Army Interview with Three (3) Soldiers re: Experience at Abu Ghraib Prison and Processing Detainees

An Army Master Sargent interviews three (3) soldiers on their experiences at Abu Ghraib prison and the processing and handling detainees at that facility. They expressed their surprise at the lack of food, the condition of the facilities and most especially the number of guards in relation to the detainee population.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2003
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Friday, July 29, 2005
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This is Master Sergeant.
MPs. We're located at Camp Buka and this is date of 6 May
2003. And I am doing a group interview with three of the
soldiers, and they're going to introduce themselves and

spell their names.
111111.1111 Staff Sergeant.last name

Q :.I'm with the 314th EPW
A. First name 11111111111111111.1111111111111 First -- 2nd
Platoon 1st Squad Leader.

Staff Sergeant
rather. Last name spelled 11111111111111111 first name
spelled.I'm 2nd Platoon 2nd Squad Leader.

2111110 My name is Staff Sergeant.Last name
111111111111Ifirst namele11.1.11.1r And I'm 3rd
Platoon 1st Squad Leader.

Q:.

OK. As we're here, can you please give me a little bit
more of a description of what the conditions were like and
what you were faced when you first arrived here at Camp
Buka?

When we first got here, we didn't know what to expect.
We got here, it was tents were up, nothing on the ground.
It was dusty. We were scared. We didn't know what to
expect. Orders came down a couple hours after we got here

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1
we were going tiofstart .iRirking in the morning, the

following day. Start feeding these EPWs.

What was the date of your arrival?
3 April of 2003.

Q:.

NO\
Q: And Sergeant, how many prisoners were here when you arrived? I believe there were abou11111111when we first
0-("6-atrived. About 1111111 I know that there was -- my first
job was the prOcessing center, station rather, and so we
had about 11111Ithere, just a little bit unde1111110when

4

1
first arrived, actually a little bit over111.1110 maybe
about when we first arrived. So I think there was
about 111111-- or about sorry, in the actual

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compound, main compound when we got here.

And how was the processing done?

Processing is done -- we were in the process of taking
over for the British. The British were actually already
still on the ground when we first arrived, and so their
process -- and we pretty much had to follow their same
procedures and processing. Processing as far as there's
one station in which they gathered, got off the bus, they
would get off the bus, gather all their materials as far as
getting blankets and silverware and stuff that would hold
them for the night, as well as a 24-hour ration. During

Q:.

014391
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the processing center you don't want them to be held for

longer than 24 hours. So they would give them a 24-hour
ration. From there they would go inside the actual small
compound that we had right there, and we would segregate
them pertaining to whatever they were, i.e., civilians,
officers, enlisted members or other. And we would
segregate them that way, and then they would go from there
they would go through the actual processing as far as
finding out what their name was, as far as getting an ID,
if they didn't already have an ID. Bracelet, that is.
Getting process of where they came from, how were they
captured, and then they would go to the medical to get
screened, and then from there they would get sent off to
the actual main compound.

Q:.

Sergeant, during this process, where exactly were you? And

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how were you affected by the prisoners? Did the prisoners
accept you? Were they troublesome? What were the
circumstances?

Well, when we got here, each platoon had been given
various tasks and various missions that they were going to

CL6
be handling. I was assigned to be on of the feed team

leaders. I was the alpha feed team leader. I had a team

of "and our mission was to feed them twice a day. I

remember when we first got here we took over for the

01432.3

British, which ran it a little differently than the way we

ran it. They had a little system that we had to adopt. We
trained with them. They taught us their system, how they
fed, how they lined the prisoners up, how they kept order
inside. I remember looking inside the camp when they were
in there for the first time and I remember thinking it was
crazy, because they didn't go in there with weapons. And I
thought they were completely outnumbered. We had three to
four British soldiers inside with anywhere from 5-600 EPWs
and I can remember feeling scared, nervous, especially
because I was a feed team leader, and I knew I was

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responsible for all aliof my team members. I can remember
feeling -- wondering if they were going to accept us. I
had seen tempers flare up. I had seen hostile acts,
aggressiveness. I wasn't sure how we were going to handle
it and how they were going to react, respond to us. Once
we took over for the British, we had one day to train with
them, and the very next day they handed it off to us. I
was one of three teams -- excuse me, one of four teams, and
we took off with it and we ran with it. And at first, the
prisoners, they were told that we were a little more
aggressive than the British. The British had told them
that we had a no-nonsense type of policy where we wouldn't
put up with any kind of nonsense. So at first the EPWs

0.14393
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were a little apprehensive and a little leery. They wanted

to see exactly how we would react. There were times where
they tested us in various ways to see exactly what they
could get away with. They tried to manipulate us at
various times. At different levels there were
relationships established. Each camp has a compound
representative that's usually of Iraqi descent. And
typically speaks some English if not pretty good English.
The relationships were established with the team leaders
and those compound representatives. And that helped us to
accomplish the mission. I myself learned a little bit of
Arabic and that helped, as well as the rest of my team
members. Before long, there was somewhat of a trust and an
understanding that we were in there to do a job and that's
all we wanted to do. We wanted to get in there, feed them
and get out. And they wanted to eat. So it was a mutual
understanding. Let us do our job and we'll let you have
your food and we'll be on our way.

What kind of eating arrangements were made -- did they have
special dietary requirements?

11111111 Yeah, they had a nutritional chart, which I'm sure
they went by in the kitchen where the food was prepared.
As to how many calories and carbohydrates they were to
consume a day. And the menu was developed according to

Q:.

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those guidelines that were set forth by the higher-ups.

Typically a breakfast would have in the morning they would
have a biscuit, some jelly, some cheese, maybe a couple
hardboiled eggs, some hot tea. For dinner, the next meal
would be some soup, some rice, again a biscuit, cheese and
jelly, a bread and some hot tea. And also as an extra
bonus they got cigarettes, usually three for each time they
were fed. And that was kind of like their dessert and so
forth.

Q:.

Can you tell me some of the circumstances that you were
faced with, the difficult problems that the MPs had to
encounter?
IIIIIIIM Well, when we first started training, the day that we

c C6--\ trained with the British, we immediately saw that there was

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some safety issues. The way they were feeding them, and it

was obviously a problem. When we started we can see the

prisoners a little bit out of -- they were out of order.

No discipline, there was a lot of problems for us. Trying

to communicate with them, had to communicate with them and

get them to do what we wanted to do. What we wanted them

to do was line up in rows of 20, and we'd select 20 at a

time to come up to the food line and receive their meal.

But of course they'd be on the line giving each Iraqi their

issue, whatever their daily issue was, they'd be stealing

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on the line. They'd be putting extra biscuits in -- people

on the line would be putting biscuits in their pockets and
that would present a problem for us because we wouldn't
have enough food to feed everyone. Now when we get to the
stage of not having enough food for everyone, once they

were aware of that, then they got aggressive. Standing up,
yelling, and of course we're in there with them with no
weapons except nightsticks and that was our only weapon to
try to protect ourselves. In case something happened. The
first week that we started feeding the prisoners, there was
a I would say 16-hour day just to feed two meals. You go
in, feed them, then go to the next what we call pens. Pens

was each small compound of prisoners. And there were
Iraqis that did attack our soldiers and we did have to
defend ourselves.

Q:.

What type of attacks? am= Well, they'd attack us with tent sticks. Tent poles, 96kA which came from the tent that they were living in, that we
1

provided for them, and they'd attack us with those. And in
the beginning what we would do is we'd hurry up and just
get out of that pen. Until we could establish some kind of
order in that particular pen.

Were any of your soldiers, any of your MPs, were any of
them injured?.

Q:.

3 9 G
1111111111, Yes. They threw a rock at me. They were throwing

rocks at us. A few of our soldiers were hit by rocks in

various parts of our bodies, some in the head, just the

body, some of them were hit with a stick, with a tent pole,

some of us were attacked by tent poles. Luckily some of us

were able to escape that.

Q:.

OK. Can you give me another perspective on how the
conditions were in guarding the prisoners?

\90.60

plow Yes. At first my first job was doing the processing.
And that was actually my first two days. My third day was
actually starting a perimeter. As the British would start
to leave there were certain positions that we had to in
order to establish a strong perimeter around the actual
compound, there were about positions that we actually
had around the perimeter, in which our main focus was to
make sure that first the prisoners didn't try to escape and
go from one compound to the other, which they tried that a
couple times. And also make sure they didn't escape. So
we had certain procedures as far as if they got out of the
compound, rules of engagement, what we would do if they did
get out the compound or get inside the trenches. Some of
them had trenches. Some of the actual pens have trenches.
So sometimes the prisoners would go inside the trenches,
hide in there, and they had nothing to do all day. So

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their main objective was to watch us. We could watch one
pen could easily have fillpeople in there. So there's one
person doing perimeter, watching III/people, whereas 1111/
people were.this one person and watching what they
do on a daily basis, do they sit at the one post or do they
actually do a patrol, what do they do, and when they pretty
much had that under control they would try to sneak inside
the trenches and sometimes like I said they would go from
one-- sneak from one pen to the next or try to escape.

Q:.

So with that did you change your daily routine so they
\ couldn't figure out how you were doing your security?

190)-

We changed it. By two reasons. Making a rotation,
because what was happening is that no matter how much you
stressed it on soldiers to make sure that they were in
their right position, it still was almost not complex but
almost a routine that would generally happen. Unless you
take them off for an hour, give them a break, and then send
them back on the next hour. Then they had another person
to watch, versus just that one person for the whole 12
hours.

Q:.

OK and with the prisoners, were there certain prisoners
J.2:y\ that you had to watch more closely?
Yeah, a couple of the pens gave the feed team a couple
of bad incidents. So they were definitely one of the ones,

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and they were also known for going from one trench to the

next trying to get with their brother, or trying to get
with other family members. So they knew that maybe we had

a soldier that got captured and also a family member that
wasn't in the military. And so that person would be trying
to escape to go to that compound to help out his brother.
Or you would have a situation working the perimeter where
they would be throwing stuff over the fences so that they
can communicate, write stuff in Arabic, say anything in
Arabic, say that we're going to run tomorrow night, or
don't eat the chow tomorrow night or something like that.
So they would be passing messages back and forth, threw
bottles.

Q:.

OK and how did the barbwire and who placed the barbwire

around the pens?
k'DCZ-)-1
111111111111 The British are the ones that set up this whole

compound. The type of barbwire that they have is the old

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type of barbwire. Very ineffective. If you put your hand

on it you might not cut yourself, opposed to our razor
wire, whereas if you do put your hand on it you'll cut
yourself. So it made it easy for them to crawl through
that type of barbwire and escape.

When they crawled through the barbwire, I saw a guy
physically with my eyes. Because we had a couple times
where we caught guys in the trenches and we weren't able to
actually identify them. Mainly because as soon as we saw
the guy in the trench and we came around to where he was
the guy would jump out of the trench, through the actual
barbwire, and into the tent in less than two seconds. And
you wouldn't be able to identify him. By the time you ran
over, there and said hey it looks like there's a guy in the
trench, and run over there, the guy is gone, and it was
very ineffective the way that they did the barbwire. And
the trench, you know, it's pretty much, it's a good idea,
but it makes it easier for them, they can jump in the
trench on, one side, crawl all the way on the other side and
made it easier access for them, versus making it harder for
them. It's a good idea, but the concept's all wrong. He
would be telling them, you're not getting cigarettes for
the next men. That was the only bartering tool that we did
really have. We had to establish a way of communicating

014400
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with the other units because our mission was, we were on
the feed team. Our mission was to feed them. But we had
another unit whose responsibility was to maintain the law
and order within that compound. So, we kind of worked and
developed our own system, work hand in hand to correct any
problems that that compound guard couldn't correct without
physically going inside, because he was always outnumbered
and there wasn't enough personnel available to keep those
prisoners under control 24 hours and to control all their.

U.°

actions. So what we did was that system that SGT
talking about was when the compound guard--when we showed
up to feed them--the compound guard would tell us of any
problems that he was having, either the day before or the
night before, or up to that day. And once he told us what
the problem was, the source of correcting that problem was
denying them something that they liked, which was their
cigarettes. It was our way of disciplining them without

having to physically go in there and discipline them.

Q:.

And, how did they communicate with each other? How did
they--how were they able to do that?
The EPWs were very very resourceful. They had many

MIN

methods of communicating. First was verbal. If they were

in one or two camps of each other, they would yell back and

forth and there often times wasn't again enough personnel

,01 11401
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DOD-018012
to prevent them from yelling. So they would yell from
compound to compound and they would communicate that way.
If it was a matter of them needing to communicate with an
EPW three, four camps down, they would simply--or if it was
something that they didn't want somebody to hear, they
would simply write it on a piece of paper and they had,
either, they would use a water bottle that they had
obtained somehow, fill it with sand and rocks, put the note
in there and fling it over to the next compound. I saw t-
shirts that had been ripped up, a little note thrown in
there attached with some rocks inside, tie them in a knot,
throw them over. I saw a tent stake that had a t-shirt
wrapped around it. The tent stake was thrown, the t-shirt
had the message that needed to be passed. So they were
very resourceful in how they communicated.

And, how were you able to control that? How were you able
to stop any of that?

No, for the most part we weren't able to stop any of
that. If it was done while we were inside feeding, we
would try to intercept it and destroy it or throw it in the
trench. But most of the time, those communications--that
communication was done while we were not inside, so that
wouldn't be intercepted. So the only means of controlling
it, was by denying it something for the next time they got

402
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fed. Whether it be either cigarettes--cigarettes was the

most effective means of controlling that and disciplining
them.

There was one incident--just to backtrack on what SGT
1411111just said. Yes, when we did intercept those notes,
we didn't just discard them. We'd send them up to the top
and there might--just in case there's some type of intel on
them--on the note--we'd be aware of it. And what we do is-
-all we do is get the note and send it up the chain of
command, give it to the NCOIC, which would in turn send it
up the chain. And there was one incident when we did
intercept a note that said there was going to be a mass
escape. And that was helpful. When it was all said and
done, because of that intel, no one escaped that night.

Were there any escapees at all during the time that you've
been here?

Yes there was. Sporadic, Staff Sergeant _was
invtived in an escape--preventing the--while he was out he
escaped and Staff Sergeant..caught the escapee. He
can tell you more about that.

Yeah, we had a couple incidents, like I was saying, of

those that were trying to escape would go to the trenches

and like I said, go to one compound to the next. Some were

successful, going to one compound to the next. Because it

Q:.

014403
14

DOD-018014
really wasn't a good guideline as far as those MPs, they really didn't have a good logbook of what individuals were in each compound. So you would have some compounds that wound, according to their logbook, you know, you would have, let's just say 200 people in this actual compound. But when they're doing an actual INS check, that would actually be 205. So, some of the numbers would be off, or it would be 190 and they thought they had 200, so some of the numbers were off. But some of the people were successful in moving from one compound to the next. We did have a couple of people who tried to escape and get up the perm. Some of the escapees were caught by myself and other individuals on the perimeter. Our procedures were, if in fact we saw somebody trying to escape, as soon as they passed the second strand of barbed wire and perm, that would be under our control so our rules of engagement were not'to shoot. If they got beyond the perm our rules Of engagement were to--rather, from the actual last wire to the actual perm, we only hart probably about two seconds to actually do rules of engagement as far as firing into diftbrent (inaudible). We did catch a couple over the perm. We caught one actually the first day that we were actually here, we caught one trying to escape over the perm. And, if they get over the perm our rules--our
014404
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DOD-018015
procedures were to pop a flair so a light can be shown and

we can see where the actual individual is gone. We utilize
dogs and also the unit dog also doing patrolling, he would
also be out there, helping us out.

1111111111 On the very first night that we were here, we were

/)(W just getting settled in. And there was an escape. The
British were running the camp at that time so there was--it
was a very poor set up in my opinion. There wasn't a clear
reaction force available, there wasn't a plan of action in
place in the event of an escape. Three of our soldiers went
and apprehended one of them that had already taken off into
the desert and had a clear run. There were two individuals
that escaped and our soldiers who were not even on--not
even ready to react yet, they went and they apprehended
them. They brought them back and the other one got away.
I remember looking and there wasn't a British soldier out
there. I remember thinking to myself, okay where's the
vehicles with the headlights coming, it should be coming
around that perm any minute now, going to chase after them.
There was no plan of action set for it and the rules of
engagement were completely unclear and ineffective. It
wasn't until we established the rules of engagement for the
US soldiers that a clear plan of action was in place for
various incidents that would arise.

i 4 I 4 05
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111111111: Took about two weeks to get rules of engagement and
really documented it and saying exactly what was going on.
So for a whole two weeks, it was pretty much okay, this is
what we're going to use as our rules of engagement
djending on what shift that you were actually working on
and what your position was as far either being perimeter or
being the (inaudible) team.

Q:.

imp
Were there any fatalities during this period of time?
lip Yes, one fatality.

And how did that circumstance arise?
Willi From my understanding, well 111111111111111-
111111111 It was--this was the second riot that had happened.

There had already been one riot that resulted in the
shooting of two individuals. One got shot in the leg and
one had been shot.in the arm. Both lived. It was during
the second riot that the fatality had occurred. What
happened was my team was in there feeding, myself and SGT

11.111111111were inside, we were feeding the prisoners. We had
identified a prisoner who had been a trouble maker and who
had assaulted one of our MPs the day prior to her feeding
session. We went to extract that individual from the
crowd, to pull him out. And we were going to relocate him
to another camp because he was causing too much trouble.
During that process of extracting that individual, a riot

Q:.

17

ensued. It quickly got out of control and the crowd

quickly began to become very aggressive and hostile. My

(inaudible) team, four of my soldiers including myself, had
been cut off from the front gate. Our avenue of escape had
been eliminated due to the fact that the crowd was about
350 strong. We followed the rules of engagement, tried to
restrain them. Tried to get them to sit back down, to back
up. We gave them verbal orders to back up, to sit down.
It was clear that the crowd had no intention of following
those orders. In fact, it was clear and evident that they
planned on doing great bodily injury to all of us inside.
There was one individual who ran into his tent passed our
line. He went in and grabbed a three foot metal stake pole
and took a swing at my head. One of my soldiers, by the
name of Specialist 111.111111yelled for me to watch out. He
said, "Watch out Sergeant -he's got a pole behind
you." It was at that time I turned and looked, I saw a EPW
running at me with a pole over his head, gripped with both
hands. And he took a swing at my head and missed me by
inches. The prisoner then turned and continued to come for

me and one warning shot was fired and I ordered the MP who
was on the perimeter to shoot him. He fired one warning
shot and it was ineffective. He fired a second shot which
struck the EPW center mass in the chest. He then dropped

01 4 4r)7.

18

DOD-018018
the pole, ran about 10 feet where he collapsed and died

shortly thereafter. And that was the incident with the

fatality. Luckily my team got out safely and SGT 1111111111

Specialist.and Specialist.

all had a great part
in that day, why we got out safely.

Q: OK, SGT with the circumstances that you were faced
with, how did this affect you in this incident?

During the incident I remember feeling trapped inside,
because we were completely cut off from the front. The
soldiers that were at the front of the gate holding the
perimeter with the weapons could not see us. The crowd was
standing up and they couldn't see us, and I knew they
couldn't see us. My team was broken in half and half of us
were trying to protect the rear because there were tents
and we were trying to watch the people coming out of their
tents just in case they came out with more weapons and the
other half of us were trying to control the crowd in front
of us. I remember thinking in my head that this was the
real thing. I remember thinking, I don't want any of us to
get hurt. I was trying to figure a way out--a way to get
my team out as safely as possible while eliminating the
amount of injury that would be accrued by either us or the
EPWs. I remember looking in their eyes and they had this
look of determination and they weren't turning back. They

014.4 rtg
weren't listening. We had our sticks out and I had hit one
of them
END OF TAPE
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