Memo purportedly foresaw Iraq abuses

`Gloves are coming off' at Abu Ghraib prison

August 24, 2004|By Todd Richissin and Gail Gibson | Todd Richissin and Gail Gibson,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

MANNHEIM, Germany - In the months before the scandal broke over photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners, an intelligence supervisor at Abu Ghraib prison sent a memo to interrogators telling them "the gloves are coming off," regarding the treatment of detainees, an attorney for one of the accused said yesterday.

Paul Bergrin, an attorney for Sgt. Javal S. Davis, a onetime Morgan State student scheduled to appear in court here today, said he received a copy of the memo from "clandestine sources" in the intelligence community and planned to introduce it into evidence today. The authenticity of the memo could not be independently confirmed.

The memo appears to be the first known document to support contentions by several Western Maryland-based soldiers charged in the case that members of the 372nd Military Police Company were merely following directions from intelligence officers bent on "softening up" detainees for interrogation.

`A smoking gun'

The memo imploring intelligence officers and military police to gain more information supports that contention, Bergrin said.

"It's a smoking gun," he said. "What this memo does is corroborate our position - which has been our position all along - that very aggressive interrogation techniques were being employed at Abu Ghraib prison and those techniques were called for at the highest levels."

Bergrin, who provided the memo to The Sun, said it was not given to him by prosecutors as part of the normal process of sharing evidence with the defense, and added that he plans to raise that issue in court today.

Meanwhile, one of the Maryland soldiers subsequently charged with abuse, Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II, said in a statement yesterday that he will plead guilty to some of the charges. He is scheduled to appear in a military courtroom here today. He would be the second of seven members of the company charged in the case to admit guilt.

Frederick acknowledged that what he did was wrong and asked fellow soldiers to understand that Spc. Joseph M. Darby was right to report the abuses.

"I have accepted responsibility for my actions at Abu Ghraib prison. I will be pleading guilty to certain charges because I have concluded that what I did was a violation of law," Frederick said in a statement issued to the Associated Press. "I am hopeful that all those within the Army who contributed to or participated in the chaos that was Abu Ghraib will also come forward and accept responsibility.

"Lastly, I am concerned for the well-being of Specialist Darby and his family. I just learned that he was placed in protective custody because of threats against him. To all who have supported me, I want you to know that I have no bad feelings toward Specialist Darby and neither should you. He did what he thought was right, and it was right. I ask you to accept that and move on."

`Willing to take licks'

Frederick's uncle, William "Bill" Lawson, said his nephew decided to accept responsibility for his actions, though he will plead guilty to only some of the charges against him. Lawson did not specify which charges, nor did a statement released by Frederick's civilian attorney, Gary Myers.

Frederick, 37, of Buckingham, Va., is charged with maltreating detainees, conspiracy to maltreat detainees, dereliction of duty and wrongfully committing an indecent act.

"Basically, what Chip is saying is, he's willing to take responsibility for what he did, and he is willing to plead guilty to some of the charges," said Lawson, who has served as the family's spokesman since the scandal erupted four months ago. "Which is what we've said all along - that he's willing to take his licks for what he did."

Frederick's court appearance today had been scheduled for pretrial motions. It was unclear whether the judge would hear his guilty plea today.

Lawson said his nephew's decision to plead guilty was honorable, and that higher-ranking officers should follow Frederick's lead and admit their culpability in the scandal.

"It started at the top and worked its way down from somebody, and they should come forward and admit what they did and show some honor," Lawson said.

In June, a military judge in Baghdad ruled that Bergrin had the right to question top generals serving in Iraq. Bergrin said he will seek an order today allowing him to interview Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and other high-ranking members of the department.

A `wish list'

The memo he provided yesterday asked for a "wish list" by Aug. 17, 2003, of "what techniques would they feel would be effective."

At that time, the U.S. military was facing increasingly deadly attacks by insurgents, and the top military intelligence officer at the time, Col. Steven Boltz, made it clear that he wanted the detainees broken, according to the memo.

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