(CBS) Last month, the U.S. Army announced 17
soldiers in Iraq, including a brigadier general, had been removed from
duty after charges of mistreating Iraqi prisoners.
But the details of what happened have been kept secret, until now.
It turns out photographs surfaced showing American soldiers abusing and
humiliating Iraqis being held at a prison near Baghdad. The Army
investigated, and issued a scathing report.
Now, an Army general and her command staff may face the end of long
military careers. And six soldiers are facing court martial in Iraq --
and possible prison time.
Correspondent Dan Rather
talks to one of those soldiers. And, for
the first time, 60 Minutes II
will show some of the
pictures that led to the Army investigation.
According to the U.S. Army, one Iraqi prisoner was told to stand on a
box with his head covered, wires attached to his hands. He was told that
if he fell off the box, he would be electrocuted.
It was this picture, and dozens of others, that prompted an
investigation by the U.S. Army. On Tuesday, 60 Minutes II
asked Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of coalition operations
in Iraq, what went wrong.
“Frankly, I think all of us are disappointed by the actions of the few,”
says Kimmitt. “Every day, we love our soldiers, but frankly, some days
we're not always proud of our soldiers."
For decades under Saddam Hussein, many prisoners who were taken to the
Abu Ghraib prison never came out. It was the centerpiece of Saddam’s
empire of fear, and those prisoners who did make it out told nightmarish
tales of torture beyond imagining – and executions without reason.
60 Minutes II talked about the prison and shared pictures
of what Americans did there with two men who have extensive
interrogation experience: Former Marine Lt. Col. Bill Cowan and former
CIA Bureau Chief Bob Baer.
"I visited Abu Ghraib a couple of days after it was liberated. It was
the most awful sight I've ever seen. I said, ‘If there's ever a reason
to get rid of Saddam Hussein, it's because of Abu Ghraib,'” says Baer.
“There were bodies that were eaten by dogs, torture. You know,
electrodes coming out of the walls. It was an awful place."
"We went into Iraq to stop things like this from happening, and indeed,
here they are happening under our tutelage,” says Cowan.
It was American soldiers serving as military police at Abu Ghraib who
took these pictures. The investigation started when one soldier got them
from a friend, and gave them to his commanders. 60 Minutes II
has a dozen of these pictures, and there are many more – pictures that
show Americans, men and women in military uniforms, posing with naked
There are shots of the prisoners stacked in a pyramid, one with a slur
written on his skin in English.
In some, the male prisoners are positioned to simulate sex with each
other. And in most of the pictures, the Americans are laughing, posing,
pointing, or giving the camera a thumbs-up.
60 Minutes II was only able to contact one of the soldiers
facing charges. But the Army says they are all in Iraq, awaiting court
"What can the Army say specifically to Iraqis and others who are going
to see this and take it personally," Rather asked Kimmitt, in an
interview conducted by satellite from Baghdad.
"The first thing I’d say is we’re appalled as well. These are our fellow
soldiers. These are the people we work with every day, and they
represent us. They wear the same uniform as us, and they let their
fellow soldiers down,” says Kimmitt.
“Our soldiers could be taken prisoner as well. And we expect our
soldiers to be treated well by the adversary, by the enemy. And if we
can't hold ourselves up as an example of how to treat people with
dignity and respect … We can't ask that other nations to that to our
soldiers as well."
“So what would I tell the people of Iraq? This is wrong. This is
reprehensible. But this is not representative of the 150,000 soldiers
that are over here,” adds Kimmitt. “I'd say the same thing to the
American people... Don't judge your army based on the actions of a few."
One of the soldiers facing court martial is Army Reserve Staff Sgt.
Frederick is charged with maltreatment for allegedly participating in
and setting up a photo, and for posing in a photograph by sitting on top
of a detainee. He is charged with an indecent act for observing one
scene. He is also charged with assault for allegedly striking detainees
– and ordering detainees to strike each other.
60 Minutes II talked with him by phone from Baghdad, where
he is awaiting court martial.
Frederick told us he will plead not guilty, claiming the way the Army
was running the prison led to the abuse of prisoners.
“We had no support, no training whatsoever. And I kept asking my chain
of command for certain things...like rules and regulations,” says
Frederick. “And it just wasn't happening."
Six months before he faced a court martial, Frederick sent home a video
diary of his trip across the country. Frederick, a reservist, said he
was proud to serve in Iraq. He seemed particularly well-suited for the
job at Abu Ghraib. He’s a corrections officer at a Virginia prison,
whose warden described Frederick to us as “one of the best.”
Frederick says Americans came into the prison: “We had military
intelligence, we had all kinds of other government agencies, FBI, CIA
... All those that I didn't even know or recognize."
Frederick's letters and email messages home also offer clues to problems
at the prison. He wrote that he was helping the interrogators:
"Military intelligence has encouraged and told us 'Great job.' "
"They usually don't allow others to watch them interrogate. But since
they like the way I run the prison, they have made an exception."
"We help getting them to talk with the way we handle them. ... We've had
a very high rate with our style of getting them to break. They usually
end up breaking within hours."
According to the Army’s own investigation, that’s what was happening.
The Army found that interrogators asked reservists working in the prison
to prepare the Iraqi detainees, physically and mentally, for
What, if any actions, are being taken against the interrogators?
"I hope the investigation is including not only the people who committed
the crimes, but some of the people that might have encouraged these
crimes as well,” says Kimmitt. “Because they certainly share some level
of responsibility as well."
But so far, none of the interrogators at Abu Ghraib are facing criminal
charges. In fact, a number of them are civilians, and military law
doesn’t apply to them.
One of the civilian interrogators at Abu Ghraib was questioned by the
Army, and he told investigators he had "broken several tables during
interrogations, unintentionally," while trying to "fear up" prisoners.
He denied hurting anyone.
In our phone conversation, 60 Minutes II asked Frederick
whether he had seen any prisoners beaten.
“I saw things. We had to use force sometimes to get the inmates to
cooperate, just like our rules of engagement said,” says Frederick. “We
learned a little bit of Arabic, basic commands. And they didn't want to
listen, so sometimes, you would just give them a little nudge or
something like that just to get them to cooperate so we could get the
Attorney Gary Myers and a judge advocate in Iraq are defending
Frederick. They say he should never have been charged, because of the
failure of his commanders to provide proper training and standards.
"The elixir of power, the elixir of believing that you're helping the
CIA, for God's sake, when you're from a small town in Virginia, that's
intoxicating,” says Myers. “And so, good guys sometimes do things
believing that they are being of assistance and helping a just cause.
... And helping people they view as important."
Frederick says he didn't see a copy of the Geneva Convention rules for
handling prisoners of war until after he was charged.
The Army investigation confirms that soldiers at Abu Ghraib were not
trained at all in Geneva Convention rules. And most were reservists,
part-time soldiers who didn't get the kind of specialized prisoner of
war training given to regular Army members.
Frederick also says there were far too few soldiers there for the number
of prisoners: “There was, when I left, there was over 900. And there was
only five soldiers, plus two non-commissioned officers, in charge for
those 900 -- over 900 inmates."
Rather asked Kimmitt about understaffing. "That doesn't condone
individual acts of criminal behavior no matter how tired we are. No
matter how stretched we are, that doesn't give us license and it doesn't
give us the authority to break the law,” says Kimmitt.
“That may have been a contributing factor, but at the end of the day,
this is probably more about leadership, supervision, setting standards,
abiding by the Army values and understanding what's right, and having
the guts to say what's right.”
Brig. Gen. Janice Karpinsky ran Abu Ghraib for the Army. She was also
in charge of three other Army prison facilities that housed thousands of
The Army investigation determined that her lack of leadership and clear
standards led to problems system wide. Karpinski talked with 60
Minutes’ Steve Kroft last October at Abu Ghraib, before any of
this came out.
"This is international standards,” said Karpinski. “It's the best care
available in a prison facility."
But the Army investigation found serious problems behind the scenes. The
Army has photographs that show a detainee with wires attached to his
genitals. Another shows a dog attacking an Iraqi prisoner. Frederick
said that dogs were “used for intimidation factors.”
Part of the Army's own investigation is a statement from an Iraqi
detainee who charges a translator - hired to work at the prison - with
raping a male juvenile prisoner: "They covered all the doors with
sheets. I heard the screaming. ...and the female soldier was taking
There is also a picture of an Iraqi man who appears to be dead -- and
"It's reprehensible that anybody would be taking a picture of that
situation,” says Kimmitt.
But what about the situation itself?
“I don't know the facts surrounding what caused the bruising and the
bleeding,” says Kimmitt. “If that is also one of the charges being
brought against the soldiers, that too is absolutely unacceptable and
completely outside of what we expect of our soldiers and our guards at
Is there any indication that similar actions may have happened at other
prisons? “I'd like to sit here and say that these are the only prisoner
abuse cases that we're aware of, but we know that there have been some
other ones since we've been here in Iraq,” says Kimmitt.
When Saddam ran Abu Ghraib prison, Iraqis were too afraid to come ask
for information on their family members.
When 60 Minutes II was there last month, hundreds had
gathered outside the gates, worried about what is going on inside.
"We will be paid back for this. These people at some point will be let
out,” says Cowan. “Their families are gonna know. Their friends are
This is a hard story to have to tell when Americans are fighting and
dying in Iraq. And for Cowan, it’s a personal issue. His son is an
infantry soldier serving in Iraq for the last four months.
Rather asked Cowan what he would say to "that person who is sitting in
their living room and saying, ‘I wish they wouldn't do this. It's
undermining our troops and they shouldn't do it.’"
"If we don't tell this story, these kinds of things will continue. And
we'll end up getting paid back 100 or 1,000 times over,” says Cowan.
“Americans want to be proud of each and everything that our servicemen
and women do in Iraq. We wanna be proud. We know they're working hard.
None of us, now, later, before or during this conflict, should wanna let
incidents like this just pass."
Kimmitt says the Army will not let what happened at Abu Ghraib just
pass. What does he think is the most important thing for Americans to
know about what has happened?
"I think two things. No. 1, this is a small minority of the military,
and No. 2, they need to understand that is not the Army,” says Kimmitt.
“The Army is a values-based organization. We live by our values. Some of
our soldiers every day die by our values, and these acts that you see in
these pictures may reflect the actions of individuals, but by God, it
doesn't reflect my army."
Two weeks ago, 60 Minutes II received an appeal from the
Defense Department, and eventually from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, to delay this broadcast -- given the
danger and tension on the ground in Iraq.
60 Minutes II decided to honor that request, while
pressing for the Defense Department to add its perspective to the
incidents at Abu Ghraib prison. This week, with the photos beginning to
circulate elsewhere, and with other journalists about to publish their
versions of the story, the Defense Department agreed to cooperate in our