Guests: Jay Rockefeller, Robert Hodierne
ANDREA MITCHELL, GUEST HOST: Tonight, al Qaeda-linked militants in Iraq beheaded an American civilian and vowed more revenge for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
And on Capitol Hill, the man who first investigated prison abuse in Iraq, General Antonio Taguba, tells a Senate hearing there was a failure of leadership.
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GEN. ANTONIO TAGUBA, U.S. ARMY: Lack of discipline, no training whatsoever and no supervision.
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MITCHELL: As to the man who gave the order?
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TAGUBA: We did not find any evidence of a policy or a direct order given to these soldiers to conduct what they did. I believe that they did it on their own volition.
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MITCHELL: It‘s time to play HARDBALL.
Good evening, I‘m Andrea Mitchell, substituting tonight for Chris Matthews.
While Americans are shocked at the sight of one of their own beheaded in Iraq, in Washington the inquiry into the abuse of Iraqi prisoners continues. Today, Major General Antonio Taguba, who conducted the investigation, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that faulty leadership was to blame.
But who will take responsibility? We‘ll ask our first guest, Senator Jay Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat on the Select Committee on Intelligence.
Senator, welcome. Thanks for being here.
SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Thank you.
MITCHELL: First of all, let me ask you about the beheading. There is a report that, on the web site, at least, the man who claims to be beheading Nick Berg from Philadelphia is, in fact, Zarqawi, one of the most wanted men in the world, actually, close to bin Laden.
Do we know anything more about that? I understand the CIA is trying to identify the voice on that tape.
ROCKEFELLER: What you have said is also my understanding, but it is not a confirmed understanding.
MITCHELL: Do you see this as a direct reaction to the prison abuse? Do you think that this kind of incredible, you know, horrific event would have happened anyway? There have been terrible torturing incidents before, the murders of the men in Fallujah.
Is this just another excuse, or is this the beginning of the effects of what happened with the prison abuse and the photographic evidence that has been displayed around the world?
ROCKEFELLER: I think it‘s easy to draw conclusion and also wrong to draw total conclusion. My guess is it had something to do with it was an added factor, an added motivation, but that the people that do and have been doing that to us and others, to Iraqis, you know, for years and years and years.
I want to, if it‘s all right, to just respond to something that your previous speaker said. And that is that there was a failure of leadership.
MITCHELL: That was General Taguba in the testimony today. Exactly.
ROCKEFELLER: That was not—That was not a uniform failure. Because there were battalions within that same 800th military brigade, battalions who—who acted very responsibly.
And so I think that there was, at some point, some policy. I just don‘t think things like that are thought up on the spot by people in such a high-profile prison. I do not know that, but I‘m not going to rest with what he said, is just they sort of took it upon themselves to do it.
Because there were some people who took it upon themselves not to do it. And they were in the same brigade, same people.
MITCHELL: Do you think the military intelligence was acting on some sort of script, some sort of either an order or an indirect instruction from Washington, in fact, to put pressure, a stress matrix, as others have described it, to put pressure on these prisoners because we weren‘t getting evidence of weapons of mass destruction and we weren‘t finding key members of Saddam Hussein‘s team, including Saddam himself at that point?
ROCKEFELLER: We don‘t know that at this point, Andrea. I think it is fair to say that—that the instructions had to come from somewhere. I mean, after all, General Miller, I think, you know said we‘ve got “GTMO-ize.” In other words, we‘ve got to make it like our facility in Cuba.
MITCHELL: The general if charge of Guantanamo who then went to Iraq.
ROCKEFELLER: Yes. He went to Iraq to straighten up the prisons, and said, “That‘s what I‘m here to do, to ‘GTMO-ize‘ it, make it more like Guantanamo, which is pretty rough.”
And I think we‘ve got to not just look at that particular prison, but there were actually 15 of those detention centers that we know about in Afghanistan and Iraq. And I think all of them are subject to scrutiny, which we have not yet begun adequately to do.
I think this is a story that‘s going to last a long time.
MITCHELL: Well, let me play you something that Senator Inhofe, Republican from Oklahoma, said today at the committee hearings, where he suggested that, in fact, the real outrage should be over the outrage, not over the abuse.
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SEN. JAMES INHOFE ®, OKLAHOMA: I‘m probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment.
The idea that these prisoners—you know, they‘re not there for traffic violations. If they‘re in cell block 1-a and 1-b, these prisoners, they‘re murders and they‘re terrorists. They‘re insurgents. Many of them probably have American blood on their hands.
And here we‘re so concerned about the treatment of those individuals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MITCHELL: Senator Rockefeller, that was Senator Inhofe, one of your colleagues. Should we be outraged over the outrage? Is it OK to behave brutally toward prisoners if they are murders?
ROCKEFELLER: First of all, it‘s also come out from the Red Cross that about 70 percent to 90 percent of the people that we arrested were totally innocent. We kind of swept them off the streets and put them in and knocked them around a little bit and let a lot of them free.
No. I don‘t think you can treat that likely. And I don‘t think it takes away from the brutality of the life in Iraq and what went on before and what we came to stop.
But the fact is, I think it comes as a shock to all of us that Americans—and I‘m not just talking about the people at lower levels. I mean, I firmly believe that somewhere there was a policy that came from on high, on relatively high or very high, that this had to be done.
And I‘m shocked that we would have done it. I‘m shocked that it happened. I think we should be outraged, and I think we should continue to fight the war on terror. And unfortunately, the war in Iraq also.
MITCHELL: How high do think it went?
ROCKEFELLER: You‘re not going to—You‘re not going to slough this off on—just on, you know, eight or 10 people in that prison.
MITCHELL: How high—How high, Senator, do you think it went? Did it go all the way to the top level?
ROCKEFELLER: I do not know. I do not know. But I cannot believe that—you know, if General Miller comes in from Guantanamo Bay and says, “Look, I am here to ‘GTMO-ize,‘ in other words to toughen up the way people are put into a position so that they will give information more quickly, to loosen them up, to soften them up, so to speak,” that sounds to me like a policy as opposed to just a general opinion.
MITCHELL: You—You have direct responsibility...
ROCKEFELLER: Well, he probably got that from somebody else.
MITCHELL: You have direct responsibility, Senator, for oversight of intelligence. Do you think, for instance, that the CIA has some answers that have not been explained yet about CIA personnel in that prison and some of the technique they may have been using?
ROCKEFELLER: Well, we‘re going to find out about some of that tomorrow morning when we do have a hearing with them.
But this is not going to be a matter of instant answers. There may be instant questions, but they won‘t be instant answers. It‘s very hard to get the military or the intelligence community, quite frankly, in the hearing setting, where everything they say is written down, to do anything but to obfuscate or talk in general terms.
And you‘ve got to go lower. You‘ve got to dig. We may have to send a team over to Iraq ourselves from the intelligence committee to find out our own views on it. But we‘re going to get to the bottom of it.
And I‘ll guarantee you, it‘s not just, you know, those people, those National Guard Reserve people who had only been there for four or five months.
MITCHELL: And very briefly, Senator, we only have a few seconds left. Because it‘s going to take so long to get the real answers, should anyone resign? What about these calls for resignations at the very top?
ROCKEFELLER: My view about, for example, should Rumsfeld resign, I think what that does is it creates a separate issue. It may be that he should or maybe that he shouldn‘t. But in the meantime, everybody then goes over and makes that argument.
That‘s not the argument that we‘re trying to make right now. We‘re trying to find out what happened. What—was there a line of responsibility that you can trace upwards? Was it disguised? Whatever. That we have to find out. Don‘t just say who should resign until we know what the facts are. And I believe that very strongly.
MITCHELL: Thank you very much, Senator Jay Rockefeller.
Up next, retired General Barry McCaffrey on the new dangers facing American troops in Iraq.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MITCHELL: Retired Army general Barry McCaffrey is an NBC News military analyst.
General, welcome. Thanks for being here.
You watched the hearings today. What questions do you still want to ask? What wasn‘t answered today about who should take responsibility?
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well, I thought Major General Antonio Taguba is a hero. Scathing, direct, candid indictment: no leadership, no training, no supervision.
I think he got to the heart and soul of it. The question that remains, though, Andrea, is to what extent did this 72-point matrix of stress that was apparently imposed by the secretary of defense, perhaps by Mr. Cambone, to what extent did that influence this global interrogation process?
MITCHELL: Let‘s just break this down for a second for our viewers. This was a stress matrix, which you say—which was testified to, was approved at the top of the Pentagon. And this was to interrogate high-value prisoners both in Guantanamo and in Iraq?
MCCAFFREY: Well, it remains an open question in my mind, you know, who constructed it? Was it approved directly by Secretary Rumsfeld? Was Mr. Cambone involved in sending General Miller to “GTMO-ize” the interrogation process in Iraq? These are all legitimate questions.
MITCHELL: Tell us who Stephen Cambone is. Because he‘s a controversial character in military circles. He is in charge of intelligence, right, at the Pentagon?
MCCAFFREY: Well, he‘s played a key role for Secretary Rumsfeld from the start. He has, I think, been at the heart of many controversies over transformation of the armed services. Some would argue he has played an unhealthy role in trying to dominate the intelligence process that led up to the war.
MITCHELL: Cook the books? The intelligence process means whether or not or not Saddam had weapons of mass destruction?
MCCAFFREY: Trying to find answers that would justify the intervention. Now whether that‘s a case or not certainly should come out in these subsequent hearings.
MITCHELL: There was a major disagreement today between his testimony and General Taguba‘s, as to whether military intelligence was involved in the rules of the road, if you will, that led to this prison abuse.
MCCAFFREY: There were two disagreements. In both cases, it seemed to me Major General Taguba was unambiguous. He said, “No, they had transferred coordination to this prison to the military intelligence brigade.”
MCCAFFREY: ... Cambone says, no.
Secondly, the question was, did they or did they not use essentially unauthorized interrogation techniques? And I think clearly there was some cross talk, some influence over this Geneva Convention question, that may have set the preconditions for this to occur.
MITCHELL: You know, one of the questions that was raised to General Taguba was, it doesn‘t even matter whether the Geneva Convention is applied. There are rules, according to Senator Lindsey Graham, who is a Republican and former Army prosecutor, there are rules according to the code of conduct, the military code that makes this kind of thing illegal.
MCCAFFREY: Andrea, I couldn‘t agree more. You know, can you actually put a person in a stressful, painful position for 24 hours? Can you keep people naked and humiliate them?
It seems to most of us these are direct contradictions to the uniform code of military justice, and are not authorized under any circumstances.
MITCHELL: Let me ask you this. You‘re the secretary of defense, you‘re the president of the United States, 9/11 has happened, we are at a war with terrorists. Are there different rules? Is it OK then to put these people under more stress?
MCCAFFREY: I think it‘s—I think it‘s nonsense to think you need to torture people to get actionable intelligence. I‘ve watch with great admiration the FBI and the DIA for years.
Through trickery, bribery, cajolery, playing one person off against another, offering monetary rewards, green cards to the United States to get out of Iraq. There are dozens of technique which might include intimidation, but not actions that are in violation of U.S. law.
MITCHELL: More carrot than stick.
Now, as a military man, our forces over there, our civilians as well as our military, are at greater risk. We‘ve seen this horrific beheading today of an American. Perhaps as a result, they claim as a result. Maybe they would have done it anyway. We‘ve seen the terror of what these people do.
But how much greater risk does the photographic evidence of abuse put our people at?
MCCAFFREY: Well, the people we‘re fighting in Iraq right now—we‘ve got to remind ourselves—murdered somewhere between 300,000 and a million Iraqis during the course of the last several years. They‘re dangerous. They‘re completely in opposition to losing control of the country.
Having said that, I am sure this incident will be exploited, capitalized on by many in the Mideast, and certainly to include the Sunni, Fedayeen, the Ba‘athist insurgents.
MITCHELL: Does this become a recruiting poster for al Qaeda?
MCCAFFREY: It‘s a problem. It‘s a humiliation. We‘ve got to look at it very candidly and mete out punishment where appropriate and make sure it‘s transparent to the international community when we do so.
MITCHELL: Thank you, General Barry McCaffrey. Nobody is smarter; nobody is better.
MCCAFFREY: Good to be with you.
MITCHELL: Thank you for your guidance.
And up next, the military press reacts to the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of American troops.
And later two members of the Senate Armed Services Committee who were at that hearing will be here with us. Their take on today‘s hearings.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MITCHELL: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
An editorial that ran in the “Military Times” newspapers described the abuse of the Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison as, quote, “not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential—even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war.”
Robert Hodierne is the senior managing editor of the “Military Times” media group. Welcome. Thanks for joining us.
Even removing top leaders at a time of war? How would you, as Senator Warner has suggested, go through the chain of command, the civilian command, at this point so close to election with confirmations? You would have a vacuum at the top.
ROBERT HODIERNE, SENIOR MANAGING EDITOR, “MILITARY TIMES”: I‘m not sure you need to have a vacuum. It obviously is a political issue for the president. And he‘s going to have to decide, is there more damage being done by having a lack of accountability at the highest levels for these hideous crimes?
Or is it more damaging to have to go through Senate hearings, which would undoubtedly be viewed as a referendum of sorts on the way the war has been conducted?
MITCHELL: And if you were to remove the top leadership, would you have someone stepping up who would be, presumably, Paul Wolfowitz as acting secretary, the deputy secretary of defense, and you wouldn‘t have any change of command, essentially. What would be the point?
HODIERNE: Well, I think the point is to drive home the basic issue that somebody has to be accountable for these misdeeds. And it‘s our view that accountability goes to the very upper reaches of the leadership.
And if you don‘t have that accountability, what does that say to the troops in the field? They‘ve been taught their entire careers in the military that there is a chain of command and that the people up and down the chain of command have responsibilities that have to be met.
So whether it creates a difficult political issue for the commander in chief or not, there is a rich tradition of taking responsibility for your actions.
MITCHELL: Except that we‘ve heard from Donald Rumsfeld that he didn‘t know until mid-January that any of this had taken place. So why would you string up the secretary of defense, just to play devil‘s advocate here, for something that he was completely unaware of?
HODIERNE: Let‘s imagine that you‘re the captain of the U.S. Navy ship and the ship runs aground while you‘re asleep in your cabin. Your officer of the watch screws up and runs it aground. The captain still gets relieved. He‘d set the command climate that allowed that kind of sloppy seamanship.
That‘s what we‘re talking about here. What kind of command climate was set that would make anybody think that that kind of behavior was acceptable?
MITCHELL: Now, have you heard from the Pentagon? What has been the reaction after these editorials, which I understand ran not just in the “Army Times” but in the Air Force and all of the military newspapers with a pretty big circulation?
HODIERNE: Well, so far the reaction has been fairly muted. The papers just came out Monday. And they all know that we‘re a weekly and they have several days to phrase whatever responses are.
We got some angry e-mails right away from people. I‘d read them to you, but with the recent Howard Stern requirements, it would cost you $500,000...
MITCHELL: Not family...
HODIERNE: ... in e-mail to read those to you.
MITCHELL: That‘s beyond my budget.
HODIERNE: And we‘ve also gotten some supportive e-mails. So, you know, we didn‘t—that wasn‘t part of our calculation, you know, how much support are we going to get from readers? It‘s something we felt that needed to be said.
MITCHELL: Now today we have had this incredible tragedy, the beheading of an American civilian. Do you think that is directly related, or would these terrorists have done this kind of horrific act anyway and are just using this as an excuse?
HODIERNE: Well, they have a clear track record of doing horrific things. So whether or not the images of the prisons over there prompted this or not. Who knows?
But I know if you‘re a man or woman in the U.S. service right now, I‘m sure that you feel more vulnerable because of those images from the prison. It does create the image, reinforces an image of Americans that‘s fairly prevalent in certain parts of the world. And I would think that you would feel more vulnerable as a result of what happened at that prison.
And that‘s one of the reasons that there needs to be a clear statement and clear demonstration that there is accountability to this.
MITCHELL: Do you subscribe to the couple of bad apples theory? Did these reservists, these M.P.‘s, who had no training to be M.P.‘s, did they do this on their own or were the orders from the top?
HODIERNE: I don‘t imagine there were orders from the top. But I think that two things before the war set the stage for this.
One, we didn‘t have enough troops there to...
MITCHELL: We went in light.
HODIERNE: We went in light. And demonstrated we could topple a regime like that, going in light.
MITCHELL: A pretty successful march on Baghdad.
HODIERNE: No doubt about it. Brilliantly done. Beautifully executed. But where they underestimated was the number of boots on the ground it was going to need to establish civil order and prevent the kind of looting and disaster that‘s followed in the subsequent year.
MITCHELL: Too much reliance on contractors?
HODIERNE: I don‘t know that it‘s too much reliance on contractors.
It‘s - think that at the top levels in the administration, they really did believe we would be greeted as liberators and it would be an easy job. And it‘s not an easy job.
MITCHELL: But once we realized it wasn‘t going to be easy did we at that point not gear up? Did we rely too heavily on contractors to do things such as military interrogations?
HODIERNE: Well, I‘m not sure how many contractors were involved in the interrogations. It seems there‘s only three or four that were doing that.
The second thing that was a problem with how few people we sent in there was that I don‘t think they ever dreamed they‘d be holding this many prisoners this late in the game.
MITCHELL: 43,000 prisoners over the course of this year (ph).
HODIERNE: And so they didn‘t have adequate numbers of well-trained people to do this.
If you had people going in, putting the bombs on airplanes who weren‘t properly trained to do that, you could assume a certain number of those bombs were going to blow up inappropriately.
And what happened in this prison was a bomb blew up inappropriately.
MITCHELL: It‘s a prison that we should have probably blown up anyway because it‘s such a symbol of Saddam Hussein.
Thank you very much.
HODIERNE: My pleasure.
MITCHELL: Robert Hodierne.
Up next, reaction to today‘s hearings on the Hill with two members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Saxby Chambliss and Mark Dayton.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MITCHELL: This half-hour on HARDBALL, who will take responsibility for the abuse of Iraqis in a Baghdad prison? Senators Saxby Chambliss and Mark Dayton of Armed Services Committee will be here.
But, first, the latest headlines right now.
SEN. JOHN WARNER ®, VIRGINIA: In simple words, your own soldiers‘ language, how did this happen?
MAJ. GEN. ANTONIO TAGUBA, U.S. ARMY: Failure in leadership, sir, from the brigade commander on down, lack of discipline, no training whatsoever and no supervision. Supervisory omission was rampant. Those are my comments.
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MITCHELL: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
The was the Army general who first investigated prisoner abuse in Iraq, testifying before the Senate today. Major General Antonio Taguba also said there was no policy in place that directed the abuse of prisoners.
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TAGUBA: We did not find any evidence of a policy or a direct order given to these soldiers to conduct what they did. I believe that they did it on their own volition. I believe they collaborated with several M.I. interrogators at the lower level, based on the conveyance of that information during interviews and written statements.
We didn‘t find any order, whatsoever, sir, written or otherwise that directed them to do what they did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MITCHELL: Senator Saxby Chambliss is a Republican from Georgia. Senator Mark Dayton is a Democrat from Minnesota. Both are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee and were at today‘s hearing.
Senator Dayton, first to you.
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS ®, GEORGIA: Hello, Andrea.
MITCHELL: Hello, Senator Chambliss.
I guess I want to ask each of you, Senator Dayton first, do you accept the notion that this did not come from instructions on high? Was this a failure at the command brigade level?
SEN. MARK DAYTON (D), MINNESOTA: I think General Taguba was referring to his own investigation of a series of events at one prison.
The International Red Cross report addresses 14 different prison sites, their investigation over a period of about a year, far more wide-reaching. And they point to it as systemic number of abuses that really suggests that there were a series of misguided actions. Now, who is responsible, I can‘t say, but this was not the isolated incident that some are trying to portray it as.
MITCHELL: Senator Chambliss, what about the Red Cross investigation which, for more than a year, warned at problems at all of these sites? They made 29 separate visits. And they say to a great extent their warnings were ignored.
CHAMBLISS: Well, when you look the Red Cross reports and tie them into the information that has now come out in General Taguba‘s report, it‘s pretty obvious, Andrea, that this had been going on for some time.
Now, very honestly, the specific incidents that we‘ve seen photographs of probably did not happen for a long and extended period of time. So the degree of abuse that may have occurred at other times and at other prisons is certainly not to the extent of the abuse that we saw at Abu Ghraib. But it‘s very much of a concern to all of us that the Red Cross was issuing these reports and they weren‘t being listened to.
MITCHELL: And, in fact, we know the State Department, Secretary Powell knew. Condoleezza Rice knew. Secretary Rumsfeld also was aware of this.
So, Senator Chambliss, they knew before January 13 when they first got the word from this very honorable soldier who turned on his colleagues and turned them in, no?
CHAMBLISS: Well, they knew, Andrea, but what did they know?
We had Secretary Rumsfeld there yesterday. Everybody on the Armed Services Committee had an opportunity to engage him, excuse me, on Friday of last week, engage him relative to anything regarding these incidents or any other incidents. And he was very straightforward in his answers. And he basically said he didn‘t have knowledge of any other incidents of this nature taking place at any other time or at any other facility.
MITCHELL: Senator Dayton, what about the failure of leadership in Washington throughout the national security team? Does someone have to take responsibility and make a real sacrifice here, or would that simply disrupt the war effort at a key point too close to an election to even have confirmation hearings and replace the top leaders?
DAYTON: Well, I think that is a decision for the president to make, who his commander—as commander in chief who he wants his line of command to be.
But I think that someone needs to take responsibility for what was going on there. There are 43,000 Iraqis that were arrested. We are told that only 600 were referred for prosecution. That is less than 2 percent. So 98 percent of the cases, these were individuals who were plucked out of their homes or out of their settings. They live in that country. They are taken into these various detention facilities. They are treated, according to the Red Cross, in various forms of abuse.
And no wonder the hearts and minds of the Iraqi citizens are turning against our own soldiers. These pictures are being blamed for the causing of reprisals. I think the reprisals began. We saw those in April. I think we are seeing the reason why Iraqi attitudes have been hardening against our own forces, who unfortunately are bearing the brunt of this, because these 43,000 who are detained, who are then released, they are going back telling their family, their friends whatever was happening to them. They are turning against ourselves.
MITCHELL: Senator Chambliss, do you buy into that? Are the horrific things that are happening, including potentially the beheading of Nick Berg today, or whenever it did take place, are some of these events related to our own treatment of Iraqis or is this just an excuse?
CHAMBLISS: No, I disagree with Mark on that.
I don‘t think you can tie the increase in violence in Iraq to the situation at Abu Ghraib. It was an isolated incident. It involved very few prisoners, as well as very few Army personnel. The situation that occurred today, the beheading of this man, that probably was bound to happen anyway. These folks are mean. They‘re nasty. They‘re the worst killers in the world today. And we have to remember that.
These prisoners in Abu Ghraib are the meanest, nastiest killers in the world. They probably have American blood on their hands. So there‘s a lot of emotion that goes into this. And what we have to remember is that, as an Army soldier, you have to exercise discipline irrespective of what your emotions are. And now, as Americans, we are going to have to exercise very, very difficult discipline and remember that we are the great country that we are because of the rule of law that we live by and abide by.
And we are going to show the world what a great country America is by the way we react to this situation. And here, I just think that the violence is ongoing because of a handful. It may be in the thousands, but when you compare it to the number of Iraqis that exist over there today, that violence is taking place in the streets of Baghdad by a few people, compared to the rest of the folks over there, would have happened anyway.
MITCHELL: Senator Dayton, why don‘t you jump in before we take a quick break and come back? I just want to ask you, how bad is the damage? How widespread is it?
DAYTON: Oh, I want to be clear that we have 134,000 Americans over there who are performing heroically. But I think it‘s a mistake to limit this to a handful of half a dozen or a dozen of them who are really misguided and have carried out the abuses that we‘ve seen in pictures.
I think unfortunately the Red Cross report indicates it is more widespread than that. How widespread, we need to find out. I think the damage is very, very serious. And I think that‘s been acknowledged. I think we need to use this as a point to assess. What are we doing over there now? What can we accomplish over there from this point forward? Are we going to stay the course with 134,000 troops and try to carry that into the year 2006?
Will Iraq support that? Will the citizens of this country support that? What are our objectives now given the realities there?
MITCHELL: All right, we‘ll talk more about the politics and the perceptions of all of this.
We‘ll be back in a minute with more from Senators Saxby Chambliss and Mark Dayton.
You‘re watching HARDBALL on MSNBC.
MITCHELL: Coming up, much more with Senator Saxby Chambliss and
Senator Mark Dayton on today‘s hearings into the abuse of Iraqi prisoners -
· when HARDBALL returns.
MITCHELL: We are back with Senators Saxby Chambliss and Mark Dayton.
Senator Chambliss, John Kerry has not talked about this a great deal.
He‘s walked a very fine line, sort of letting this problem sit on the Bush administration. But his Web site is raising money with the whole issue of prisoner abuse. Now, some of your Republican colleagues said that that‘s an outrageous political use of this tragedy. What is your take on that?
CHAMBLISS: Well, I think everybody‘s character will come out during the course of this, Andrea. And different events define people.
And when the voters all across America look at the two candidates, they are going to be looking at their character. And this certainly—if Senator Kerry is raising money as a result of this issue, that will help define him.
But I think also it‘s pretty obvious that there is a rallying in Washington once again today. There is an investigation ongoing of serious incidents that occurred in Abu Ghraib, and Republicans and Democrats alike are really throwing down the gauntlet to make sure that what needs to be done is done. Now, with the situation that occurred today, I think you‘re again going to see a rallying of Americans in a bipartisan way inside and outside of Washington to pursue this war on terrorism to make sure that we rid the world of these mean and nasty guys who would do this thing that they did today.
MITCHELL: Senator Dayton, is this a political issue? Are you Democrats looking for advantage out of all this?
DAYTON: I wouldn‘t wish this for our country for anything in the world. I don‘t think anyone else in my party would do the same. John Kerry is not responsible for these occurrences.
MITCHELL: Well, it‘s his campaign Web sites who are trying to take advantage of this.
DAYTON: We are in the middle of an election and everything that occurs becomes fodder for a campaign.
President Bush went yesterday with the vice president over to the Pentagon and he looked at some pictures and then proceeded to the country and the world that Don Rumsfeld is doing a superb job as secretary of defense. Each one of these is using this in their own way. But I—the seriousness of what has occurred here cannot be foisted on a partisan attempt here to exploit an issue.
This is real and we are having really very appropriate focus on what has occurred, because the lives of our soldiers over in Iraq right now depend on the decisions that are made in response to this.
MITCHELL: Senator Chambliss, are you satisfied so far with the answers you‘re getting from the Pentagon? And do you think anybody needs to take a hit for this?
CHAMBLISS: Well, I think certainly the Army is doing what they are supposed to do. And that is, make a fair investigation of an incident that‘s been reported to them. That is appropriate. That‘s proper.
Secretary Rumsfeld has not been indicated in any way to have any personal involvement in this. Again, as a manager of the Pentagon, I think he is doing the right things. He took responsibility. That was a huge step, Andrea. Leadership is defined by people who are willing to step forward and say, hey, mistakes were made on my watch. And, therefore, I‘m responsible and I am going to take care of it.
And that is exactly what the secretary has done. And that‘s the kind of leadership that America looks for and demands and are getting out of the secretary of defense.
MITCHELL: Now, in the few minutes left, you are both entitled to go see these pictures tomorrow. The senators are going to see them without their staff.
As I understand it, the senators do not want to retain custody of those pictures. They don‘t want to be responsible for any leaks. What should happen to these pictures? Should they be shown? Should more of them be exhibited to the American people? And are there more pictures? Is there more video?
DAYTON: I think the truth should be disclosed, whatever that is. I think the American people are big enough to accept that and learn from it. Suppressing the truth is a dangerous proposition and antithetical to a democracy.
MITCHELL: And Senator Chambliss, how should the pictures be handled?
CHAMBLISS: Andrea, I have kind of mixed feelings—I have mixed feelings about it. I know what‘s in these pictures. It‘s been described to me. And I will tell you that, as awful as the things are that we‘ve seen in the previous pictures, what‘s coming is literally much, much worse.
MITCHELL: You mean sexual abuse among our own soldiers?
MITCHELL: It‘s been described as rape.
CHAMBLISS: Well, even worse than that.
Well, the pictures will speak for themselves. I haven‘t seen them. All I can tell you is what I‘ve been told. But it‘s not good. It‘s really, really bad. Should that be disclosed to the American people to let them have an image of an American soldier doing something like this? I have pretty mixed feelings about that.
What‘s been disclosed is grounds for criminal action against those that are responsible for it. And I don‘t know. We‘ll see where it goes. Everything in Washington has a tendency to get leaked anyway. So these picture will be out there at some point in time. But I want to make that, sure if we do release them, they all go out at one time. Let‘s don‘t dribble these things out.
MITCHELL: All right.
DAYTON: I would agree with that.
MITCHELL: And there is apparently a dispute, with the White House wanting to put more out and the Pentagon being reluctant. We‘ll see how that plays.
Thank you very much, Mark Dayton. Thank you, Saxby Chambliss.
Thanks, both of you, for coming.
And coming up, we‘ll talk to a former adviser to Donald Rumsfeld who helped develop the policy of detaining enemy combatants.
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MITCHELL: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
Mark Jacobson served as special assistant to the office of the secretary of defense and helped develop policy for the detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Iraq.
Welcome, Mr. Jacobson.
First, tell us, what is proper interrogation? What is the difference between torture and stress?
MARK JACOBSON, FORMER DEFENSE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, just off the bat, proper interrogation techniques do not involve torture. That is both taught at the Army schools, the Navy schools, the Marine Corps interrogation schools. There are no techniques used by the United States to interrogate people that constitute torture, for the primary reason that torture doesn‘t work. It only gives you what the detainee or the criminal thinks you want to hear.
MITCHELL: But was there a stress matrix that was testified at today‘s hearings? General McCaffrey talked about it earlier. Was there a plan for putting these people in solitary, for keeping them up for 23 hours, for not letting them talk to anyone else, for stripping them and having them be naked and humiliated?
JACOBSON: Well, with regards to Guantanamo Bay, shortly into the
detention operations, so middle of 2002, late 2002, the department began to
get requests coming up from Guantanamo Bay that suggested that perhaps some
additional techniques into those commonly used in the field manual might
help with a small number of detainees who had been trained to resist
techniques that are normally used, for example, direct questioning,
manipulating someone‘s pride and ego. We call that pride and ego
MITCHELL: Are we talking about stripping them, taking them off their clothes, parading them around naked, pushing a leash around their neck?
JACOBSON: No, absolutely not, absolutely not.
Those techniques, I wouldn‘t even call them techniques. Those sort of activities are absolutely prohibited by the UCMJ, by military regulation. Those techniques have nothing to do with interrogation. They are sadistic and torture.
MITCHELL: Well, let‘s just say theoretically you‘ve got these few prisoners who have been resistant, who are clever or evading whatever kind of questioning that‘s been put to them. What is appropriate? What do you do? How do you go up to the line without crossing it?
Some of the things you can do are isolating those individuals who are being cooperative from others who are being agitators. For example, you‘re going to need a support group to come back to every time you‘re detained. However, if you‘re alone in your own cell without much contact with your support group, well, it‘s more likely that you are going to cooperate with your interrogator.
That interrogator is the only person you are going to see.
Additionally, as we did at Guantanamo Bay, we set up a rewards program. That is, if you cooperate with your interrogator, if you‘re compliant with the rules, you will get to move to a medium security facility and wear a white jumpsuit instead of an orange jumpsuit.
MITCHELL: Mr. Jacobson, how do you get from a reward program, which everyone would understand, to what we saw in those pictures? How do you make that leap? There was testimony today from General Taguba that it came from military intelligence. Military intelligence reports to the Pentagon, up the chain of command to the people that you work for, Feith and then ultimately Cambone and the secretary of defense.
I think it‘s a misconception that the report put out by General Miller in any way instigated what happened at Abu Ghraib. I think, as General Taguba clearly stated, we are dealing with an absolute failure in leadership, no oversight, in fact, a lack of guidance vs. any instructions that were put out.
MITCHELL: But you are saying that it was a couple of bad apples? You are saying it did not come from some sort of a wink and nod, if not a specific plan that came from Washington, that, we are at war with these terrorists; we have got to do whatever we can; we haven‘t found the weapons of mass destruction; we haven‘t found Saddam Hussein; let‘s get tough?
JACOBSON: Absolutely not.
I think that there‘s a degree on the political level to make something of this and say, well, the administration‘s disregard for Geneva. That‘s fine for the classroom. That‘s fine for the dais on Capitol Hill. But when it comes down to how the soldiers treat these people, they‘re governed by how they‘re taught in the schools, Army doctrine, regulation. And in this case, individuals violated those very tenets that they were taught from day one in the military.
MITCHELL: But one of things that came out in the Taguba report was that there was no training. You had military police who were reservists trained as truck drivers who were never trained even to be prison guards.
JACOBSON: In fact, they had no business being on those detention blocks. That is an absolutely failure from the brigade. To allow individuals who untrained to be on the floor, not supervised properly, this is exactly how we got into the situation that we saw at Abu Ghraib.
MITCHELL: But there was also testimony that other government agencies, code word for the CIA, was there. So this didn‘t just happen at the local level there at Abu Ghraib. This went all the way up.
JACOBSON: Well, I think we are certainly going to have to look at the commands relationships between the brigade, the military intelligence brigade, the military police brigade, and General Sanchez‘s headquarters.
What I haven‘t seen in testimony yet is, what was going on in between?
What sort of guidance was General Sanchez providing down to these folks? If there were CIA employees or any other government agency employees who were inappropriately directing this sort of action, then they are going to have to be prosecuted as well.
MITCHELL: But what about military intelligence, not the CIA, but people who report to the Army and the people with whom you worked?
JACOBSON: If there are Army military intelligence, Navy, Marine Corps intelligence people involved with this, not only will I personally be ashamed, but I also think that these individuals should be prosecuted.
In fact, General Taguba named several M.I. people in his report and said that we are going to need to look at the actions of these individuals. They were perhaps criminal.
MITCHELL: Do you have any problem with General Taguba‘s report? It‘s a pretty devastating indictment, isn‘t it?
JACOBSON: I think that the report is pretty good.
I think it almost begs a few more questions. And these are the things that Stephen Cambone and others were trying to answer today, especially along the lines of, what does setting the conditions for proper interrogation mean?
MITCHELL: Well, it seems to mean softening them up, which means being tough.
JACOBSON: Well, I disagree there.
I think what General Miller‘s approach was, he was saying that, on a passive level, the military police in the cell blocks need to be listening to what the detainees are talking about. Who are they speaking with? What is their attitude? What sort of feelings do they have towards the coalition and their captors?
On an active level, this means separating out agitators from those who are compliant. It means setting up a rewards program. Nothing in the guidance delivered by General Miller, nothing that takes place at Guantanamo is even remotely close to the sort of criminal action we saw at Abu Ghraib. I think that is a failure in implementation, a drastic one, one that we cannot simply brush aside. It‘s one that must be dealt with.
MITCHELL: Thank you, Mark Jacobson. I don‘t know. That sounds more like sensitivity training than those pictures.
Chris Matthews will be here tomorrow night for more HARDBALL. I‘m Andrea Mitchell. Thanks for being with us tonight.
And right now, it‘s time for the “COUNTDOWN” with Keith Olbermann.
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