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Iraqi Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush, who previously headed Saddam Hussein’s air force, turns himself in for questioning. He is sent to the Al Qaim detention facility northwest of Baghdad. (Moffeit 5/18/2004; Human Rights Watch 6/2004)
Iraqi Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush is questioned by “other governmental agency officials” (In military parlance, this means the CIA) and possibly beaten. (Human Rights Watch 6/2004)
At the Al Qaim detention facility northwest of Baghdad, Iraqi Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush is interrogated by two officers of the 66th Military Intelligence Company. They force him head-first into a sleeping bag and question him as they roll him back and forth. One of the soldiers, Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer, sits on the Iraqi general’s chest and covers his mouth. (Human Rights Watch 6/2004) The prisoner dies of asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression. (Moffeit 5/18/2004) Later in the day, US military officials issue a statement saying that a prisoner has died of natural causes during questioning. “Mowhoush said he didn’t feel well and subsequently lost consciousness,” the statement reads. “The soldier questioning him found no pulse, then conducted CPR and called for medical authorities. According to the on-site surgeon, it appeared Mowhouse died of natural causes.” (Moffeit 5/18/2004; Jehl and Schmitt 5/22/2004) But the autopsy report will say there is “evidence of blunt force trauma to the chest and legs.” (Human Rights Watch 6/2004) The incident is investigated and a report is issued in early 2004 (see Late January 2004).
The chief of the CIA’s station in Baghdad, Iraq, is removed from his position. (Miller and Drogin 2/20/2004; Jehl and Johnston 2/27/2005) At this time the chief, whose name is apparently Gerry Meyer (see May 18, 2006), is not in Iraq, but reporting to superiors in Washington. He is simply told not to return to his station. (Risen 2006, pp. 147) However, the reason for the chief’s removal is unclear and three contradictory accounts will be given. The first account, put about by anonymous officials, is that Meyer does not have the management skills to administer the station, one of the largest the CIA has ever had. (Jehl and Johnston 2/27/2005; Risen 2006, pp. 128) One unnamed official will comment, “There was just a belief that it was a huge operation and we needed a very senior, very experienced person to run it.” A second version holds that Meyer is fired for drafting two pessimistic “Aardwolf” reports about the US’s prospects in Iraq (see August 30, 2003 and November 10, 2003). (Miller and Drogin 2/20/2004) According to a Harper’s magazine post, White House officials ask for “dirt” on Meyer, including his political affiliation. “He was a good guy,” an anonymous CIA official will comment, “well-wired in Baghdad, and he wrote a good report. But any time this administration gets bad news, they say the critics are assholes and defeatists, and off we go down the same path with more pressure on the accelerator.” (Silverstein 5/18/2006) However, a third version will later emerge. In this account, the firing is due to concern over the deaths of two Iraqis questioned by CIA officials shortly before Meyer’s removal. After senior agency officials learn of the deaths of Abed Hamed Mowhoush (see November 26, 2003) and Manadel al-Jamadi (see Between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. November 4, 2003), in which CIA personnel were involved, they become unhappy with Meyer and have him removed. (Jehl and Johnston 2/27/2005; Risen 2006, pp. 127-128) This version will apparently be supported by a document released subsequent to a Freedom of Information Act request in 2009. The document is a redacted set of May 2004 talking points to be used by a senior CIA official in a briefing of the House Intelligence Committee. The talking points do not say specifically why Meyer was fired, but do say he committed errors in detainee treatment. This will be confirmed by an anonymous former official, who will say that Meyer “wasn’t paying enough attention to the detainee situation,” as well as the issue of “ghost detainees.” (Strobel 8/25/2009) Whatever the reason for his firing, Meyer soon leaves the CIA. (Jehl and Johnston 2/27/2005; Silverstein 5/18/2006) According to author James Risen, his departure comes after he faces “piercing questions from CIA officials stemming from a series of inflammatory accusations about his personal behavior, all of which he flatly denied.” Risen will add that Meyer leaves the CIA “in disgust.” Whatever the reason, some CIA officials come to believe that Meyer ran into trouble because of the candid report. “When I read that November aardwolf,” a CIA official who knows Meyer will comment, “I thought that he was committing career suicide.” (Risen 2006, pp. 127-128)
The final report of an investigation into the death of Iraqi Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush (see November 26, 2003) is completed. It concludes that Mowhoush died from asphyxia after being suffocated and sat upon by his interrogators. It also reveals that approximately 24 to 48 hours before his death, he was questioned by “other governmental agency officials.” Statements suggest that he was beaten during that interrogation, the report says. (Moffeit 5/18/2004; Human Rights Watch 6/2004) The interrogating soldiers are subsequently reprimanded and barred from conducting further interrogations. (Moffeit 5/18/2004)
Four US soldiers are charged with murdering an Iraqi major general in their custody. Almost a year ago, Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush died during an interrogation at a base near Qaim, in western Iraq. Mowhoush was smothered to death (see November 26, 2003). The four soldiers are Chief Warrant Officers Jefferson L. Williams and Lewis E. Welshofer, Jr., Sergeant First Class William J. Sommer, and Specialist Jerry L. Loper. All are charged with murder and dereliction of duty. Williams, Welshofer, and Sommer were members of the 66th Military Company, a unit of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. Loper was a member of the regiment’s Support Squadron, and assigned to helicopter maintenance. Only Welshofer has training in interrogation practices. Mowhoush, allegedly a high-ranking member of the anti-American insurgency, surrendered to US forces two weeks before his death. The Pentagon initially reported his death as due to “natural causes,” but now admits Mowhoush was tortured to death. “General Mowhoush was allegedly placed in a sleeping bag and then bound to prevent his movement,” a Pentagon report says. “One of the warrant officers [Welshofer] reportedly sat on his chest and continued the interrogation. General Mowhoush was then rolled over, and the warrant officer sat on his back.” Mowhoush died in that position. A medical examination proved that he had died of asphyxiation. Other documents later show that Mowhoush had a bag pulled over his head, the bag was wrapped tightly with electrical cords, and he was beaten and kicked by a crowd of interrogators and officials (see January 19, 2006). Regiment commander Colonel David Teeples says of the charges, “There is no evidence, there is no proof.” Much of the evidence presented in the case is classified and may not ever be made public. “If there are witnesses or documents that would disclose classified information, the trial is closed for those portions,” says retired Air Force Colonel Skip Morgan, a former military judge. (Roeder 10/5/2004) The murder charge against Sommer will later be dropped. Williams and Loper will make plea agreements in return for their testimony against Welshofer. (Foster 1/17/2006) Welshofer will be convicted, but will not serve jail time or even be discharged from the Army (see January 24, 2006).
The Justice Department decides not to prosecute in most cases where detainees were abused and killed by the CIA. The cases, of which there are apparently eight, had been referred to the department by the CIA’s inspector general (see (August 2004)) and were investigated primarily by the US Attorneys Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, although officials at department headquarters in Washington are also involved in the decision not to prosecute. Although some of the cases are still technically under review at this time, the department indicates it does not intend to bring charges. (Jehl and Golden 10/23/2005) The cases include:
The death of Iraqi prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi in CIA custody in November 2003 (see Between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. November 4, 2003 and (7:00 a.m.) November 4, 2003);
The asphyxiation of Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush in Iraq, also in November 2003 (see November 24 or 25, 2003 and November 26, 2003). This incident involved the military, as well as at least one CIA contractor; (Jehl and Golden 10/23/2005)
The intimidation of al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri by a CIA officer named “Albert” using a gun and drill (see September 11, 2003).
The death of detainee Gul Rahman, who froze to death at the Salt Pit prison in Afghanistan (see November 20, 2002). The case was examined by prosecutors, but, in the end, a recommendation not to prosecute the officer who caused the detainee to die is made. (Johnson, Markon, and Tate 9/19/2009) The officer’s first name is not known, although his last name is Zirbel. (Mahoney and Johnson 10/9/2009, pp. 29 ) The decision is made because prosecutors conclude that the prison was outside the reach of US law; although the CIA funded it and vetted its Afghan guards, it was technically an Afghan prison. In addition, it is unclear whether Rahman, who was captured in Pakistan and then taken to Afghanistan, would have died from injuries sustained during his capture, rather than by freezing. Although hypothermia was listed as the cause of death in the autopsy, the body was not available to investigators. According to the Washington Post, “questions remain whether hypothermia was used as a cover story in part to protect people who had beaten the captive.” However, according to a “senior official who took part in the review,” the decision not to prosecute in this case is not initially that clear, and an indictment is considered. However, the prosecutors decide not to press charges against Zirbel and a memo explaining this decision is drafted. An official involved in the review will later say there is “absolutely no pressure” from the Justice Department’s management to decide not to prosecute. However, a later report by the Post will indicate there may be a split among prosecutors over the decision, and that a political appointee, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Paul McNulty, assesses the case. McNulty will be nominated for the position of deputy attorney general around this time (see October 21, 2005). (Johnson, Markon, and Tate 9/19/2009)
However, one CIA employee, a contractor named David Passaro, has been charged with detainee abuse (see June 18-21, 2003). (Jehl and Golden 10/23/2005) The department will begin a second review of some or all of these cases in 2009 (see August 24, 2009).
A secret witness in the court-martial of a US soldier charged with murdering an Iraqi prisoner (see November 26, 2003 and October 5, 2004) says that the soldier, Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer, disregarded interrogation rules so casually that he wrote a memo warning his CIA superiors. The witness testifies in open court, but is shielded behind a curtain to protect his identity. (Defense lawyers accidentally exposed the witness’s ties to the CIA during previous questioning.) The testimony is conducted in public after much legal wrangling, with lawyers from the Colorado Springs Gazette and other media outlets insisting that the witness’s testimony be conducted in open court. The witness says Welshofer, accused of smothering the prisoner, did not seem to care. “He said he was pretty sure they were breaking those rules every day.” Earlier witnesses have testified that the techniques used by Welshofer—which included covering the prisoner’s head with a bag, wrapping electrical cord around the bag, sitting on the man’s chest, and covering his mouth—were forbidden by order of CENTCOM commander Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez. Another witness, Chief Warrant Officer Todd Sonnek, a Green Beret assigned to interrogations at the makeshift prison near the Syrian border, says that two days before Mowhoush’s death, he witnessed Welshofer bringing CIA and Iraqi paramilitary fighters in to witness his interrogation of the prisoner, which Welshofer called an implementation of the accepted method called “fear-up,” in which an interrogator attempts to terrify a prisoner into divulging information. Welshofer, along with the CIA officials and Iraqi fighters, questioned Mowhoush, and interrupted the questions with insults and slaps. Instead of cowering in fear, Mowhoush became enraged and broke free from his plastic handcuffs. Sonnek says he wrestled Mowhoush to the ground, and everyone in the room joined in beating and kicking Mowhoush. Sonnek testifies that Mowhoush was able to walk unaided back to his cell; other witnesses have said that it took five soldiers to carry him back to it. (Foster 1/17/2006; Roeder 1/19/2006; Foster 1/24/2006) Welshofer will be convicted, but will not serve jail time or even be discharged from the Army (see January 24, 2006).
Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer is found guilty of causing the death of an Iraqi prisoner, Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush (see November 26, 2003). Welshofer, who was originally charged with murder (see October 5, 2004), is not found guilty of murder, but of far lesser charges of negligent homicide and negligent dereliction of duty. The court-martial board sentences Welshofer, who sat on Mowhoush’s chest and smothered him to death, to a reprimand, a fine of $6,000, and 60 days’ restriction. He is not sentenced to jail; neither is he discharged from the Army or even reduced in rank. Soldiers in the courtroom audience applaud the sentence. Welshofer’s attorney, Frank Spinner, says after the sentence, “The court understood our argument that this was a very difficult environment in which the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment was operating in November 2003.” Army prosecutor Captain Elana Matt had argued for at least two years’ imprisonment and a dishonorable discharge: “Chief Welshofer should have known better, with 19 years in the Army. You heard some bad things about General Mowhoush, but standards don’t apply just to good victims. They apply to everyone. The reputation of the Army has been dishonored at home and abroad.… You may be tempted to believe that this is the kind of guy the Army needs because he gets the job done. Don’t do it, because that would reduce us to the level of our enemies.” But the court was apparently swayed by Welshofer’s denials that he had done anything that could have led to Mowhoush’s death, and by the argument of Spinner and Welshofer’s military lawyer, Captain Ryan Rosauer, who said that Welshofer was confused by hazy interrogation rules (see January 19, 2006), and was merely doing his duty and trying to save lives. For his part, Welshofer begged the panel to allow him to stay out of jail and in the Army. He said that he had “tried to be a loyal soldier, putting the needs of this institution before my own.” (Foster 1/24/2006; Roeder 1/24/2006) Brigadier General David Irvine, a retired intelligence officer who taught prisoner interrogation and military law for 18 years, and human rights activist David Danzig, will call Welshofer’s sentence a “slap on the wrist,” and write that the verdict “spared the defendant, indicted the prosecutor, and found the law irrelevant” (see January 27, 2006). (Irvine and Danzig 1/27/2006)
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