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Abu Ghraib Investigations Continue

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Next we have a scorecard of sorts in the investigation of prisoner abuse. A brigadier general was demoted last week, and Janis Karpinski became the most senior person who's been punished so far for physical and psychological abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. NPR national security correspondent Jackie Northam has been following numerous investigations as they range up and down the chain of command, and she joins us now.

Good morning.

JACKIE NORTHAM reporting:

Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: And let's work our way up the chain of command starting at the bottom. Seven guards at Abu Ghraib prison were identified through photographs and other means at the very beginning of the investigation. What has happened to them?

NORTHAM: That's right. Well, five of them have either pled guilty or been found guilty, and most of those are serving jail sentences right now. The longest sentence is 10 years for Specialist now Private Charles Graner. Two more trials are expected, and that includes Private First Class Lynndie England, who was at trial last week. It was called a mistrial by the military judge.

INSKEEP: Now the next level up--who were their superior officers, remind us, and what's happened to them?

NORTHAM: Well, one of the problems with Abu Ghraib was it was a little unclear who was in charge of whom there at the time, but there were two military intelligence commanders and the head of the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center at Abu Ghraib--those three are under investigation still.

INSKEEP: Eventually you get up to Janis Karpinski, the former brigadier general, now a colonel. She's been demoted. Is that the end of the punishment for her?

NORTHAM: Yes. She was also relieved of her command of the 800th MP Brigade and a reprimand for dereliction of duty. So her career is finished, but she will not face a day in court.

INSKEEP: Does she get a pension, lose a pension, any other benefits?

NORTHAM: No, she should still get a pension. It'll be a smaller one than she expected, but it'll still show up in the mailbox every month, yeah.

INSKEEP: What's the next level of responsibility, then?

NORTHAM: There are several after that, but what happened was people like Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded all the US forces in Iraq--he has just been cleared by the Army of any wrongdoing in the abuse. His top deputy was cleared. His legal adviser was cleared, and the woman that was in charge of all of intelligence has been cleared as well.

INSKEEP: Even though there were documents which emerged from Sanchez's headquarters suggesting that there were different techniques that could be used?

NORTHAM: Absolutely, that he had approved harsh techniques. And also, Steve, earlier investigations had faulted him for a lack of leadership. But the latest Army investigation that was wrapped up--that is considered to be the final word on culpability of leadership. So it ends, essentially.

INSKEEP: Does his career suffer a blow at all?

NORTHAM: He could be tainted, but certainly he can keep going. It's not the end of his career at all.

INSKEEP: Let's go a couple more steps up the chain of command. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who revealed last year that he offered to resign over this--has he been completely cleared of any wrongdoing?

NORTHAM: He offered to resigned and there certainly have been calls for his resignation, but at this point, the heat is off him, and that's really interesting because he actually admitted that he was approving that some detainees were not registered with the International Committee of the Red Cross and, in fact, had been kept from the ICRC, which is very, very serious stuff. But nothing has happened to him.

INSKEEP: Military officials will say, `OK, nobody senior has been punished, but this has been investigated again and again and again and again and again.' Is this, however, the end of the investigations? Are we near the end of the punishments that we're likely to see?

NORTHAM: There's still a lot of cases being looked at, so there could be more discipline. The fact is the military has said--many members of Congress have said, `Look, it's been investigated--as you said, 10 major investigations. What more do you want?' At the same time, there's members of Congress that said, `We're not quite certain about--that the full culpability of leadership has been explored here.' And so they are due to meet again to see really if something further should be done.

INSKEEP: NPR national security correspondent Jackie Northam, thanks very much.

NORTHAM: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jackie Northam
Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.