  But some of these pictures took place before that.  Some of this stuff took place before that. 

KARPINSKI:  Allegedly.  I do not know what dates the  photographs were taken.  However, I can say the 322nd military police company was not at the Abu Ghraib during all of their assignment.  Primarily they were at another location under another  battalion. 

O'REILLY:  All right, so you're telling me you didn't know anything about any of -- you heard any rumors about it?  When you did your inspection, nobody said anything?

KARPINSKI:  I never -- I -- and I did go into those cell blocks.  I was in many of the cell blocks town at Abu Ghraib and in all of our... 

O'REILLY:  And you never saw any of this?

KARPINSKI:  I never saw -- and certainly not.  Had I even had a hint or a suggestion or a question, I would have investigated it  immediately. 

O'REILLY:  All right.  Now this is what General Antonio Taguba, the guy who investigated you wrote.  And the whole thing says about you, quote, "What I found particularly disturbing in her testimony, [O'Reilly: your testimony, general], was their complete unwillingness to either understand or accept that many of the problems inherent in the 800th M.P.Brigade were caused or exacerbated by poor leadership.

And the refusal of her command to both establish and enforce basic standards and principles among its soldiers.

That's a death sentence for you in the Army.

KARPINSKI:  Yes, sir, it is.  And I responded to that finding to -- when I had an opportunity to respond to his comments.  And that is without foundation.

This is not a military police leadership issue.  This is a chain of command leadership issue.  And the chain of command is the military  intelligence.  I am not running from my responsibility in this.  Those military police personnel were in a company under my control, under my brigade.  And I accept responsibility.  And I am appalled that they would do such a thing.

And I recognized some of those faces in the photographs. And it sickened me. And it would again whenever I see those photographs as it does all of us.

But they were -- they didn't come up with those ideas on their own. They were somehow encouraged or coached or instructed on what to do.  And if it worked well with six, then perhaps it would work  twice as well with 12 or 10 times as well with 120. 

O'REILLY:  Do you have any idea why they would scapegoat you on this?

KARPINSKI:  In my opinion, they looked at this opportunity to look for a disposable commander. 

O'REILLY:  Since you're a reservist. 

KARPINSKI:  I'm a reservist.  I'm going back to a civilian world. And this won't affect my career.  I don't know how they could draw that conclusion, but I was not assigned to CJTF-7 either.  I was -- I remained assigned to a different headquarters.

O'REILLY:  Last question for you.  Who's the villain here?

KARPINSKI:  I think it's probably shared responsibility.  And the villain is somebody who was designing those techniques and telling the military intelligence command and pressuring them, in fact, to get better information and get more information.  I don't know who that individual is.  But there had to be somebody who was telling them you need to do a better job of this and you need to get more actionable intelligence. 

O'REILLY:  So it's either Army intelligence, CIA that are  involved?

KARPINSKI:  Other government agencies, yes. 

O'REILLY:  And then there were private contractors also. 

KARPINSKI:  Right.  That were primarily interpreters. 

O'REILLY:  So there's one big mess. 

KARPINSKI:  Well, I think there was instructions from many sources.  Yes.

O'REILLY:  Is it going to get worse?

KARPINSKI:  It is not going to get worse because now it's been, you know, come out in, you know, in great attention with these  photographs. 

O'REILLY:  Do you think this is it?

KARPINSKI:  I think that now it has the proper attention. 

O'REILLY:  But do you think they are more towards your photographs and more horror stories and maybe deaths and things like that?

KARPINSKI:  No, I don't believe there is. 

O'REILLY:  OK.  All right, general, we really appreciate you coming on and giving us your side of the story.  We want to be fair to everybody here.  And you're welcome anytime to come back, OK?

Counselor, I'm sorry we didn't get to you, but I think the general made her  case.  And we wanted everybody to know what she said.

LT. COL. NEIL PUCKETT, BRIG. GEN. KARPINSKI'S ATTORNEY:  Thank you, Bill.

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