BERLIN – A U.S. Army sergeant who gave an insider's view of Abu Ghraib (search) prison to the media has lost his security clearance and has been disciplined by the military for speaking out, he told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Sgt. Samuel Provance (search) said that although soldiers he served with in Iraq were treating him as a pariah, he would not change a thing if given a second chance.
"My soldiers who were at Abu Ghraib are so scared now they're not even talking to me anymore — I'm like a villain, but would I do it again? Of course I would, because I stand behind what I said," Provance said in a telephone interview from Heidelberg, Germany, where his military intelligence unit is based.
"I knew what was being reported was not true."
Provance, 30, is with the 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion, a unit of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade (search), which has been implicated in the abuse at Abu Ghraib. The scandal broke after photographs were made public of U.S. soldiers abusing prisoners, sparking worldwide outrage.
Unlike early reports suggesting the abuses were failings by individual soldiers, Provance told the AP and other media outlets that interrogators at the prison viewed sleep deprivation, stripping inmates naked and threatening them with dogs as normal ways of dealing with "the enemy."
Provance, who was in charge of a computer network at the prison for five months ending in February, said he had not seen abuse himself but was told about it by interrogators.
Provance, of Williamsburg, Va., was notified by the Army that he was an official witness in the case after the scandal broke, and on May 14, his company commander ordered him not to talk with anyone about what he had seen, he said.
Instead, he decided he would give interviews to set the record straight.
"I wanted to make sure I got out what I could in what time I had before I was silenced at a higher level," he said. "I'm standing behind my First Amendment right to free speech, and it's a matter of does the constitution have more weight than a company level commander."
On Friday, Provance was called before his battalion commander, who yanked his clearance to work at top secret sites and administratively "flagged" him, meaning he cannot receive honors, awards or seek promotion until the status is removed.
A spokesman for V Corps, which oversees Provance's unit, said he knew of no disciplinary action, but that the sergeant had been ordered not to talk to the media.
"The last word I got is that he was given an order not to talk with anyone about the case while the investigation was ongoing, and if any type of action was levied against him, it would be a result of him not obeying that order," said Lt. Col. Kevin Gainer. "It could compromise the whole investigation by putting out information and maybe influencing others."
Provance said he has been in the Army for five years and would like to stay, but that it might not be possible.
"I like the Army, the Army is a great organization, it's just there are individuals within it that screw it up," he said. "I would like to believe I have a future in the army, but I don't know what's going to come out of this."