CBS’s Smith: Bush Interrogation Methods Caused Abu Ghraib?

Harry Smith and Janis Karpinski, CBS On Wednesday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith resurrected the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, connecting it to the current debate over interrogation methods used toward terror suspects under the Bush administration: "Torture on trial. In a major shift, President Obama now says he is open to investigating Bush administration officials for crimes related to torture...We'll talk to the former general in charge of Abu Ghraib. Were the soldiers there made to be scapegoats?"

Smith interviewed former Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, who was demoted following Abu Ghraib, and suggested a link between aggressive interrogation tactics and the prisoner abuse: "...a Senate Armed Services Committee report...suggests that the roots of torture, the roots of the idea of torture were being circulated in the Pentagon and the CIA as early as 2002...Is there a line? Do you see that there is a lining run -- that goes from 2002 to Abu Ghraib to the hundreds of times waterboards were used in these cases of these few CIA cases?" Karpinski replied: "Absolutely. The line is very clear that it was cloudy for years, obviously, seven years, if 2002 were the initial discussions. But the line is clear. It went from Washington, D.C., from the very top of the administration with the legal opinions, through Bagram, to Guantanamo Bay, and then to Iraq via the commander from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And the contractors who were hired to do those things."

Earlier in the interview, Smith exclaimed: "Because part of your sense is that this was pervasive in certain parts of the military culture. That the people who did the tortures in Abu Ghraib didn't act alone. They didn't act -- this didn't grow organically out of a cell or some place."

In his final question to Karpinski, Smith wondered: "And in the -- in the end, end, you feel like, for instance, the people who were prosecuted for these crimes who were under your command, and even yourself, you believe were scapegoated?" That gave Karpinski the opportunity to declare: "Absolutely. I mean, scapegoat is the perfect word and it's an understatement. Right now, with the hard, fast, facts in those memos, the black and white proof, the administration is suggesting that those operatives should be immune from any investigations or persecution. But what about the soldiers who were categorized as seven bad apples back in 2004?"

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: Torture on trial. In a major shift, President Obama now says he is open to investigating Bush administration officials for crimes related to torture.

BARACK OBAMA: I would say that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws.

SMITH: We'll talk to the former general in charge of Abu Ghraib. Were the soldiers there made to be scapegoats?

7:02AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: First, though, top of the news. President Obama has opened the door, if just a little, to prosecuting Bush administration officials for authorizing torture against terror suspects. CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante has more. Good morning, Bill.

BILL PLANTE: Good morning, Harry. As the President has said in the past, he doesn't believe that the people who carried out those interrogations should be prosecuted. He got a lot of blowback on that. So yesterday he did open the door to the possible prosecution of Bush administration officials who gave those orders.

BARACK OBAMA: I would say that that is going to be more of a decision for the attorney general within the parameters of various laws and I don't want to pre-judge that.

PLANTE: The remarks by President Obama came just days after the controversial declassification and release of the CIA torture memos. They disclosed that three Al Qaeda operatives had been waterboarded more than 260 times. Many legal experts insist that waterboarding is torture and that those who had sanctioned it need to be held accountable.

WILLIAM BANKS [SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY LAW PROFESSOR]: They're wrong because they allowed their zeal and their passion and their concern about the safety of the United States to overcome reason.

PLANTE: Former Vice President Dick Cheney, a supporter of the controversial interrogation tactics, believes that they helped keep America safe after 9/11.

DICK CHENEY: And there are reports that show specifically what we gained as a result of this activity.

PLANTE: Cheney's not the only one. Intelligence Director Dennis Blair sent a private memo to his staff, since authenticated, in which he said 'high-value information' was gained using those methods. But he added, 'I like to think I would not have approved those methods in the past.' Blair, like his boss, the President, doesn't believe the people who carried out the orders should be prosecuted. Harry.

SMITH: Bill Plante at the White House this morning, thanks. In 2003, Janis Karpinski was the Brigadier General who ran the prisons in Iraq, including Abu Ghraib. She was demoted to Colonel in the aftermath of the scandal and has since retired. She's with us this morning. As we see this morning in the front pages of many papers around the country, there are findings this morning from a Senate Armed Services Committee report, which is scheduled for release later today, that suggests that the roots of torture, the roots of the idea of torture were being circulated in the Pentagon and the CIA as early as 2002. That's two years preceding what happened at Abu Ghraib. When you hear things like that, what do you think?

JANIS KARPINSKI: I think it took far too long for this information to surface and to come out. And when you were preparing soldiers, units and soldiers to deploy to war it would have been very helpful to arm them with as much information as you had available. So in 2002, people were well aware of these policies and the discussions. But it certainly would have been important to share that with the soldiers that you were sending off to war to conduct these operations.

SMITH: Because part of your sense is that this was pervasive in certain parts of the military culture. That the people who did the tortures in Abu Ghraib didn't act alone. They didn't act -- this didn't grow organically out of a cell or some place.

KARPINSKI: Absolutely. From the beginning, I've been saying, that these soldiers didn't design these techniques on their own, and the soldiers routinely said, as much as they could in their own court-martials, 'you know, we were following orders. We were bringing this to our chain of command and they were saying whatever the military intelligence tells you to do out there you are authorized to do.'

SMITH: Okay. We're showing waterboarding now, which was not part of the techniques, per se, in Abu Ghraib, but were used in -- by the CIA against Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and others. Is there a line? Do you see that there is a lining run -- that goes from 2002 to Abu Ghraib to the hundreds of times waterboards were used in these cases of these few CIA cases?

KARPINSKI: Absolutely. The line is very clear that it was cloudy for years, obviously, seven years, if 2002 were the initial discussions. But the line is clear. It went from Washington, D.C., from the very top of the administration with the legal opinions, through Bagram, to Guantanamo Bay, and then to Iraq via the commander from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And the contractors who were hired to do those things.

SMITH: And in the -- in the end, end, you feel like, for instance, the people who were prosecuted for these crimes who were under your command, and even yourself, you believe were scapegoated?

KARPINSKI: Absolutely. I mean, scapegoat is the perfect word and it's an understatement. Right now, with the hard, fast, facts in those memos, the black and white proof, the administration is suggesting that those operatives should be immune from any investigations or persecution. But what about the soldiers who were categorized as seven bad apples back in 2004?

SMITH: Colonel, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us.

KARPINSKI: Thank you.

SMITH: Do appreciate it.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC