updated 8/12/2004 8:41:00 PM ET 2004-08-13T00:41:00

A platoon leader’s memorandum to an Army reservist charged with abusing Iraqi detainees praised him for “doing a fine job” and said prisoners often tried to incite the guards to aggression.

The message from Capt. Christopher Brinson to Spc. Charles A. Graner Jr. also held Graner blameless for a prisoner’s injuries but urged him to study the military’s rules governing treatment of detainees.

The memo is dated Nov. 16, 2003, eight days after Graner was photographed in images showing some of the abuses alleged at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. In one, the former Pennsylvania prison guard stands grinning behind a pyramid of naked prisoners. In another, his fist is cocked as if to punch a hooded prisoner.

Bolsters claims of approval
Brinson’s memo bolsters defense claims that higher-ranking soldiers condoned rough treatment of detainees by Graner and six other members of the 372nd Military Police Company charged in the scandal. Some defendants have claimed commanders and military intelligence personnel encouraged such treatment to soften up prisoners for interrogation.

The Associated Press obtained a copy of the memo last week from former Sgt. Kenneth A. Davis of the 372nd Military Police Company. He returned to the United States in December 2003 for medical treatment and received an honorable discharge for disability in July.

Brinson, who in civilian life is deputy chief of staff to Republican Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, has neither been recommended for, nor received any discipline for his role at Abu Ghraib. He declined through an attorney, David Sheldon, to comment while the government continues its investigation into the alleged abuses.

Rogers, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, also declined to comment. His spokesman said it was an Army issue.

Graner’s lawyer, Guy L. Womack, said Brinson did the right thing by investigating a prisoner’s injury and praising Graner’s performance. Womack denied Graner hurt prisoners, except in self-defense.

‘Praise ... for helping soften up prisoners’
“The praise was for helping soften up prisoners, and that would certainly include being aggressive and perhaps intimidating the prisoners to help control them psychologically,” Womack said.

Graner has been identified by three witnesses at separate military hearings as a ringleader in the abuse. One of his former commanders, Lt. Col. Jerry L. Phillabaum, wrote in a memo that Graner “led acts of abuse in clear violation of any standard of morality.”

Brinson’s memo begins with praise: “Cpl. Graner, you are doing a fine job in Tier 1 of the BCF.” Tier 1 was the part of the prison, known as the Baghdad Confinement Facility, that housed detainees believed to be of high value to interrogators, as well as those isolated because of noncompliant or aggressive behavior or mental illness.

“Continue to perform at this level and it will help us succeed at our overall mission,” Brinson urged. He then expresses concern about the stress of working in Tier 1, writing: “Detainees often try to incite our soldiers to aggressive acts by taunting them or not responding to commands.”

Self-defense explanation accepted
Brinson also addressed a Nov. 14 incident “involving a security detainee whose actions in your words required you to use force to regain control of the situation.” Brinson wrote that the detainee’s face was cut and bruised, and he said he accepted Graner’s explanation of self-defense.

Graner and three of the other accused reservists from the Cresaptown, Md.-based 372nd have military pretrial hearings scheduled for Aug. 23-24 in Mannheim, Germany.

Pfc. Lynndie England, who is seven months pregnant with Graner’s child, had an Article 32 proceeding last week in Fort Bragg, N.C., to determine whether she should face a court-martial. A judge recessed the hearing Saturday to review defense requests for witnesses.

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