The general who headed the U.S. military prison at Abu Ghraib in Iraq said in an interview broadcast Tuesday that there had been a conspiracy to prevent her knowing about prisoner abuse at the jail.
Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was suspended by the Pentagon in May, has denied knowing about any mistreatment of prisoners until photographs surfaced at the end of April. U.S. investigators have not implicated Karpinski directly in any of the abuses.
Karpinski told British Broadcasting Corp. radio that she had information suggesting officials took action to keep her in the dark about the mistreatment.
"I have been told there's a reliable witness who's made a statement ... indicating that not only was I not included in any of the meetings discussing interrogation operations, but specific measures were taken to ensure I would not have access to those facilities, that information or any of the details of interrogations at Abu Ghraib or anywhere else," Karpinski said. She didn't identify the witness.
Hints at Pentagon, White House involvement
"Correct," Karpinski responded when asked if she thought there was a conspiracy at a senior level to stop her knowing what was going on.
"From what I understand ... it was people that had full knowledge of what was going on out at Abu Ghraib who knew that they had to keep Janis Karpinski from discovering any of those activities," she added.
Asked whether she thought the conspiracy reached up to the Pentagon or the White House, she said: "The indication is that it may have."
Karpinski also dismissed an Iraqi man's allegation in a federal lawsuit that she witnessed abuses at Abu Ghraib. In a videotaped deposition, Saddam "Sam" Saleh Aboud said he endured beatings at the prison. During one session, his hood was removed and he said he saw Karpinski.
She rejected that claim.
‘That never took place’
"There's no truth to his statement," Karpinski told the BBC. "There was never a time when I witnessed any abuse at Abu Ghraib or at any other facility anywhere.
"I was never at a location where, if a prisoner was in a detention cell, he would have been hooded. That never took place."
She added that for security reasons she had never visited Abu Ghraib after dark and that she now believed most of the abuse had occurred in the early hours of the morning.
A military hearing opened Tuesday in the United States to begin gathering evidence to see if one of the soldiers in the photographs, Pfc. Lynndie England, should be court-martialed. She was photographed smiling and giving the thumbs-up sign in the presence of naked, hooded detainees.