The Washington Post reports that the recent release of Justice Department [Office of Legal Affairs] memos [addressed to the CIA] authorizing the use of “harsh interrogation techniques” has given Army Pvt. Charles A. Graner Jr and other soldiers [including Lynndie R. England] “new reason to argue that they were made scapegoats for policies approved at high levels. They also contend that the government’s refusal to acknowledge those polices when Graner and others were tried undermined their legal defenses. Graner remains locked up at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, about halfway through a 10-year prison sentence for detainee abuse, assault and dereliction of duty. His lawyer said this week that he is drafting appeals arguments centered largely on the revelations in the memos and a newly released congressional investigation into the interrogation practices … When the photos of detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq surfaced in 2004, U.S. officials portrayed … Graner as the ringleader of a few low-ranking ‘bad apples’ who illegally put naked Iraqi detainees in painful positions, shackled them to cell doors with women’s underwear on their heads and menaced them with military dogs … Graner and other defendants — including Lynndie England, who was photographed holding a naked detainee by a leash — were blocked by military judges from calling senior U.S. officials to the stand at their trials in 2004 and 2005. The government would not acknowledge any policy or procedure that could have led to what the world saw in the photographs. Some of what the guards at Abu Ghraib did, such as throwing hooded detainees into walls, echoes tactics authorized in the Justice Department memos, such as ‘walling’, in which interrogators were allowed to push detainees in CIA custody into a flexible wall designed to make a loud noise … Charles Gittins, a Virginia lawyer who represents Graner, said he has been fuming since reading the memos. He said he has long believed that there was no way Graner and the other Army Reservists invented techniques such as stress positions, leashing and the use of dogs, and he says the documents confirmed his suspicions … Gittins said he hopes to convince the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces that top officials improperly influenced the court and kept evidence from the defense. According to the memos and congressional documents, U.S. officials reverse-engineered techniques from U.S. survival training courses designed to teach troops how to endure capture and interrogation. Justice and Defense department officials approved the use of dogs, nudity, stress positions, sleep deprivation and other techniques. Those tactics, according to the documents, were put into use at the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in the CIA’s secret prisons, and eventually were adopted in Afghanistan and Iraq after then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld’s approval was forwarded from officials at Guantanamo to Capt. Carolyn Wood, a military intelligence officer. She told investigators that she then sought approvals in Afghanistan for the tactics and brought them with her to Iraq and Abu Ghraib. Senior officers in Iraq also approved the methods there”.
Whatever the similarities — and there are many — the Washington Post article notes that “the Abu Ghraib photographs also depicted some actions, such as punching or stomping, that bear no relation to the techniques described in the memos, as well as others that were improvised by guards, such as forcing detainees to masturbate or to form human pyramids while naked”.
This article can be read in full here.
Some of the comments on this article argue that, regardless of orders emanating from above, the Army prison guards were nonetheless still guilty of abuse and torture: lrobby1 commented, for example, that “Private Graner was brutally sadistic toward the Iraqi detainees. There are videos on Google here that show him torturing prisoners. The other guards were also guilty of horrifically abusing military detainees and they should all be punished. Lawyers for the DOJ, including Alberto Gonzales, legitimized the torture of military detainees and provided justification for their abuse. But neither the legal memos nor the authorizations by Rumsfeld and others approved of urinating on prisoners, pulling out pubic and chest hairs, sexual molestation, electrocution, pyramiding detainees, sodomizing prisoners or dragging them naked on concrete floors … no one knows exactly how many people were disappeared into blacksites and ultimately killed. While I still believe that a thorough investigation of those involved in the authorization of torture should be conducted, lawyers should be disbarred and Bush Administration officials should be prosecuted, I also believe that Pvt. Graner and the other guards were justifiably punished for their own actions”.