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Accountability for Abu Ghraib

What specific tactics were soldiers at Abu Ghraib ordered to use on Iraqi detainees?  Megan Graner, a former guard at Abu Ghraib and wife of Charles Graner, known as the ringleader of the soldiers on duty there, makes her first television appearance in an exclusive interview with Chris Matthews.
Megan Graner
Megan GranerMSNBC TV
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In her first national television interview, Megan Graner, one of the nine military guards involved in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, is speaking out to Chris Matthews about what she says happened at the prison.  She claims that high ranking officials covered up a widespread policy of abuse.

Graner trying to secure the release of her husband, Charles Graner Jr, the man known as the ring leader of the abuse, who is serving a 10-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

To read an excerpt from their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

CHRIS MATTHEWS, HOST 'HARDBALL':  What have we got wrong about this story?  Who‘s responsible for these horrible pictures of what happened at Abu Ghraib? 

MEGAN GRANER, FMR. ABU GHRAIB GUARD:  Chris, I believe there‘s more than just some bad apples to blame for what went on.  There‘s a policy involved.  There‘s a chain of command involved.  There‘s memos.  There‘s M.I.  There‘s more than just a few rogue M.P.‘s.  And it was never explored to the fullest extent that it needed to be to find out the whole truth. 

MATTHEWS:  Well, a lot of people, including me, suspected that might have been what happened.  That these lower-ranking people like yourself, enlisted people like you, were getting signals from above about how to treat those prisoners. 

But the problem with that argument is that a lot of people that went to trial to military tribunals on this pled guilty.  Why did they all plead guilty or so many of them plead guilty? 

GRANER:  Because once you found out that the truth wasn‘t going to be available for you at a trial then there was really no other option, and the government was painting a picture of rogue M.P.‘s.  And when you have all your chain of command invoking the article 31 rights and...

MATTHEWS:  What is that?  I‘m sorry. 

GRANER:  That‘s the military equivalent of pleading the 5th.  And so they wouldn‘t be testifying to examine what went on and what culpability they may have had, what orders they may have given, what orders they may have received from higher up, then it was pretty obvious to soldiers on down the line, maybe, after the first tile that there just wasn‘t going to be an openness like you would want to see in a trial of this level. 

MATTHEWS: When we looked at those pictures—and we‘re looking at them again, I‘m sure, today—you know, of guys being stacked up like hot dogs, when we see guys being led around, prisoners being led around—we‘re looking at these pictures with the guy with the hood on. 

We see people in pictures lead by dog collars, pictures of dogs being used to scare the hell out of guys, looking at pictures seemingly to be having fun at the expense of these people in our custody.  How did that happen?  How did those pictures happen?

GRANER: A lot of these incidents were—I‘m trying to put this together. 


GRANER:  A lot of these were interrogation tactics caught on film, and a lot of these were use of force techniques caught on film.  And there really was no let‘s take these people out and enjoy humiliating them.  When everyone went home or when everyone went to bed at night when no one else was around... 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You‘re getting instructions from above on what to do. 

GRANER:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  You‘re contending here on behalf of your husband, who is facing a 10-year sentence now.  You did not get charged with any prison time.  You‘re saying that the M.P.s involved in treating the prisoners the way you were in those pictures were following orders? 

GRANER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  Who gave you those orders to put dog collars on guys, to stack them up naked like hot dogs?  Who told you to do that? 

GRANER:  Well, these orders that we got involving detainees will come down from shift to shift or from each individual M.I. handler, pertaining to the detainee that we were in charge of or they were passed from day shift to night shift or we had a board that was hung in the office on the second level in between the two—in between tier 1 a and 1 b, and they would actually write down this guy‘s...

MATTHEWS:  Did you ever see anything on the board that said ask these prisoners to masturbate, ask these prisoners to simulate sex acts? 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  How did you people, enlisted ranks people, get the word you should be doing that? 

GRANER:  I‘m not sure how that happened.  What I know of that is that apparently Sergeant Fredericks said that M.I. told him to do that. 

MATTHEWS:  Military intelligence.  So you got the word from a guy who said he got the word from somebody else? 

GRANER:  Yes.  And he pled guilty and admitted to those particular offenses. 

MATTHEWS:  But if his defense was that he got the order from somebody in military intelligence, he‘d be covered, wouldn‘t he? 

GRANER:  That‘s what I would assume, but he made the decision to plead guilty between him and his defense attorneys. 

MATTHEWS:  Do you believe that the military got together—I hate the word conspired but let‘s try it here—and said let‘s protect the high-ranking people, let‘s protect the policy, at the expense of the little people, the enlisted people?  Do you think they made a decision somewhere to do that? 

GRANER:  Yes. 

MATTHEWS:  Who do you think made it?  Do you have any reason to believe—Was it a general?  Was it a politician at the Pentagon?  Was it a civilian at the Pentagon?  Who made the decision to screw, if you don‘t mind the expression, the lower ranked people, like you and your husband, so that the military would be covered?  That is your argument, isn‘t it? 


MATTHEWS:  OK.  Back it up. 

GRANER:  Any one of those people from generals on up. 

MATTHEWS:  How do you know this? 

GRANER: How do I know?  Because there‘s still information that‘s classified today that could be helpful to our case that isn‘t available.  The trials that happened a year ago...

MATTHEWS:  OK.  You said something that really grabbed me.  You said there was information that was denied to the defendants.  Your husband was, for example, was unable to bring information to trial, which would have shown that he got the orders either directly or indirectly from higher ups to do what he did, right?

GRANER: Right. 

MATTHEWS:  And they covered themselves with the military equivalent of the 5th amendment, right? 

GRANER:  Right. 

MATTHEWS:  That‘s your main case here. 

GRANER: That‘s part of it. 

MATTHEWS:  What else? 

GRANER: Recently in the news, they‘re ordering Colonel Pappas to have immunity.  This is something that Charles Graner‘s defense team asked for one year ago, and they wanted to look into—they wanted to give Colonel Pappas immunity and Colonel Jordan immunity to see what went on, what they ordered what they knew, and what orders they received. 

They were refused by the government.  They put a motion before the judge to force immunity.  The judge said no, it‘s not relevant.  Now, one year later they‘re giving the Colonel Pappas immunity to find out what he knows and to see—and they‘re being forced to charge Colonel Jordan to...

MATTHEWS:  Well, are they making their way to the truth or are they still covering up, as you said? 

GRANER:  Well, I believe that they wanted to paint a picture in which they called my husband a ring leader.  And now that they put him in jail a year later, now they‘re being forced to give these people immunity.  And it doesn‘t make sense.  Why didn‘t they do it a year ago?  If they wanted to know the truth... 

MATTHEWS:  OK.  We‘ll have to have you back.  We have got a time problem here.  Thank you.  It‘s great having you on, Megan Graner.

We asked the Pentagon for someone to respond to Megan Graner‘s statement. 

They sent us a note, instead, quote, “More than 500 investigations have examined allegations of detainee mistreatment.  Thus far, allegations against more than 251 military members have been addressed in courts-martial, non-judicial punishment and other adverse administration actions.  These cases and actions continue today in at thorough, fair manner.  The Army and Combatant Commanders have conducted numerous investigations, inspections and inquiries, examining all aspects of detention operations.  The Army is committed to ensuring that all of its soldiers live up to the Army values and the law of war.” 

That‘s what the Army had to say.  Anyway, thank you, Megan Graner, for coming on. 

Watch each night at 5 and 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC.