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Janis Leigh Karpinski (born May 25, 1953, Rahway, New Jerseymarker) is a central figure in the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal.

Karpinski retired as a United States Army Colonel in the 800th Military Police Brigade. She was demoted from Brigadier General in the aftermath of the scandal, for dereliction of duty, making a material misrepresentation to investigators, and failure to obey a lawful order. She was the commander of three large US- and British-led prisons in Iraqmarker in 2003, eight battalions, and 3,400 soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve. Karpinski claims that she was made a scapegoat in order to protect higher ranking military personnel from the scandal.

In June 2003, during the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, Karpinski was given command of the 800 Military Police Brigade, putting her in charge of the 15 detention facilities in southern and central Iraq run by Coalition forces. Karpinski was also given command of the National Guard and Army reserve units in the Iraqi city of Mosulmarker. In January 2004, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez formally suspended Karpinski and 16 other soldiers with undisclosed reprimands. An investigation was started into the abuse, and Karpinski left Iraq for reasons that were explained at the time as part of "routine troop rotations."

On April 8, 2005 Karpinski was formally relieved of command of the 800th Military Police Brigade, and on May 5, 2005, President George W. Bush approved Karpinski's demotion to colonel from the rank of brigadier general. Her demotion was not officially related to the abuse at Abu Ghraib prisonmarker.

In October 2005 she published an account of her experiences, One Woman's Army, in which she claims that the abuses were perpetrated by contract employees trained in Afghanistanmarker and Guantanamo Baymarker and sent under orders from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and that her demotion was political retribution.

Early career

Karpinski was commissioned into the Army as a second lieutenant in 1977 and has served primarily in intelligence and military police assignments, including tours supporting the Special Forces and in Saudi Arabiamarker during the first Gulf War. She moved from the regular Army to the Reserves in 1987. She also became a consultant who ran military-styled training programs for executives. She is married to George Karpinski, a lieutenant colonel at the Omanmarker US embassy. She was awarded a Bronze Star.

Iraq service

In June 2003, during the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, Karpinski was given command of the 800 Military Police Brigade. This put her in charge of the fifteen detention facilities in southern and central Iraq run by Coalition forces. She had no experience running correctional facilities. Karpinski was also given command of the National Guard and Army reserve units in the Iraqi city of Mosulmarker, most of whom, like her, had no training in handling prisoners. But at least two of the guardsmen who were convicted of prisoner abuse had lengthy civilian experience as prison guards.

In September 2003, Karpinski led US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on a tour of the Abu Ghraib prison to demonstrate the way it had been used by Saddam Hussein to torture his enemies.

Allegations, suspension and investigation

In October 2003, allegations of torture in the new Iraqi prisons began to surface. Karpinski insisted that prisoners under her watch were treated "humanely and fairly". In an interview with the St. Petersburg Times in December 2003, Karpinski said conditions in the prison were even better than many Iraqi homes, and joked that the prisoners were treated so well that she was "concerned they wouldn't want to leave." In January 2004, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez formally suspended Karpinski and 16 other soldiers with undisclosed reprimands. An investigation was started into the abuse, and Karpinski left Iraq for reasons that were explained at the time as part of "routine troop rotations." In July 2007 Karpinski stated she had evidence Israelis were involved in interrogations.

On April 8, 2005 Karpinski was formally relieved of command of the 800th Military Police Brigade. On May 5, 2005, President Bush approved Karpinski's demotion to colonel from the rank of brigadier general. Her demotion was not officially related to the abuse at Abu Ghraib prisonmarker. The allegations against her were for dereliction of duty, making a material misrepresentation to investigators, failure to obey a lawful order and shoplifting. Military sources alleged that Karpinski had been arrested in 2002 on MacDill Air Force Basemarker for stealing cosmetics, but Karpinski has denied the arrest took place.

Taguba Report

In his final report, Major General Antonio Taguba blamed Karpinski for the abuse, indicating she had not paid attention to the daily operations of the prison. According to Taguba, Karpinski rarely visited the prisons during her tenure, and she reviewed and signed reports about claims of abuse without following up to make sure her orders were carried out. As a consequence, the abuse was allowed to continue and her subordinates developed a lax attitude towards protocol. Karpinski was cited throughout the Taguba Report for repeated violations of Army procedure, good management and exercising her command as directed by Army regulations. During interviews it was reported within the Taguba report that Karpinski was disconnected from the reality of the situation in her area of command.

Karpinski was issued a Memorandum of Admonishment by LTG Sanchez, Commander,CJTF-7, on 17 January 2004.

In April 2004, CBS' 60 Minutes II broadcast photographs of Iraqi prisoners being tortured and humiliated at Abu Ghraib. Following the broadcast, Karpinski was suspended of her duties and replaced by Major General Geoffrey Miller, the former commander of the detention camp known as Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay.

Karpinski's defense

Karpinski insisted she had no knowledge of the abuse and claims the particular wing of the prison was under the control of military intelligence "twenty-four hours a day." She claims Army intelligence officers encouraged guards to torture prisoners as an aid to interrogation, and that she was a scapegoat.

A June 2004 BBC article said, "Gen Karpinski believes the soldiers had not taken the pictures of their own accord." It quotes her as saying:

Since her suspension, Karpinski has made controversial accusations against her superiors in a series of interviews. In an interview with BBC Radio, Karpinski claimed that Major General Geoffrey Miller, who was sent from Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay to improve interrogations at the Iraqi prison, told her to treat prisoners "like dogs" in the sense that "if you allow them to believe at any point that they are more than a dog then you've lost control of them". Miller denies that he ever made the remarks.

In November 2006, Karpinski told Spainmarker's El Pais newspaper she had seen a letter apparently signed by Rumsfeld that allowed civilian contractors to use techniques such as sleep deprivation during interrogation. She stated, "The methods consisted of making prisoners stand for long periods, sleep deprivation ... playing music at full volume, having to sit in uncomfortably ... Rumsfeld authorised these specific techniques." According to Karpinski, Rumsfeld's handwritten signature was above his printed name and in the same handwriting in the margin was written: "Make sure this is accomplished."

There have been no comments from either the Pentagonmarker or US army spokespeople in Iraq on Karpinski's accusations.

On March 8, 2006, Karpinski gave an interview to Dateline, on the Australian SBS network. When asked who was ultimately responsible for the actions of torture and humiliation depicted in the photographs, Karpinski stated:

When questioned on the findings of the Taguba Report, which stated she had shown a lack of leadership throughout the period of events, and therefore was partly responsible for what happened, Karpinski stated

In an interview for the Santa Clarita, Californiamarker newspaper, The Signal, Karpinski claimed to have seen unreleased documents from Rumsfeld that authorized the use of dogs, food and sleep deprivation, and isolation for Iraqi prisoners that were also signed by General Sanchez. Both have denied authorizing such tactics. In a May 2004 military investigation of the Abu Ghraib abuses made public by an ACLU Freedom of Information Act request, Karpinski said she witnessed children as young as twelve years of age incarcerated at Abu Ghraib.

Plans to testify in German war crimes lawsuit

On November 10, 2006 Time magazine reported that civil rights activists were intending to file legal documents with a German prosecutor with the hope that charges would be brought against senior U.S. political and military officials. The legal documents will detail the alleged roles of the officials in abuses committed at Iraq's Abu Ghraibmarker prison and at the U.S. detention facility at Guantánamo Baymarker. Among those including Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, and former CIA Director George Tenet. According to the article lawyers claim that Karpinski will be testifying on behalf of the plaintiffs. With the legal filings a written statement will be included from Karpinski saying, "It was clear the knowledge and responsibility for what happened at Abu Ghraib goes all the way to the top of the chain of command to the Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld." The U.S.marker Department of Defensemarker has not replied, because the documents have not been filed yet. On November 14, 2006 the Attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights had officially filed a war crimes lawsuit in Germany against Rumsfeld and other high-ranking U.S. officials for their role in the torture of prisoners in Iraq and Guantanamo. Karpinski confirmed that she will be testifying.

Watch

Newsmaker of the Week: Janis Karpinski (30-min. interview, free)

Bibliography

  • One Woman's Army : The Commanding General of Abu Ghraib Tells Her Story, 2005, (ISBN 1-4013-5247-2)


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