|GI: Boy mistreated to get dad to talk
By Mike Dorning Washington Bureau
05/20/04 "Chicago Tribune" -- A military intelligence analyst who recently completed duty at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq said Wednesday that the 16-year-old son of a detainee there was abused by U.S. soldiers to break his father's resistance to interrogators.
The analyst said the teenager was stripped naked, thrown in the back of an open truck, driven around in the cold night air, splattered with mud and then presented to his father at Abu Ghraib, the prison at the center of the scandal over abuse of Iraqi detainees.
Upon seeing his frail and frightened son, the prisoner broke down and cried and told interrogators he would tell them whatever they wanted, the analyst said.
The new account of mistreatment came as Army Spec. Jeremy Sivits was sentenced in Iraq to a year in prison Wednesday and a bad-conduct discharge after pleading guilty in the first court-martial stemming from the abuses at Abu Ghraib.
In Washington, top commanders for U.S. forces in Iraq told senators they never approved abusive techniques for interrogating prisoners. But they also promised that investigators would scrutinize everyone in the chain of command, including the generals themselves.
Sgt. Samuel Provance, who maintained the 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion's top-secret computer system at Abu Ghraib prison, gave the account of abuse of the teenager in a telephone interview from Germany, where he is now stationed. He said he also has described the incident to Army investigators.
Provance's account of mistreatment of a prisoner's son is consistent with concerns raised by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which had received reports that interrogators were threatening reprisals against detainees' family members.
Provance already has been deemed a credible witness by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who included the Army sergeant in a list of witnesses whose statements he relied on to make his findings of prisoner mistreatment at Abu Ghraib.
Although Pentagon officials have portrayed the abuses at the prison as the isolated conduct of a few out-of-control guards, Provance's account offers fresh evidence of broader participation. He said members of Abu Ghraib's military intelligence unit were well aware that prisoners were subjected to sexual humiliation and other abuse.
One female interrogator told him of forcing detainees to wear nothing but women's underwear and questioning a male prisoner who was kept naked during interrogation, Provance said. He said he overheard colleagues in the military intelligence battalion laughing as a soldier in the unit described watching MPs use two detainees as "practice dummies," first knocking one prisoner unconscious with a blow and then doing the same to the other.
Account is 2nd-hand
Provance, 30, said he was not present for the mistreatment of the detainee's son, which he said occurred in December or possibly January. But he said an interrogator described the incident to him shortly afterward. When contacted by the Tribune on Wednesday, that soldier declined to comment.
Provance said he escorted the boy from the interrogation cellblock to the prison's general population immediately after the encounter between the teenager and his father.
"This kid was so frail. He was shaking like a leaf," he said.
Provance said he urged the interrogators not to put the teenager in the prison's unruly, poorly supervised general population, but was rebuffed.
"I even went inside and said, `This kid is scared for his life. He's probably going to be raped. He can't be put in general population,'" Provance said.
He said he did not know the identity of either the father or son but said the father was described to him as a "high-level individual" who had not provided useful intelligence in previous questioning.
Army spokesman Col. Joseph Curtin said he could not comment on the incidents described by Provance because they are part of an investigation. But Curtin said, "We are working very hard to get to the truth."
Maj. Paul Karnaze, a spokesman for the Army Intelligence School at Ft. Huachuca, Ariz., said Army policy forbids any abuse or threats of abuse against family members during interrogations. "That's just so far from the Army values we train," Karnaze said.
Provance said he described the incidents to investigators, most recently in an interview this month with Maj. Gen. George Fay, who is overseeing the Army's investigation of military intelligence officials' involvement in prisoner abuse.
Concerns over a cover-up
Provance said he became concerned about a possible cover-up of the role of military intelligence officials after receiving written instructions shortly after the interview telling him not to discuss Abu Ghraib.
In addition, Provance said, Fay warned that he likely would recommend administrative action against Provance for not reporting abuses before his first sworn statement, made in January. The administrative action would effectively bar promotions for Provance.
"I felt like I was being punished for being honest," Provance said.
An Army official said it was routine procedure for military investigators to instruct witnesses not to discuss events that are under examination.
Provance said he questioned treatment of prisoners several times last fall without effect.
"I would voice my opinion . . . and they would say, `What do you know? You're a system administrator,'" he said. Among the interrogators "there's a certain cockiness," he added.
Provance said his duties recently were switched from a computer systems administrator to a military intelligence analyst but he remains on duty with his unit, which returned from Iraq in February. He is now stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, he said.
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