- A group of veterans of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Desert
Storm sharply criticized the Bush administration today at an event sponsored
by Veterans for Common Sense in Washington, DC. Dave Debatto. a former
US Army Counterintelligence Special Agent who was assigned in 2003 to Iraq,
said he took part in thousands of interrogations in Iraq. He said his orders
and those for his colleagues were never to lay hands on anyone, let alone
torture anyone. Consequently, Debatto and other interrogators received
a lot of intelligence through their cooperation with Iraqis at the outset
of the U.S. occupation. However, he said when new tactics were employed
in June 2003, things "went south" quickly. Intelligence dried
up and Camp Anaconda, his base of operations, became "Mortarville"
as it was mortar-shelled day and night.
- Frank Ford, a 32-year veteran of military and counter-intelligence
assignments, served in Samara, the ancient capital of Mesopotamia, during
Operation Iraqi Freedom. His military service began when he served with
President Richard Nixon's Presidential security detail at the Western White
House in San Clemente, California.
- Former Iraq war counter-intelligence agent and Nixon
security detail member Frank Ford. Hustled out of Iraq on a stretcher after
complaining about U.S. torture tactics.
- Ford said at the outset of his assignment in Samara his
unit was witnessing 105-100 walk-ins of intelligence sources per day. The
only problem was recording and reporting on all the intelligence being
provided. After the May 2004 "Wedding Day Massacre" by US troops
of a wedding party in the village of Mukaradeeb in western Iraq, near the
Syrian border, Ford said things "went south real fast." He said
there was an immediate response from the Iraqis. The soured relations with
the Iraqis resulted in walk-in intelligence sources dropping from 105 to
110 a day to 2 to 3, and soon to zero. Immediately, U.S. troops in Samara
were besieged. The U.S. response was to pick up all males between the ages
of 10 and 100 whereupon they were "bagged, tagged, and brutalized."
These clean sweeps were conducted in 120 degree temperatures. The new American
tactic resulted in an escalation of insurgent attacks.
- Ford said Iraqis who had cooperated with the United States
warned the US military to knock off the torture. Intelligence reports on
U.S. torture were sent up the military chain to Washington. The reports
were ignored. Ford said, soon, interrogation became extermination. Ford
requested a formal investigation of the torture. The response of the U.S.
military command in Iraq was to physically assault Ford and take him to
a psychiatrist. Ford was told he was imagining torture. Ford said things
got uglier when he was ordered out of Iraq to Germany strapped to a stretcher.
Soon after, Ford retired from government service.
- Ford was not surprised when 60 Minutes aired its report
on torture at Abu Ghraib. He knew where the "kids" at Abu Ghraib
were trained in the illegal tactics they employed against the prisoners.
In fact, Ford's headquarters was Abu Ghraib. Instead of stopping the torture
tactics, the orders from Washington were to send "non-talkers"
(Iraqis) to Abu Ghraib for interrogation. Ford revealed that a special
team of foreign nationals were brought into Abu Ghraib to advise on torture
techniques. The physical stripping of prisoners was one such tactic imported
by the foreign national advisers. Meanwhile, U.S. military commanders said
torture was not occurring.
- Ford said soon the U.S. position in Samara first began
to disintegrate n June 15, 2003 after former members of the Iraqi Mukhabarat
intelligence service, along with "Saddam Fedayeen" former special
forces, launched "Operation Viper," a Tet-style offensive against
the U.S. The Mukhabarat warned that five U.S. soldiers would be killed
per week. Ford said the insurgency has drastically increased that target
number today. Iraq war veteran Garrett Repenhagen said that Abu Ghraib
changed things in Iraq. He said that after news of the abuse became public,
many Iraqis shifted their support to the insurgency. One starving Iraqi
youngster who used to accept a daily meals ready to eat (MRE) package from
Repenhagen refused it after the news from Abu Ghraib became known.
- Ford, who has a degree in anthropology and specializes
in archeology and is familiar with the histories of the current and past
countries of the Middle East, said torture has very primal effects on a
society in a drastic way. He said the "U.S. restructured the premier
torture center in the Middle East," referring to Abu Ghraib during
Saddam Hussein's rule.
- As far as the presence of contractor personnel in U.S.-run
prisons in Iraq and other countries, Debatto said interrogation contracts
for companies like CACI and Titan represented the first time in U.S. history
that type of intelligence work was contracted out. He called the contracting
out "absurd" and said contractors were "minimally supervised."
Debatto called this precedent dangerous and said civilian contractors were
"part of the problem."
- Army counter-intelligence special agent Dave Debatto:
Says contracting out interrogation work represents an "absurd"
first in U.S. history.