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Inside Iraq's Abu Ghraib Prison

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:  Continuing now with our top story tonight, the repercussions of the Iraq torture situation.

Joining us from Washington is investigative reporter Seymour Hersh (search), who became famous during the Vietnam war; you may remember his expose of the My Lai (search) atrocities. He has written a major article about the Iraq torture situation in this week's issue of "The New Yorker (search) magazine."

All right, you just heard General Karpinski.  Do you believe what she is saying?

SEYMOUR HERSH, "THE NEW YORKER":  Well, I could just tell you what Gen Antonio Taguba (search) said in his report, which is complicated because he said basically among other things she ran one of the worst brigades he's ever seen. People didn't salute, people dressed casually. Officers were moved around without orders. They didn't keep records.  They -- she said that this was not a prison full of hardened, you know, soldiers caught in war.  These are full of civilians.

He said upwards of 60 percent of the people in the prison had  nothing to do with, no bad feelings toward America whatsoever. They simply were caught in a random roadside check or they were  snatched off the street. They should have been processed under the Geneva Convention (search). -- Taguba said they should have been processed.  We should have gotten rid of the good guys from the bad guys.  There was no control, no paperwork.  They had all sorts of problems that she would -- he really gave her [a bad review].

O'REILLY:  All right.  But there's a difference between being a poor administrator, as this -- your -- and knowing about torture and looking the other way.

Now, I grant you and I challenged the general.  I said look, in these pictures, these soldiers didn't look like they had any fear of  anybody coming down on them.  I mean, they looked like they were  having a rollicking good time.  And that tells me there was a  problem in management, whether it's middle management or upper management, I don't know.

Now I also know that the general, as you do, was not a trained jail warden.  She's a reservist and got thrown in there into this position. But I think for the country's sake, we need to know if this scandal is going to get any worse because we're taking a beating worldwide, And if so, who is the evildoer here?

HERSH:  First of all, it's going to get much worse.  This kind of stuff was much more widespread.  I can tell you just from the phone calls I've had in the last 24 hours, even more, there are other photos out there.  There are many more photos even inside that unit.  There are videotapes of stuff that you wouldn't want to mention on national  television that was done.  There was a lot of problems. 

There was a special women's section. There were young boys in there. There were things done to young boys that were videotaped. It's much worse. And the Maj. Gen. Taguba was  very tough about it. He said this place was riddled with violent, awful actions against prisoners. 

O'REILLY:  All right.  So we're going to see in the weeks to come more pictures and videotapes of atrocities against Iraqis?  Is that what we can look forward to seeing?

HERSH:  Mr. O'Reilly, this is a generation -- you know back -- you and I in our days, if we had something, you know, we came back from war.  We would take our pictures and hide them behind the socks in the drawer and look at them once in a while.

This is a generation that sends stuff on CDs, sends it around.  ome kid right now is negotiating with some European magazine. -- You know, I can't say that for sure, but it's there. -- It's out there.  And the Army knows it.

O'REILLY:  Boy.

HERSH:  They have tried to recover some of the CD discs from computers, individual computers.  But obviously, you can't stop this... 

O'REILLY:  All right.  Well, the damage to the country obviously is just immeasurable.  But reading your article in "The New Yorker." I just get the feeling that the Army, when they heard about it, started action almost immediately.  It wasn't a cover-up situation.  Or did I read your article wrong?

HERSH:  This guy Taguba is brilliant.  He could have made a living doing -- it's a credit to the Army that somebody with that kind of integrity would write this kind of -- it's 53-page report. 

O'REILLY:  OK, but Sanchez the commander put him in charge fairly quickly.  They mobilized fairly quickly.

HERSH:  No, look, I don't want to ruin your evening, but the fact of the matter is it was the third investigation. There had been two other investigations.

One of them was done by a major general who was involved in Guantanamo, General Miller.  And it's very classified, but I can tell you that he was recommending exactly doing the kind of things that happened in that prison, basically.  He wanted to cut the lines. He wanted to put the military intelligence in control of the prison. 

O'REILLY:  All right.  We'll have more with Seymour Hersh in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'REILLY:  Continuing now with investigative reporter Seymour Hersh from Washington, who has the cover story in "The New Yorker" magazine about the Iraq torture situation.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but what I see unfolding here from what you told me and then General Karpinski told me is that there is a tension between the interrogators who wanted to find out by you know, using means that are dubious information, and the military police who basically who objected to some of these techniques.

But you can understand that like Vietnam, you have people shooting at Americans, blowing them up, and then running into  mosques and hiding behind children and all of that.  So how far do we go to get the information that protects our own troops?

That I guess is the essential question that led to this scandal, correct?

HERSH:  Yes, but one of the things, the problem you have, of course you have to go if you're dealing with hardened Al Qaeda.  There's not much mercy.  And none of us would have much mercy.

The problem here is they were picking on people that they hadn't made any differentiation on.  They didn't know.  And you know, and the kind of stuff that was going on, Mr. O'Reilly, when you take an Arab man and you make him walk naked in front of other men, this is the greatest shame they can have.  And then you have them simulate homosexual activities. You have young women and young  men, the women in particular, videotaping and photographing them doing this. This is actually a form of torture and coercion. 

O'REILLY: No, there's no question about it. And there's no question. There's no justification for it. But how do you wind up in a prison if you're just innocent and didn't do anything?  See, our commanders and our embedded reporters tell me that they're way too busy to be rounding up guys in the marketplace and throwing them into prison.

So I'm going to dispute your contention that we had a lot of people in there with just no rap sheets at all, who were just picked up for no reason at all.  The people who were in the prison were suspected of being either Al Qaeda or terrorists who were killing Americans and  knew something about it. 

HERSH:  The problem is that it isn't my contention. It's the contention of Maj. Gen. Taguba, who was appointed by General Sanchez to do the investigation.

It's his contention, in his report, that more than 60 percent of the people in that prison, detainees, civilians, had nothing to do with the war effort. 

O'REILLY:  How did they get there then?  Because I...

HERSH:  Because how do they get into the prison?

I'll tell you how they get there. You bust the guy that doesn't have anything to do. You humiliate him.  You break him down. You  interrogate him. He gives up the name of you want to know who is an insurgent, who is Al Qaeda? He gives up any name he knows. 

O'REILLY:  Do you really believe that U.S. forces were sweeping Baghdad, and the others -- you're just picking people up off  the street for no reason?

HERSH:  Well, inevitably you get people in a sweep that have nothing to with what you're looking for. 

O'REILLY:  All right, now that's true.  But to the number of...

HERSH:  Of course.

O'REILLY:  ...50 percent, I'm not buying that.  I mean, I could be wrong.  But I'm going on the basis of our reporters in the field.  And I'm asking them, have you ever seen any of these -- no.  These guys are way to busy.  They got stuff to do all day long.  They're not sweeping people up.

HERSH:  We're talking about last fall, when things weren't as acute as they are now, certainly it's a terrible situation right now. And everybody -- nobody is sweeping anything. They're in forced protection.

O'REILLY:  Right.

HERSH:  But last fall, things were much calmer. People were being swept. This did happen.

O'REILLY:  All right.

HERSH:  And I could tell you something else. Let me just say this. I believe the services have a -- look, the kids did bad things. But the notion that it's all just these kids [doing these things]...  The officers are "in loco parentis" with these children. We send our children to war. And we have officers like that general, whose job is to be mother and father to these kids, to keep them out of trouble.  The idea of watching these  pictures, it's not only a failure of the kids, it's a failure of everybody in the command structure. 

O'REILLY:  Well, yes, it's the failure of the supervisors of those soldiers to create an environment of fear so they wouldn't do that.  See, it's just appalling to me that they would take this so casually. 

One more question and I will let you go here.  Maj. Gen. Don Rider (search) is the chief law enforcement officer of the Army.  All right?  He went in and also looked at this situation.  And in a report said yes, we have a lot of trouble, but didn't red flag the kind of trouble that you reported on.  Why?

HERSH:  I just don't know because Don Rider has a great reputation among investigators in the CID, the criminal investigative  division. They adore him. He's got a great reputation, but General Taguba again in his report really went after him in a way that one... 

O'REILLY: Yes, he just said he wasn't tough enough on the initial report. 

HERSH: He blew it. 

O'REILLY: All right, Mr. Hersh, we hope if you get other information, hard information, you will come here and tell us about it after writing for "The New Yorker." Your article is very interesting.  We do recommend it and we thank you for your time, sir.

HERSH:  Sure.

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