Saturday, June 12, 2004

Abu Ghraib torture: Sanchez, "ghost prisoners", and decoding the handwriting of the Fog Machine 

Yes, the leaks are coming fast and furiously. Since the show trials of the privates and specialists in Baghdad didn't work, The Fog Machine (original post) is looking for sacrificial victims further up the chain of command: the ol' "modified limited hangout" trick.

Not that Sanchez is a blushing innocent, but it's clear that the whole situation isn't of his making, any more than it's the fault of the "few bad apples." Anyhow, let's watch Sanchez being hung out to dry:

The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, issued a classified order last November directing military guards to hide a prisoner, later dubbed "Triple X" by soldiers, from Red Cross inspectors and keep his name off official rosters.

I like the name "Triple X." Kinda makes you wonder exactly how he was tortured, and where the photos and videos are, doesn't it?

The disclosure, by military sources, is the first indication that Sanchez was directly involved in efforts to hide prisoners from the Red Cross, a practice that was sharply criticized by Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba in a report describing abuses of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.

Taguba blamed the 800th Military Police Brigade, which guarded the prison, for allowing "other government agencies"--a euphemism that includes the CIA--to hide "ghost" detainees at Abu Ghraib. The practice, he wrote, "was deceptive, contrary to Army doctrine, and in violation of international law."
(via US News)

"Ghost prisoners," eh? Fog Machine material, for sure.

Sanchez, in his directive to the 800th MP Brigade--Fragmentary Order (FRAGO) No. 1099--identified [ghost prisoner "XXX"] by name, said he was a terrorist, and told the brigade not to put [ghost prisoner "XXX"]'s name in any electronic roster of detainees. He instructed the brigade not to disclose his whereabouts to the Red Cross pending further notice, military sources say.

Hmmm... So the important roster isn't electronic. I wonder where it is and who keeps it, then? And do any of our alert readers know what the heck a "Fragmentary Order" might be? Sounds like another loose link in the chain of command, to me. Fog Machine handwriting!

And to confirm the active operation of the Fog Machine, at the very end, we get this very interesting sentence:

Beginning last November, the military sources say, [ghost prisoner "XXX"] was kept alone, under guard in his own room, at the High Value Detention facility near the Baghdad airport.

Well, well, well. Guess that means the guys we were torturing and setting dogs on at Abu Ghaib weren't even really important, right? Since they aren't "high value."

The High Value Detention Facility

Here's information on the High Value Detention Facility. And guess what! There's Fog Machine handwriting all over it:

About 100 high-ranking Iraqi prisoners held for months at a time in spartan conditions on the outskirts of Baghdad International Airport are being detained under a special chain of command, under conditions not subject to approval by the top American commander in Iraq, according to military officials.

The unusual lines of authority in the detainees' handling are part of a tangled network of authority over prisoners in Iraq, in which military police, military intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, various military commanders and the Pentagon itself have all played a role.
(The Times, amazingly enough, via the Dallas Forth Worth Star Telegram.)

Funny, though, that the civilian contractors aren't mentioned. I wonder why that is?

And it looks like the High Value Detention facility is a second Abu Ghraib, and for all the same reasons. Fog Machine handwriting:

On 09 June 2003 there was a riot and shootings of five detainees at Camp Cropper [the High Value Detention (HVD) Site], operated by the 115th MP Battalion) Several detainees allegedly rioted after a detainee was subdued by MPs of the 115th MP Battalion after striking a guard in compound B of Camp Cropper. A 15-6 investigation by 1LT Magowan (115th MP Battalion, Platoon Leader) concluded that a detainee had acted up and hit an MP. After being subdued, one of the MPs took off his DCU top and flexed his muscles to the detainees, which further escalated the riot. The MPs were overwhelmed and the guards fired lethal rounds to protect the life of the compound MPs, whereby 5 detainees were wounded. Contributing factors were poor communications, no clear chain of command, facility-obstructed views of posted guards, the QRF did not have non-lethal equipment, and the SOP was inadequate and outdated.
(via GlobalSecurity.org)

The Fog Machine

Here again, we have the handwriting of a Fog Machine operation. (To review, back)

1. Deliberately confused chain of command. Both in the handling of Triple-X and at the HVD/Camp Cropper facility.

2. Deliberately vague policies. Separate books for high value detainees like Triple-X, and inadequate SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) at HVD/Camp Cropper.

3. Statements from high officials that encourage torture. That would be Bush, Rumsfeld, and by the act of signing the Fragmentary Order (surely not the only one?) Sanchez himself.

4. Subordinates are sacrificed to protect superiors. That would be Sanchez, eh?

The fifth feature:

5. Secret records kept on digital media there seems to be no evidence for. However, as we said, the name "Triple X" is suggestive both of the type torture he underwent, and the medium on which it might have been stored: video.

Sanchez just a fall guy

Reading between the lines, it seems clear that Sanchez didn't have real, operational control over any of the prison facilities, whether at Abu Ghraib or at the HVD site at Camp Cropper. The chain of command would have been too confused for that—and deliberately so. The torture was being done by uniformed military personnel without insignia, military intelligence, civilian constractors, the CIA, and God knows who. Sanchez couldn't have been responsible. It seems like Sanchez got tripped up by the "seam" between legal, Constitutional Army activity and illegal, unconstitutional Fog Machine torture operations. He needed to hand over a prisoner to the Fog Machine, but being in the Constitutional chain of command, he had to write an order to do so—the order that has now been leaked[1].

And who runs the Fog Machine? The White House, obviously (see the first quote back here).

Follow the bytes!

The interesting question—yet to be asked, let alone answered—is how information flowed from the Fog Machine in Iraq to the WhiteWash House. My money is on the civilian contractor->RNC/CPA->Pentagon Office of Special Plans->West Wing route, only because those are the usual suspects.

Hopefully, Seymour Hersh has been absent from the pages of the New Yorker because he is running this story down.

[1]. It seems unlikely to me that the person who leaked Sanchez's order would have been a whistleblower. As a rule, the true heroes of the Abu Ghraib story, the whistleblowers, have been very willing to give their names. So my theory is that someone higher than Sanchez is throwing him to the wolves. "It's expedient that one man die for the sake of the people."

NOTE Michael from Reading A1 has an excellent timeline of Sanchez's actions through the slowly exploding torture scandal. And yes, he is being hung out to dry.

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