Published March 11, 2005
WASHINGTON – A boy no older than 11 was among the children held by the Army at Iraq's Abu Ghraib (search) prison, the former U.S. commander of the facility told a general investigating abuses at the prison.
Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski (search) did not say what happened to the boy or why he was imprisoned, according to a transcript of her interview with Maj. Gen. George Fay that was released by the American Civil Liberties Union (search).
The transcript of the May 2004 interview was among hundreds of pages of documents about Iraq prisoner abuses the group made public Thursday after getting them under the Freedom of Information Act.
Karpinski, who was in charge of Abu Ghraib from July to November 2003, said she often visited the prison's youngest inmates. One boy "looked like he was 8-years-old," Karpinski said.
"He told me he was almost 12," Karpinski said. "He told me his brother was there with him, but he really wanted to see his mother, could he please call his mother. He was crying."
Military officials have acknowledged that some juvenile prisoners had been held at Abu Ghraib, a massive prison built by Saddam Hussein's government outside Baghdad. But the transcript is the first documented evidence of a child no older than 11 being held prisoner.
Military officials have said that no juvenile prisoners were subject to the abuses captured in photographs from Abu Ghraib. But some of the men shown being stripped naked and humiliated had been accused of raping a 14-year-old prisoner.
The new documents offer rare details about the children whom the U.S. military has held in Iraq. Karpinski said the Army began holding women and children in a high-security cellblock at Abu Ghraib in the summer of 2003 because the facility was better than lockups in Baghdad where the youths had been held.
The documents include statements from six witnesses who said three interrogators and a civilian interpreter at Abu Ghraib got drunk one night and took a 17-year-old female prisoner from her cell. The four men forced the girl to expose her breasts and kissed her, the reports said. The witnesses — whose names were blacked out of the documents given to the ACLU — said those responsible were not punished.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman has said three soldiers were given "nonjudicial punishment" for making a female prisoner expose her breasts. Nonjudicial punishments are sanctions short of a court-martial, such as being fined or reduced in rank.
Another soldier said in January 2004 that troops poured water and smeared mud on the detained 17-year-old son of an Iraqi general and "broke" the general by letting him watch his son shiver in the cold.
On another subject, Karpinski said she had seen written orders to hold a prisoner that the CIA had captured without keeping records. The documents released by the ACLU quote an unnamed Army officer at Abu Ghraib as saying military intelligence officers and the CIA worked out a written agreement on how to handle unreported detainees. An Army report issued last September said investigators could not find any copies of any such written agreement.
The Pentagon has acknowledged holding up to 100 "ghost detainees," keeping the prisoners off the books and away from humanitarian investigators of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he authorized it because the prisoners were "enemy combatants" not entitled to prisoner of war protections.
The ACLU has sued Rumsfeld on behalf of four Iraqis and four Afghans who say they were tortured at U.S. military facilities. Rumsfeld and his spokesmen have repeatedly said that the defense secretary and his aides never authorized or condoned any abuses.
Six enlisted soldiers have pleaded guilty to military charges for their roles in abuses at Abu Ghraib, and Pvt. Charles Graner Jr. was convicted at a court-martial this year and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Karpinski, one of the few generals to be criticized in Army detainee reports for poor leadership, quoted several senior generals in Iraq as making callous statements about prisoners.
Karpinski said Maj. Gen. Walter Wodjakowski, then the No. 2 Army general in Iraq, told her in the summer of 2003 not to release more prisoners, even if they were innocent.
"I don't care if we're holding 15,000 innocent civilians. We're winning the war," Karpinski said Wodjakowski told her. She said she replied: "Not inside the wire, you're not, sir."