This is a partial transcript from On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, May 4, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.
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COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Yes, I am deeply concerned at the horrible image this has sent around the world. But at the same time, I want to remind the world that this is a small number of troops who acted in an illegal, improper manner.
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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Brigadier General Janis Karpinski is the U.S. military officer at the center of the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad. She joins us here in Washington with her attorney, former U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel Neal Puckett.
Welcome both of you. General, I want to get the facts out on the table first. When did you go to Iraq?
BRIG. GEN. JANIS KARPINSKI, 800TH MILITARY POLICE COMMANDER: I left the United States for Iraq in the middle part of June, late June.
VAN SUSTEREN: And what was your post or what was your job when you got to Iraq?
KARPINSKI: I was waiting to take command of the 800th MP Brigade. And our responsibility up in Baghdad was to restore, refurbish, operate the correctional facilities throughout Iraq.
VAN SUSTEREN: And did that include Abu Ghraib prison?
KARPINSKI: It did. But that facility had been heavily looted, like all of them throughout Iraq.
VAN SUSTEREN: When was the first time you actually saw that facility, took a walk through?
KARPINSKI: Probably third week of July, the second or third week of July was the first time I saw it. And it was -- we had an MP company out there, a fine MP company, a National Guard MP company out of Nevada. And they were holding the ground so it wasn't looted any further. But when I walked through with that company commander, we walked through knee-deep rubble, glass, rebar, concrete. It had been completely looted but not demolished. The wall was still intact.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, there are about 3,800 detainees there at some particular point. When did that number sort of -- when did we put 38,000 in there?
KARPINSKI: Well, it was incrementally increased, of course. But as cellblock facilities, capacity became open at Abu Ghraib, like in all of our facilities, we transferred detainees out of what we call the wire, an EPW template, basically, triple-strand concertina wire, an outside prison camp, if you will, detainee camp. And we transferred them into the hard facilities as they were restored and reopened.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. When did Abu Ghraib no longer become part of your responsibility?
KARPINSKI: About the second week of November. A fragmentary order, a FRAGO was cut and transferred the responsibility for Abu Ghraib from the 800th MP Brigade to the MI brigade commander.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. You understand that there were allegations of abuse. You've seen the pictures, right?
KARPINSKI: Yes, I have.
VAN SUSTEREN: OK. Do you know if any of those pictures were taken before the second week of November?
KARPINSKI: I don't know when they were taken. But I know when that particular MP company arrived at Abu Ghraib. They were not there the entire time. They were transferred to Abu Ghraib from another location, where they had spent most of their time while they were deployed to Iraq.
VAN SUSTEREN: And that was your brigade.
KARPINSKI: That was one of my companies under one of my battalions, yes.
VAN SUSTEREN: OK. You've seen the pictures? Do you recognize anybody in the pictures?
KARPINSKI: Some of them look familiar to me, yes, because they were out there, and I visited those facilities, and perhaps in passing or shaking a hand or something, yes, I recognize them as MPs.
VAN SUSTEREN: And do you know why they did this?
KARPINSKI: I can't even imagine. It's still hard for me to believe that soldiers, anybody in uniform -- anybody -- would perform such acts and take pictures of themselves almost enjoying it.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think it was the military police acting on their own, or were they taking orders from someone?
KARPINSKI: It's highly unlikely, and impossible for me to believe, that they created this on their own or suddenly woke up one morning and said, I've got a great idea. I think they were given instructions to do certain things. In their own statements, they were praised for getting the detainees to talk. We're getting better information now. And maybe somebody instructed them to turn it up a little bit. So if it worked effectively for six, would it work more effectively for 30 or 60.
VAN SUSTEREN: Neal, you're her lawyer. Is there is any way to determine whether or not these acts of abuse occurred before the second week of November, when this prison no longer was under her command?
COL. NEAL PUCKETT, ATTORNEY FOR BRIG. GEN. KARPINSKI: Great question. And it actually doesn't matter whether the prison itself was under her command because all interrogation operations behind closed doors in that cellblock 1-A and 1-B were under the exclusive control, before and after she was the commander, of the military intelligence brigade.
VAN SUSTEREN: And that didn't fall under her chain of command?
PUCKETT: It never fell under her chain of command.
VAN SUSTEREN: But the people who are depicted in the pictures fell under her command.
PUCKETT: That's correct, but they took all their instructions from military intelligence interrogators, who instructed them to bring the prisoners to and away from those interrogation facilities, and sometimes perhaps to soften them up or to prepare them -- bring them back naked this time, leave them naked tonight, don't give them any clothes. We think that escalated over a period of time until it ended up what we see in the pictures.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, who was in charge of military intelligence? Who would have been your comparable that the time?
KARPINSKI: Well, there was a separate command. It was an active component headquarters. It was an MI brigade commanded by a colonel. And they were full-time located on the grounds of Abu Ghraib prison because the focus of the effort of Abu Ghraib prison transitioned during September, October, November timeframe to principally and primarily interrogation operations.
VAN SUSTEREN: So let me get this straight. Interrogation didn't fall under your command, but it was executed by some who fell under your command.
KARPINSKI: The interrogation operations did not fall under my command. That is a different lane completely. That belongs to the military intelligence community. We did detention operations. In other words, we still secured the cells where we gave them food, we got them medical attentions, got them to the showers, to the latrines, whatever was necessary -- routine detention operations.
VAN SUSTEREN: That came under your command.
KARPINSKI: Yes, it did.
Neal, let me get this straight. Your client, General Karpinski, was in charge of military police, who have no authority to do interrogations, right?
PUCKETT: In fact, they're specifically prohibited from participating in interrogations, and that's the question to be asked here, is why were they involved in an interrogation process controlled solely by military intelligence personnel?
VAN SUSTEREN: OK, so General, the military intelligence, which is doing the interrogation, was actually overseen by a Colonel Pappas (ph), right?
KARPINSKI: That's correct.
VAN SUSTEREN: Where is Colonel Pappas? Because I heard your name floating around all the time, but I'm not hearing his.
KARPINSKI: I do not know. I don't know where he is. He was in Iraq the last time I was in Iraq, but I don't know where he is now.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And over him was Major General Barbara Fast (ph). And so she, no doubt, is giving directions or in the chain of command of Colonel Pappas who's in the military intelligence that does the interrogation. Where is she?
KARPINSKI: I don't know where she is, either. I understand that she's no longer in Iraq.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why is this attention all on you? I mean, you know, you're military police. You're supposed to take care of the detainee, you're not supposed to do the interrogation. Why do we hear your name all the time?
KARPINSKI: Well, I have the same question. And it seems to be intentional, particularly when the photos were initially released here in the United States and widely broadcast. My name was the only name that was being mentioned in conjunction with any of it. And I was not relieved. I was not suspended. I was not sacked, as one report...
VAN SUSTEREN: So you're in good standing in the military?
KARPINSKI: I am. I'm on leave, waiting to go back and join my unit in Uniondale on the first weekend of the drill.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you have any responsibility in these in the acts that are depicted in the photos?
KARPINSKI: Not necessarily in the acts, certainly, but...
VAN SUSTEREN: I know. I don't mean that. But I mean, like, should you have gone through this? Should you have seen this happen? Should you have stopped it? I mean, did you look the other way? Did you not go through the facility?
KARPINSKI: I did go through the facility. I visited them when the transfer of the authority for the operation, the overall operations at Abu Ghraib -- when the fragmentary order was cut, when the FRAGO was cut, it allowed me more flexibility in getting out to my other facilities as often as I was getting out to Abu Ghraib, as opposed to going out to Abu Ghraib sometimes and sacrificing time to the other locations. So I had 15 other locations that I could visit, soldiers all over the place doing a fine job. I visited Abu Ghraib as often as I visited the other locations then. And I did go into cell block 1-A and 1-B. Every time I was out at Abu Ghraib prison? Absolutely not, because I had compounds holding 500 detainees. There were 10 days during the fall it rained, and those compounds were suffering with water collecting in the compounds. So...
VAN SUSTEREN: So Neal, I mean, first of all, we don't know if these acts of abuse occurred before mid-November, when this order came out, in which this prison was no longer a part of your client, the general's, command, right? We don't know that. That doesn't...
PUCKETT: We're unsure of the dates.
VAN SUSTEREN: One thing we do know, though, is that she's military police, and they don't do interrogation.
VAN SUSTEREN: We know that. And we know that there's this other chain of command, whose name -- we don't know where the people are -- Colonel Pappas -- we don't hear his name, at least right now, and we don't hear General -- Major General Barbara Fast, right?
PUCKETT: That's correct.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you have questions about them?
PUCKETT: I do have questions about that, but not after I read the Taguba investigation, which directs the investigating officer to investigate the military police brigade specifically. It doesn't say, Investigating officer, go out and do an investigation into the circumstances surrounding these offenses. It says, Investigate the shortfalls, basically -- I'm paraphrasing -- the shortcomings of the 800th MP brigade.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is your client being blamed for this, in part? I mean...
VAN SUSTEREN: And is it justified?
PUCKETT: It's absolutely unjustified, and I think conclusions were reached before an investigation was done, and they didn't look at what was really happening and who was in control. They just said, Well, we see some pictures of some military police here. It must be General Karpinski's problem.
VAN SUSTEREN: How does that happen? I mean, we're hearing a thorough investigation is being done of this. I mean, this has huge ramifications. I mean, granted, it's only a few, six or seven, who are responsible, but huge ramifications for all our troops there who are doing a terrific job fighting for our country.
PUCKETT: Well, thank goodness, it appear that now more complete investigations are being done. That was the problem with this investigation that named her. It was inaccurate, and the facts didn't support the conclusions, and it was directed almost solely at her.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why do you think? Why do you think you're getting it? I mean, tell me why is it General Karpinski?
VAN SUSTEREN: Did you make waves?
KARPINSKI: If you're a female, if you're an aggressive female and you make the rank of general officer, you're selected for that rank, and you aggressively seek to go and join your unit already deployed in a combat zone, a lot of people would think that that's akin to making waves. That's a passion for doing what I love to do, serving in the military and taking care of soldiers.
VAN SUSTEREN: I thought at one point, I read that you took some responsibility for this.
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, what is your responsibility? I mean, what did you...
KARPINSKI: Those are MPs. Some of these people that I can recognize in those photos are military police personnel. They belong to a company subordinate to one of the battalions surborded (ph) to my headquarters. So yes, I am responsible. I don't know why they acted that way. I don't have those answers.
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you think they had orders to do that?
KARPINSKI: Yes, I do.
VAN SUSTEREN: So you don't think this was just something the military police decided to do. You think they came down from military intelligence.
KARPINSKI: I believe that they were coached.
VAN SUSTEREN: And so now what happens to your career?
KARPINSKI: Well, we have to see how this falls out. We have to see if they're going to do anymore blaming, if they're going to really focus on what they should be focusing on, these acts and these individuals, because we will address them and it will be -- it will be fairly resolved.
VAN SUSTEREN: And that's what we look for, a fair resolution. Anyway, General, nice to see you. Good luck.
KARPINSKI: Thank you very much.
VAN SUSTEREN: Colonel, thank you, as well.
PUCKETT: Thank you, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: Neal, thank you.
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