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Gen. Karpinski demoted in prison scandal

USA TODAY | May 5, 2005
By Dave Moniz

WASHINGTON — The Army will demote and issue a formal letter of reprimand to the only general punished in the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski will be reduced to the rank of colonel as a result of an Army Inspector General investigation into a scandal that tarnished the United States' reputation abroad and set in motion a string of high-level inquiries.

In a statement released Thursday, the Army said Karpinski was guilty of dereliction of duty and shoplifting. Investigators did not substantiate allegations that she made a false statement to an investigating team and failed to obey a lawful order.

Karpinski was relieved of command of the 800th Military Police Brigade on April 8.

President Bush had to approve the Pentagon's action against Karpinski.

In its statement, the Army said that "though Brig. Gen. Karpinski's performance of duty was found to be seriously lacking, the investigation determined that no action or lack of action on her part contributed specifically to the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib."

Karpinski's attorney, Neal Puckett, did not immediately return a call from USA TODAY.

In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. in June 2004, Karpinski said, "I believe I was a convenient scapegoat" for the Pentagon for the Abu Ghraib scandal.

The Army also announced that three senior officers serving in Iraq at the time were cleared of wrongdoing related to prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski and Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast were found not guilty of dereliction of duty, the inspector general found.

At the time of the scandal, Sanchez commanded U.S. troops in Iraq. Wojdakowski was his deputy, and Fast was the top intelligence officer.

The Army statement said 27 officers, including Karpinski, received punishments ranging from court-martial to letters of reprimand.

The officers include one colonel, four lieutenant colonels, three majors, 10 captains and six lieutenants. Seven low-ranking enlisted soldiers have been convicted of criminal acts and received punishments ranging from 10 years of confinement to forfeiting a half-month's pay.

A series of investigations over the past six months included 82 separate sworn interviews ranging from Ambassador Paul Bremer to Gen. John Abizaid, commander of all U.S. forces in the Middle East.

The inspector general is the Army's independent investigative arm.

The scandal led to the Army's overhaul of its interrogation procedures, including a ban on the use of all dogs in the questioning of prisoners and new rules requiring the presence of medical personnel during interrogations.

Since the Abu Ghraib scandal, the Army has investigated 353 detainee abuse cases worldwide, including 70 involving detainee deaths. Of the 353, 225 are closed, and 135 actions have been taken against 124 soldiers.

Reed Brody, special counsel for Human Rights Watch, said in an interview last week that the military had forced low-ranking soldiers to take the blame for Abu Ghraib while officers, except Karpinski, escaped accountability.

The Army statement said "roughly 25% of the adverse punishments" after Abu Ghraib have been applied to officers, who make up about 16% of the Army.

 

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