Children held by the U.S. Army at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison included one boy who appeared to be only about 8 years old, the former commander of the prison told investigators, according to a transcript.
“He told me he was almost 12,” Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski told officials investigating prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib. “He told me his brother was there with him, but he really wanted to see his mother, could he please call his mother. He was crying.”
Karpinski’s statement is among hundreds of pages of Army records about Abu Ghraib the American Civil Liberties Union released Thursday. The ACLU got the documents under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking records about abuse of prisoners in Iraq.
Karpinski did not say what happened to the boy in her interview with Maj. Gen. George Fay. Military officials have previously acknowledged that some juvenile prisoners had been held at Abu Ghraib, a large prison built by Saddam Hussein’s government outside Baghdad.
On another subject, Karpinski said she had seen written orders to hold a prisoner that the CIA had captured without keeping records. The records also quote an unnamed Army officer at Abu Ghraib as saying military intelligence officers and the CIA worked out a written agreement on how to handle unreported prisoners. An Army report issued in September said investigators could not find any copies of any such written agreement.
The Pentagon has acknowledged holding up to 100 “ghost detainees,” keeping the prisoners off the books and away from humanitarian investigators from the International Committee of the Red Cross. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has defended the practice, saying he authorized it because the prisoners were “enemy combatants” not entitled to prisoner of war protections.
ACLU files suit
The ACLU sued Rumsfeld earlier this month on behalf of four Iraqis and four Afghans who say they were tortured at U.S. military facilities. Rumsfeld and his spokesmen have repeatedly said that the defense secretary and his aides never authorized or condoned any abuses.
Six enlisted soldiers have pleaded guilty to military charges for their roles in abuses at Abu Ghraib, and Pvt. Charles Graner Jr. was convicted at a court-martial earlier this year and sentenced to ten years in prison.
Karpinski — one of the few generals to be criticized in Army prisoner reports for poor leadership — quoted several senior generals in Iraq as making callous statements about prisoners.
Karpinski said Maj. Gen. Walter Wodjakowski, then the No. 2 Army general in Iraq, told her in the summer of 2003 not to release more prisoners, even if they were innocent.
“I don’t care if we’re holding 15,000 innocent civilians. We’re winning the war,” Karpinski said Wodjakowski told her. She said she replied: “Not inside the wire, you’re not, sir.”