Stephen Grey: You’ve been a life-long Republican, and yet have become a key critic of the administration. So what has changed that’s made you so outspoken?
The Republicans in the White House now and some of the Republicans who are in the Congress now do not reflect my view of what the Republican Party represents. The so-called neo-conservatives, for example, are not conservatives at all. They’re radicals. Republicans are not radicals, not in my memory, not in my father’s memory, not in the history of the Republican Party as far as I’m concerned. Other things came to disturb me, and leading that list was the detainee abuse issue, and the corruption of what I felt were the professional Armed Forces that I’d been a member of for 31 years. Using the Armed Forces in this corrupted policy of detainee abuse, that was the issue that finally broke the camel’s back, if you will, with me. I was speaking out [privately] throughout 2005… at the Army, Navy and Marine Corps War Colleges and so forth. And in October 2005, I decided to speak out publicly, because I did not see anything being done in terms of accountability, in terms of getting the Armed Forces out of this heinous process of abusing detainees.
Lawrence Wilkerson was Secretary of State Colin Powell's Chief of Staff from August 2002 until the secretary resigned under pressure in January 2005. Colonel Wilkerson is a career military officer and veteran of the Vietnam War, as well as a U.S. Army “Pacific hand,” who served under then General Powell. He has written extensively on military and national security affairs and now teaches at George Washington University. He has become one of the most outspoken critics of the Bush administration and its national security policies, including the CIA's secret rendition program. In this interview, he provides firsthand observations of the struggle between the State Department, the Department of Defense and the Office of the Vice President.
And the story for you, I think, began when Colin Powell walked into your office and asked you to look at these photographs of Abu Ghraib and to investigate. Could you just describe for us what happened in that meeting, and then where that led you in terms of your own personal discoveries of what had been going on?
It happened in April, May, as you said, just before the Abu Ghraib photographs actually hit the public domain. The Secretary came through the door that adjoined our offices, and told me that the photographs were going to come out, that they were going to be quite bad, quite damning, and that he wanted me to put together the chronology … an audit trail. He also told me he had informed William H. Taft, who was his legal adviser, to do the same sort of thing from a legal point of view, and that we should work together -- we’d work as a team to try and build this record for the Secretary, so he could understand better how we’d gotten to the point where these things were happening at Abu Ghraib.
And over the course of that summer, I compiled a dossier of both classified and unclassified open source material that included [work by] Tim Golden at The New York Times, and Jane Mayer at The New Yorker, who had done some stellar investigative work on some of the specific abuses. And over the course of that time, I began to understand that it wasn’t just Abu Ghraib, it was Afghanistan … and Guantanamo Bay, where it started very early on. Then I began to understand, from putting together the classified material, principally, but also using some of the chronology I developed from the open source information, that this had been condoned at the very highest level; indeed probably it had been authorized at the very highest level -- and by the very highest level, I mean, clearly the Vice President’s office, the Secretary of Defense. Whether the President was entirely complicit in it or not, I don’t know.
His February 2nd memo, which was the definitive policy statement, would indicate to me that he tried to compromise between the need for security and the need to protect our civil liberties. Whether the vice president then walked back in the Oval Office after the president published that memo and said, “Mr. President, you know what we’re really going to do, don’t you?” And the president said, “Yeah, but don’t tell me about it.” I don’t know whether the president was complicit or not. But I do know from my own research, that the vice president and the secretary of defense, the highest levels as far as I’m concerned in the government, created some of this policy, and created this idea about “the gloves coming off”, to quote the vice president. This permeated down to the Armed Forces, to the CIA, to contractor personnel and created, in my view, the policy environment that allowed this confusion, this disorganization and this chaos at the lower level, which bred some of the interrogation techniques, and that produced some of the detainee abuse.
When people tell me that no torture was involved, I simply have to look at the 100 plus detainee deaths, many of which have been classified as homicides by the services themselves to say, “Isn’t murder the ultimate torture? We’d murdered people.” And I’ve been told by organizations like Human Rights First, who stay on top of this, that what I last saw as some 30 or so officially classified murders has now become well over 50, maybe even as high as 60 or 70. So we’re looking at a considerable number of deaths in detention. We’re also looking at some 250 people who have now been tried and been punished in one way or another for detainee abuse.
I’m a military man. I know that you don’t have that many bad apples. I know that it isn’t a question of sadomasochistic people. You got some of those people, yes, and that’s what you have the rules and the law of war to protect against. This is a policy. This is not something that is covered by the definition of a few bad apples. This is policy.
Former Defense Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld in defending his administration in relation to Abu Ghraib has repeated that these were the actions of the night shift. You obviously think differently. But how do you establish the link between policies made at the very highest level and actual detainee abuse on the ground?
I served in the military for 31 years. I know what troops are like; I know what privates are like; I know what corporals are like; I know what sergeants are like; lieutenants, captains. I know why we have rules -- not just as a product of our value system, as a product of our culture, a product of our belief in democracy and civil liberties and so forth. It’s also because the lieutenant on the ground is trying to control 42 men … and has only so many tools in his toolbox to do this with. One of them is the rule of law; one of them is the Geneva Conventions’ common Article 3. One of them is what he believes ought to be the right conduct amongst his troops…. And so, when you allow people to step over the line without punishing them, and in fact, you even authorize them to step over the line, you’ve taken this marvellous tool that the lieutenant has to control his people out of his toolbox. You’ve put him in a very difficult situation, as you have his captain, his lieutenant, colonel, and so forth. You don’t get to the place where you have pervasive detainee abuse without taking that tool away.
At the same time, through another conduit, you’re putting extraordinary pressure on these people to produce. You desperately need intelligence... Rumsfeld is passing down these memos that tell people what they can do that are not inside the law, not inside the rules. It’s not a case you can drag into the courtroom, and haul before a body of 12 of your peers, and convince them that Rumsfeld ought to be indicted or that he ought to be tried and convicted. But it is a case that is clear to a military man like me, that didn’t happen because the troops were bad apples. It happened because there was a policy set at the highest levels, and disseminated through very carefully constructed memoranda and instructions…taking from Guantanamo techniques that had been used and exporting them to Abu Ghraib. … So we’ve got a situation where essentially, policy makers let it be known that this was a different environment. Even the President’s February 7th memo, classifies al Qaeda and Taliban as “different.” You’ve got on the one side, “The gloves are off, we’re operating on the dark side. This is a new enemy.” On the other, you’ve got pressure, pressure, [we] need intelligence. I don’t need to be a rocket scientist to understand that those two things hitting the troops are going to produce detainee abuse.
Do you think the same pressure applied to the CIA and its contractors as well?
Different ball game there, in my view. I’ve made quite a study of American leadership, the presidency since 1945. Presidents have something called “presidential findings”, where they can authorize clandestine operations; they can authorize untoward activities. They take full responsibility for it when they sign that finding. They, therefore, give the CIA or whatever entity they’re using permission under their authority, under Article 2 of our Constitution, to do things that normally wouldn’t be done. Had President Bush turned to the director of the CIA and said, “Here’s a finding. There are only five of us who know about it. Utmost secrecy will be exercised. You will train and educate a coterie of very professional interrogators, upon my word, and I will delegate to you some of this responsibility, who will conduct these interrogations of these special prisoners.” If he had done that, then I as an American citizen, I as an individual who considers himself a decent human being, probably would have not had that much to object about. … You make sure that everything is overseen by competent authority. You make sure that it is only used in extremes. You make sure that only talented, authorized people engage in this… If you did that and it became public, then you could defend yourself as president, I think, because you could cite all the things you’ve done to make sure that this was very limited
But what happened in practice?
Number One: They began to understand that the American people would not stand for this, as espoused by their representatives in Congress. Number Two: It was probably going to redound eventually to their extraordinary discredit, and maybe even get them indicted for war crimes. And so they began to back up. They began to retract memos, they began to speak differently; they began to change their modus operandi.
I believe now that we probably are limited, if not prohibited, in doing this sort of surgical operation, because people at the CIA -- you know, I hear this -- are very concerned about a new president coming in January 2009; about a new Congress already on board; and about the possibility of criminal proceedings against some of them, were they to continue this -- and even possibly criminal proceedings on what they’ve done in the past.
The CIA was ordered to set up places of secret detention. And some of the people who were in those places of secret detention have now been released and told some of their stories. They’ve attempted to describe the fact that they were tortured during their time in the secret detention. The details have been kept classified; they’re not allowed to state publicly what actually happened to them. But based on what you’ve looked at, do you believe that the CIA carried out torture in those places of secret detention?
I have no way of knowing that or proving it. I would suspect and expect that’s true -- that they probably did carry out untoward interrogation methods in those locations -- but I don’t know that they did. They might have been in one case, a holding area for high-value detainees; and in another case they might have been both a holding area and a detainee interrogation area. I just don’t know. I do believe that there were harsh interrogation methods used, even torture used by the CIA in certain locations. But I don’t know what those locations were other than Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. That they were done on someone else’s soil than those, I just don’t know.
And what makes you think that they did use torture at those locations?
Well this might surprise you, but the reason I am not clear on it is not just that access was not given to me -- I’m not even sure it was given to the secretary of state -- but also because I don’t believe there were more than about 25 detainees that anybody considered high value. And this is a remarkable statement, because we’ve detained at my last count, some 30, 40, 50,000 people. And, yet, I would maintain 85 percent of those people were totally innocent. They were not in any way insurgents; they were not in any way terrorists; they were not in any way high-value terrorists; and so we have a very unsophisticated tool to use for detaining people. It knocks down doors. It pulls doors open with tanks and it goes in and arrests everybody and takes them off to prison. It doesn’t care whether they’re guilty or not. All it’s doing is its mission.
So we’re using a very unsophisticated tool to detain these people, and we have no sophisticated tools to vet them. In fact, we probably passed many innocent people from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Guantanamo. And were stuck, as Secretary Powell has indicated, with trying to figure out their final disposition. How do you finally dispose of these people who are innocent, but whom in some cases, you’ve detained for 2 or 3 years, and maybe even used harsh interrogation methods against, and possibly even torture?
I can recall vividly Secretary Powell at his 8.30 meetings, which occurred every day, Monday through Friday, at the State Department, asking for an update on Jack Straw [former British Foreign Office minister], for example, wanting to release the British citizens. “Why aren’t we releasing the British citizens? Don’t we believe Britain has the capability to maintain these people to interrogate and question them and so forth? Don’t we believe they will share the results of that with us?” And our ambassador for war crimes…would inevitably answer back to Powell: “Well, Mr. Rumsfeld is holding us up. The Defense Department doesn’t want to release these people.” Well, subsequently, I believe I’ve learned one of the main reasons Donald Rumsfeld didn’t want to release them is he knew they were innocent. You don’t want to turn people you’ve called hardcore terrorists and detained at Guantanamo Bay back over to the British or to the Australians, only to find out through them that they’re innocent.
But why would the Defense Secretary want to hold people at Guantanamo who were innocent?
That’s a good question and I think there are several answers to it. One of the answers has only been revealed to me, at least, in the last month or two, through my reading of, for example, Joseph Margulies’ fine book, Guantanamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power. Joseph got his hands on papers that I didn’t think anybody could get their hands on…He and others have come up with the insight that one of the theories operationalized by Stephen Cambone [the former undersecretary of defense for intelligence] at the Defense Department, under the guidance of Secretary Rumsfeld, was called “the mosaic theory”. And what you do under the mosaic theory is you don’t care about their innocence or guilt, you just sweep them up, and you interrogate them. You use harsh methods if necessary…let’s say you have an expanded family you’ve swept up. Maybe there’s only one terrorist or one insurgent in that family… There may be 40 of them, cousins, brothers, sisters …and something that someone in the family knows is going to be helpful to you, once it’s realized in a pattern that you identify. And so you sweep all these people up in this “mosaic theory,” and you question them, and then you plug all of this into an analytical computer … and suddenly the patterns begin to appear, and you begin to know more about al Qaeda, or al Qaeda-like people, than you otherwise would know. And you don’t care where you got the information, or the fact that 29 of the 30 people you swept up didn’t give you a thing that was worthwhile, because one did. And maybe even that one was innocent. But he knew some information. Or she.
What you’re talking about is the detention of people for very long periods, and in quite harsh conditions.
Not because they were committing any crime, or even planned to.
Exactly. And [there are] multiple recordings of those interrogations, and lengthy and long transcripts of those interrogations -- all of which are now available and are probably going to come back to haunt some of these people when under FOIA [the Freedom of Information Act] or whatever request, they become available to the public and get looked at. I’m even told now that there were two sets of logs that were being maintained. One set of logs, was reviewed every day for its propriety -- that is to say, it conformed with Geneva, and it didn’t show anything being done untoward. Another set of logs was the real set of logs that actually recorded what happened to the detainee, if a psychiatrist, psychologist or medical doctor was present, which is also, if you think about it for a few minutes, a violation of Geneva. And this recorded what actually transpired in terms of the harsh interrogation techniques -- what was gained and so forth. Why would you keep two sets of books? Well, it’s clear. You keep two sets of books because one set of books you want to be available to the public and if it becomes necessary, and to your superiors, who might not know exactly what you’re doing. The other set of books is needed to do this analysis that’s very thorough, very painstaking, very meticulous, and will benefit you, you think, in terms of hunting down al Qaeda. So you gotta have two sets of books. I’m told that those two sets of books are available now, and that people have actually gotten looks at both sets.
I’d just like to know what you read when you were actually in the administration about what discussion there was, what thinking there was about an end game, about what you’d ultimately be doing in this situation?
That’s the ultimate question. I saw it as the ultimate question that Will Taft, Powell’s legal adviser, and Powell asked of Rumsfeld, the vice president, and others. What is the final disposition? Once you have taken these people out of any acknowledged legal regime. Once you have put them in legal limbo. Once you have used techniques on them that perhaps don’t match what the books say you should be able to use. Once you have done all these things, what is the final disposition? Are you prepared to keep some of these people in prison, in Guantanamo, or similar circumstances, for 50 years, for 60 years? Indeed, we had a 13- and a 12-year-old at Guantanamo, as I recall. And, as I saw it, the answer was from Secretary Rumsfeld, “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” Now they’ve come to it, in many respects, and I believe that they’ve made a decision that they’re going keep Guantanamo open through the end of this presidency. That’s where they will probably deal with the most nefarious of these cases on both sides of the coin that you just revealed -- decide where they might turn loose a terrorist who really is a hardcore terrorist, and decide where they don’t want to release someone who is completely innocent, whom nonetheless they have kept under adverse conditions, and perhaps even used harsh interrogation techniques against for four years. So they’re caught right now in that dilemma. And the combat status review tribunals, the Military Commissions Act, and so forth. I’m somewhat alarmed that the Supreme Court decided not to deal with this, but I understand. The Supreme Court usually decides for national security, and leaves things for the military that are military. I can understand their making that decision, but I really don’t think the military is well prepared to do this. So we are going to see a new president, and unfortunately, I think that’s the case with a lot of these heavy issues that this administration has really failed in dealing with. A new president would have to deal with this. And I don’t know how he or she is going to come in and deal with it, other than to go carte blanche one way or the other, to simply say, “Well these people are hardcore terrorists, and we’re going to keep them in prison for ever, until they die.” Or, try to deal with it on a case per case basis, through something other than this sort of kangaroo court that the military constitutes. In that case, you’re probably right, we’re going to release some people who are bad people, and we’ll have to go back to the old adage, “Better to detain one, release a guilty man, than to detain 10 innocent people.” And hope that salves our conscience. But we really have created a mess here. A terrible mess. For the people who are involved in it. For the legal system that will have to sort it out under a new president; for the country; for our reputation; for our prestige around the world. This has been incredibly damaging.
You mentioned just about Powell talking about the “final disposition” of the situation. Was there actually a meeting or an instance or a discussion you had when you remember that being raised?
They happened during principals’ meetings. The principals’ meetings being meetings of everyone at cabinet level involved in national security without the president. They actually happened, as I recall, in one official NSC [National Security Council] meeting probably more than that. Where I got most of my insight into this was from debriefings from the secretary, who would come back from these meetings, and share some of it with me. What I saw was a discussion that took place that involved Will Taft [legal advisor] and Colin Powell on the one side, and on the other side was the vice president, [David] Addington [ Cheney’s legal advisor], [Alberto] Gonzalez, the counsel to the president, and Rumsfeld and his general counsel, and others. And the argument on the one side was this is a different situation. The Taliban and al Qaeda are different people. We need to toss Geneva out the window. We need to rethink this whole thing. We’ve got to deal with these people differently. The gloves have got to come off. We’ve got to operate on the dark side, etc. And on the other side there was Powell and Taft -- sometimes, the president was sort of in the middle, depending on whether he was present in any of these discussions. Powell and Taft were arguing that, No, there were certain benefits, reputation-wise, prestige-wise, globally, international relations-wise to staying with Geneva. There was room in Geneva to deal with Taliban and al Qaeda as if they were a different kind of combatant. [And that] ultimately, it would redound to our discredit, and be a failed process were we to abandon Geneva and abandon the rule of law…
I saw the President coming out in his February 7th memo [in 2002], and essentially saying that though the Taliban and al Qaeda were different kinds of combatants…and would be treated differently, that the spirit of Geneva, and the values and culture of America, would nonetheless predominate -- that consistent with military necessity, this would be the policy. And people have said to me, “Well he had an out, consistent with military necessity.” And I’ve said back, “No, I’ve read thousands of these memorandums.” I’ve been in the government for 40 years. This is not what that phrase meant. Had the president wanted to say, “You have carte blanche,” he would have said, “Consistent with national security;” or he would have said, “Consistent with the demands of the global war on terror.” That would have been a carte blanche for anybody to do anything they wanted to when they wanted to. Instead, he said, “consistent with military necessity.” Now that is a very precise phrase for a military man. That means if I am threatened, or one of my buddies is threatened by a detainee under any circumstances, I can butt stroke that detainee; I can shoot him if I have to. I can take whatever action I need to protect my life and my buddy’s life. It doesn’t mean that I can hang him from meat hooks for 50 hours in a 40-degree room; or beat him until he dies. So, those who try to say that the president knew what he was signing in that February 7th memo and knew what “consistent with military necessity” really meant, I think they’re smoking something. That’s not what the president meant. The president meant something very specific.
So who intervened? What was the role, for example, of the vice president in actually taking those memos and …?
I think the vice president probably said something like this to the secretary of defense: “You know what you’ve got to do? Go out and do it.” I wasn’t there, I don’t know that those were his words, but I can conceive of that having happened. I don’t think the secretary of defense would have done what he did without the cover of the vice president’s office. Now, let me hastily add that often times when you saw Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld together, you didn’t know who the boss was -- the body language, the mannerisms, you really didn’t know who was running whom. As you probably know, Donald Rumsfeld once was Dick Cheney’s boss. Donald Rumsfeld was instrumental in bringing Dick Cheney as a 34-year-old into the White House, as I recall. So you don’t know who’s telling whom what to do in this relationship, which was one of the problems with the relationship in terms of national leadership, in my view, and I teach this, so, I’ve studied everything. First of all, never has there been a vice president in American history with this unprecedented degree of power. The only man who comes to mind since World War II who’s had this unprecedented degree of power was Henry Kissinger, particularly when Henry took on both positions, National Security Adviser, and Secretary of State, and essentially sent himself memos.
And you think the vice president has driven the policy of moving away from the Geneva Convention and bending the rules?
Clearly. With a willing accomplice in Stephen Cambone, the young [Under] Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, and [TALKING OVER EACH OTHER]
And driving the Defense Department and the CIA to abuse?
Yes. And more heinously, in my mind, the Armed Forces. It was a great day for America when John [McCain] and Colin Powell helped him. Got that [law banning Torture] amendment passed in the Senate, which essentially, and eventually became law, which essentially took the Armed Forces out of this process.
Europe, it now seems clear, hosted some secret prisons for the CIA. When you were there, was there any talk of creating or permitting such a facility within the United States?
I don’t recall such a discussion, but I can recall discussions that occurred with regard to Guantanamo, and the attractiveness of Guantanamo -- whether it was for detention of Cubans, who had left Cuba; or Haitians, who were leaving Haiti in large numbers, and needed to be dealt with in legal limbo until their status could be determined and they could be brought into some sort of legal system. Guantanamo had a track record of that. It was very attractive for this sort of thing; therefore, I would conclude when Guantanamo was assumed as being the place that the majority of these people would be kept, that it was because no one wanted to keep them in the United States -- publicly or secretly -- at all. So my assumption, based on clear experience and knowledge, is that when Guantanamo was selected, the United States was ruled out. Completely.
Because they don’t want US law to apply to those people who’ve been captured?
They wanted them to be in legal limbo so that they can do their will upon them.
Do you think Europeans are hypocritical for attacking these policies?
Well, I have to look at if from several perspectives. First of all, the most cooperative and the best terrorist fighters that I saw in my four years, three years after 9/11, were the French, oddly enough -- even as we were criticising them. The UK, the Germans, the Israelis, the Jordanians, and others. When you have, what, 15 million Muslims living in your midst, when 25 percent of Brussels is Muslim, when you’ve had the problems France has had -- ghettoizing your Muslim community largely -- when you have these kind of potential growing, breeding grounds for terrorists, I can understand the angst, the anxiety, the concern of European governments about not cooperating fully with the great behemoth, the United States, as it goes about the world, blundering its way to attack al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. I understand their wanting to participate and add their own expertize to the struggle in as much way as possible -- to ameliorate the blunderbuss, and to make the blunderbuss a little more effective. So I can’t blame Paris, or London, or Berlin, or for that matter, any European capital, Madrid, initially for wanting to be cooperative -- for wanting to do what they could do to help the United States in its struggle post 9/11. You asked me a specific question though. Should some of those governments re-examine what they allowed the United States to do on their territory? I would say yes, they probably should. And they should probably re-examine it with a very, very harsh glass, because aiding and abetting this sort of thing is not in the best interests of Western liberal government. And I would hope that they would come to that conclusion themselves.
So tell me about renditions. Were you aware these were going on when you were in government? And what were you told?
Well, I was aware that the program existed, as I think most people were. I was not aware that we had transmogrified the program into more or less a massive effort -- it wasn’t one or two rendered terrorists. And I wasn’t aware that we were doing it in a way that, for example, might render one to Saudi Arabia, or Syria, or most recently, to Ethiopia out of Somalia. I’m not even sure the Secretary of State was aware of that, because if you’re going to do something like that, again, probably you’re going to do it under a presidential finding. And one of the things you want to do in a presidential finding is limit severely the number of people who know, to keep it secret. And so I’m not even sure the secretary of state knew that this was going on, at the level and the way that it was going on.
So when and what did you learn about it?
I learned about that from open source information -- by reading the papers and by watching the television and listening to the news. I think they’ve been pretty accurate in the way they’ve, you know, [reported] everything -- from Europeans who counted planes flying over and sitting in airports to European Commission reports to what’s going on in this country in open source publications. I think they’ve gotten a fairly accurate picture of what the CIA was doing.
What do you make of the transfer in East Africa of prisoners to Ethiopia?
It’s not something that pleases me. I think we know clearly what Ethiopia’s techniques are -- what’ll they do. And if we captured a suspected al Qaeda operative in [Mogadishu] or wherever, and rendered him to Ethiopia for interrogation, I think that’s just as heinous as us capturing someone from Canada and rendering him to Syria.
The United States denies that it’s behind these transfers, though.
Well, they’ve denied a lot. I’ve watched George [Tenet] deny torture on 60 Minutes. I’ve watched him deny torture, and at the same time, and out of the same face, admit to having waterboarded a high level al Qaeda operative. That’s torture. Waterboarding is torture. So this administration lies with great facility.
For people who don’t know, tell us what is waterboarding, and why you think that it’s torture?
Waterboarding induces the sensation that you’re dying. Waterboarding can kill you, too, when done inexpertly, on someone who has a bad heart or a condition you’re not aware of. Here I’m relying on CIA and military interrogators who’ve talked to me about this. Depending on how it’s done, it can be what I would call severe torture; or it can be mild torture if you want to use those kinds of adjectives. But again, I use the reverse theory. I think about an American soldier, female or male, being put through these interrogation techniques. And if I decide that I’m outraged at that thought, then that becomes torture or near torture to me, and then definitions become sheer semantics. They’re irrelevant.
The few people who’ve emerged from these secret prisons, when they’ve tried to tell the story of what’s happened to them, their stories have been classified. What do you make of the attempt to keep secret the methods of interrogation of these prisoners?
Some of this has legitimate grounds. It is the legitimacy of not wanting al Qaeda and other terrorists to know the methods we use, and therefore be able to train to prepare against them. Some of this is not wanting to release truly dangerous information. But I have to believe with this administration, because I have seen it demonstrated so many times, that a significant portion of it is just because they want to hide what they’ve been doing. It has no security reason behind it at all.
So what concerns do you remember that Colin Powell had that these people were being rounded up?
Well, the most vivid memory I have, and it was unmistakably clear in my mind, is one day when he left the door between our offices somewhat ajar, which he did on occasion, and generally speaking, when he raised his voice, I could hear him in the office, whether the door was closed or ajar. But on this occasion, he left the door slightly ajar, and he took a phone call from, I assume, the secretary of defense, or he was on the phone with Dr. Rice and the secretary of defence -- one of those two. And I heard him raising his voice, and very clearly heard him say [CLEARS THROAT], “Don’t you understand what you’re doing to our reputation in the world? Don’t you understand the damage you’re doing to our relations, particularly with our friends and our allies? Don’t you understand what you’re doing, dammit?” And it was all about Guantanamo, about treatment of prisoners.
They lost the battle there.
I don’t think he [Powell] knew, nor did Will Taft know that they had lost the battle as badly as they had until the Abu Ghraib photographs. And people have asked me, “Why didn’t the secretary then resign? Why didn’t he quit? Why didn’t he go public?” And my answer to that is the same answer I have to give for myself -- and my watching him verified this for me -- and that was that, if you recall, in that summer, and even leading up to as late as late August, early September, it looked as if our system was going to correct itself. We had the secretary of defense offering to resign, not once, but twice. We had him hauled before the Senate Armed Services Committee. We had him having to face at least somewhat difficult questions. [Lieutenant General Ricardo] Sanchez [former U.S. commander in Iraq] was denied the four stars, denied the Southern command as a combatant commander. Those are severe punishments when you’re thinking about military officers being suddenly stopped in their careers; they’re not the kind of accountability that civilians would think there ought to be … but they are accountability of a sort. So we thought -- and the Secretary was publicly saying in press conferences -- that we were going to see … democracy take care of its own dirty laundry. We were going to see this system respond to these … crimes. I think the secretary thought that was going to happen. It didn’t make him happy, but he thought that the system was going to hold people accountable. I was actually contacted by [Vice] Admiral [Tom] Church [Naval Inspector General under Rumsfeld], whom Rumsfeld put on the same task Powell put me on. And Admiral Church told me that he would be cooperative with me and Will [Taft]. And I told him I would be cooperative with him. That’s the last time I ever talked to him. He never passed a single document to me, and the documents that I got were by hook and crook through my own network. So we did think that something was going to be done. By the time we began to realize that it was going to be a cover up, a whitewash, it was time for the elections. It was timed subsequent to the elections, [or] very quickly after the elections, for Powell to be told that he was resigning. I mean, you know, there wasn’t much time to react after that.