The Iraq journal of Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II, penned in careful handwriting and mailed home as he feared becoming a scapegoat for egregious military misdeeds, paints a nightmarish picture of overworked, undertrained guards coping with hostile Iraqi prisoners and using tactics that flagrantly violated international rules for treatment of detainees.
If true, the 37-year-old reservist's statements are a devastating indictment of a U.S. military that toppled a brutal dictator only to be accused of torturing Iraqis in a prison, Abu Ghraib, notorious for similar and worse horrors during Saddam Hussein's rule.
Frederick wrote his 10 pages of dated, diary-style entries and sent them to four relatives as the Army prepared to charge him with assault and other crimes. His account presumably seeks to minimize his responsibility for the abuse.
But his journal is replete with dates, names and grisly details - from the cover-up of the death of a prisoner in custody to descriptions of detainees left naked in chilly isolation cells for days. And it accords with complaints lodged for months by the human rights group Amnesty International, which called yesterday for a "fully independent, impartial and public investigation" of prisoners' treatment throughout Iraq.
In its most chilling lines, Frederick's journal describes the death in November of an Iraqi described as an "OGA prisoner" - an abbreviation for "Other Government Agency," military jargon for the CIA and other nonmilitary agencies.
"They stressed him out so bad that the man passed away," Frederick writes. The corpse was packed in ice and later prepared to suggest falsely that the prisoner had died under medical care: "The next day the medics came in and put his body on a stretcher, placed a fake I.V. [intravenous drip] in his arm and took him away. This OGA [prisoner] was never processed and therefore never had a number."
Abuse urged, he writes
A disturbing repeated assertion in Frederick's journal is that the abuse was encouraged by U.S. interrogators from "MI," or military intelligence, and "CID," or the Army's Criminal Investigation Division. Both are under intense pressure to help stop attacks on U.S. troops.
But no intelligence or CID personnel are among the 17 people, including Frederick, whom the Army has charged or named as under investigation. So Frederick's journal suggests that culpability reaches far beyond those implicated to date.
Frederick writes that when he questioned guards' conduct - "leaving inmates in their cells with no clothes or in females' underpants, [and] handcuffing them to the door of their cell" - he was told not to worry.
"The answer I got was this is how Military Intelligence (MI) wants it done," he writes. "MI didn't want any of the inmates talking to each other. This is what happened when they were caught talking."
Later, describing how prisoners were stripped naked and deprived of light, ventilation, water and toilets, Frederick asserts: "MI has been present and witnessed such activity. MI has encouraged and told us great job [and] that they were now getting positive results and information."
Likewise, an agent from the Army's Criminal Investigation Command told a guard "to stress one prisoner out as much as possible [because] he wanted him to talk the next day," according to Frederick.
Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Criminal Investigation Command, said he could not comment because the investigation of prisoner abuse is not over. No spokesman for military intelligence could be reached, but an officer in one MI unit mentioned by Frederick said he had no knowledge of any abuse.
In civilian life, Chip Frederick is a $26,722-a-year senior correctional officer at Buckingham Correctional Center, a medium-security prison in rural central Virginia. His wife, Martha, works in the prison's training department.
The prison houses 985 inmates - roughly the same number now held at Abu Ghraib - including some convicted of murder. Larry Traylor, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Correction, said officers such as Frederick are trained at a state academy.
`A long bumpy road'
Frederick's uncle, Bill Lawson, described his nephew as a well-built man of 6-foot-2 who enjoys fishing and barbecuing. Stepfather of his wife's two teen-age daughters, Frederick worked at a Bausch & Lomb factory until it closed down and got the prison job about six years ago, Lawson said.
Reached by phone at Buckingham Correctional Center, Martha Frederick said, "We realize it's going to be a long, bumpy road." Of her husband, she added, "He's doing OK."
Frederick's journal portrays himself and his fellow military police officers as struggling, with little guidance or support, to cope with prisoners who could be extremely challenging. He writes that the guards were "working a 12 to 14 hour shift ten straight days before getting a day off" and facing inmates emboldened by their belief that they "would not be treated as under Saddam."