Sleep Deprivation Allegedly Ordered at Abu Ghraib

Army guards at the Abu Ghraib (search) prison in Iraq kept some prisoners awake for as much as 20 hours a day at the direction of private contractors and military intelligence soldiers, a private interrogator told investigators.

The statement from Steven A. Stefanowicz (search) conflicts with accounts by some top generals, who contend prison guards were barred from such active participation in interrogations.

Stefanowicz also said he may have heard, but did not see, some military police physically abusing a prisoner. Otherwise, he said, he did not see any abuses inside Abu Ghraib like those documented in photos that became public this spring.

Stefanowicz, whose own veracity has been questioned in the official prison investigation, told Army investigators in a sworn statement that Col. Thomas Pappas, the military intelligence chief at Abu Ghraib, personally approved of the sleep deprivation tactics.

Prison guards were given copies of written interrogation plans for each inmate, which were prepared by three-person teams comprised of contractors or military intelligence soldiers, Stefanowicz said in the sworn statement obtained by The Associated Press.

Those plans specifically placed one detainee on a "sleep/meal management program" that involved letting the prisoner sleep only in small blocks of time totaling no more than four hours out of every 24, up to a total of three days. The prisoner then would be allowed 12 hours of sleep, Stefanowicz told investigators.

"The MPs are allowed to do what is necessary to keep the detainee awake in the allotted period of time as long as it adheres to approved rules of engagement and proper treatment of the detainee," Stefanowicz said, adding he never ordered MPs to assault a prisoner.

Stefanowicz's statement conflicts with congressional testimony by some top generals and statements by Stefanowicz' employer, CACI International Inc., that private contractors and military intelligence operatives never gave guards orders to take actions that would assist interrogations.

Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Mill (search)er, now in charge of U.S. prisons in Iraq, and former Iraq commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez (search) have said their orders allowed military police to offer information to help interrogators, but they were forbidden to take active roles, such as denying sleep.

CACI President and CEO J.P. "Jack" London has said CACI's contract did not allow its workers to tell MPs or any other soldiers what to do. London has said Army officials have praised Stefanowicz's work and never complained about him.

"In connection with inquiries into our operations in Iraq, we have been assured that our employees had no involvement in any inappropriate activity," CACI said in a news release Sunday.

A Pentagon spokesman did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment Monday night.

Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba (search), who oversaw the investigation that documented the abuses at Abu Ghraib, had access to Stefanowicz's statement before writing his report. Taguba agreed with the assertion that military intelligence officials directed the prison guards on activities but disputed Stefanowicz on the issue of whether he saw, engaged in or encouraged abuses. "He clearly knew his instructions equated to physical abuse," Taguba said of Stefanowicz.

Stefanowicz's lawyer, Henry Hockeimer Jr., said Monday that his client is innocent of wrongdoing and he has gotten no indication his client will face criminal charges.

Six enlisted military police soldiers are facing charges for abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Another has pleaded guilty. Photos from the prison show prisoners being beaten, stripped naked, sexually humiliated and intimidated by dogs.

A 2002 Justice Department memo from Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee told the White House that techniques such as sleep deprivation and isolation "may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" but don't meet the legal definition of torture.

In his sworn statement to Army investigators, Stefanowicz described one possible instance of abuse on Dec. 20, after he, a military intelligence sergeant and private interpreter John B. Israel interrogated a prisoner in a stairwell. The Taguba report also names Israel, an Iraqi native and naturalized U.S. citizen who worked for a subcontractor to Titan Corp., as possibly being involved in abuses.

Stefanowicz said he walked ahead of two MPs as they took the prisoner back to his isolation cell. When the guards put the prisoner in the "segregation hole," Stefanowicz said, "the sound of the detainee falling or possibly being struck was heard."

Stefanowicz said he and the other interrogation team members confronted the MPs when they returned to an office. One of the MPs was unhappy and agitated when questioned if abuse had occurred, he said.