With mounting evidence that a shadowy group of former
Israeli Defense Force and General Security Service (Shin Bet) Arabic-speaking
interrogators were hired by the Pentagon under a classified "carve
out" sub-contract to brutally interrogate Iraqi prisoners at
Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison, one only needs to examine the record
of abuse of Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners in Israel to understand
what Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld meant, when referring to
new, yet to be released photos and videos, he said, "if these
images are released to the public, obviously its going to make matters
According to a political appointee within the Bush administration
and U.S. intelligence sources, the interrogators at Abu Ghraib included
a number of Arabic-speaking Israelis who also helped U.S. interrogators
develop the "R2I" (Resistance to Interrogation) techniques.
Many of the torture methods were developed by the Israelis over many
years of interrogating Arab prisoners on the occupied West Bank and
in Israel itself.
Clues about worse photos and videos of abuse may be found in Israeli
files about similar abuse of Palestinian and other Arab prisoners.
In March 2000, a lawyer for a Lebanese prisoner kidnapped in 1994
by the Israelis in Lebanon claimed that his client had been subjected
to torture, including rape. The type of compensation offered by Rumsfeld
in his testimony has its roots in cases of Israeli torture of Arabs.
In the case of the Lebanese man, said to have been raped by his Israeli
captors, his lawyer demanded compensation of $1.47 million. The Public
Committee Against Torture in Israel documented the types of torture
meted out on Arab prisoners. Many of the tactics coincide with those
contained in the Taguba report: beatings and prolonged periods handcuffed
to furniture. In an article in the December 1998 issue of The Progressive,
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb reported on the treatment given to a 23-year old
Palestinian held on "administrative detention." The prisoner
was "cuffed behind a chair 17 hours a day for 120 days . . .
[he] had his head covered with a sack, which was often dipped in urine
or feces. Guards played loud music right next to his ears and frequently
taunted him with threats of physical and sexual violence." If
additional photos and videos document such practices, the Bush administration
and the American people have, indeed, "seen nothing yet."
Although it is still largely undocumented if any of the contractors
named in the report of General Antonio Taguba were associated with
the Israeli military or intelligence services, it is noteworthy that
one, John Israel, who was identified in the report as being employed
by both CACI International of Arlington, Virginia, and Titan, Inc.,
of San Diego, may not have even been a U.S. citizen. The Taguba report
states that Israel did not have a security clearance, a requirement
for employment as an interrogator for CACI. According to CACI's web
site, "a Top Secret Clearance (TS) that is current and US citizenship"
are required for CACI interrogators working in Iraq. In addition,
CACI requires that its interrogators "have at least two years
experience as a military policeman or similar type of law enforcement/intelligence
agency whereby the individual utilized interviewing techniques."
Speculation that "John Israel" may be an intelligence cover
name has fueled speculation whether this individual could have been
one of a number of Israeli interrogators hired under a classified
contract. Because U.S. citizenship and documentation thereof are requirements
for a U.S. security clearance, Israeli citizens would not be permitted
to hold a Top Secret clearance. However, dual U.S.-Israeli citizens
could have satisfied Pentagon requirements that interrogators hold
U.S. citizenship and a Top Secret clearance. Although the Taguba report
refers twice to Israel as an employee of Titan, the company claims
he is one of their sub-contractors. CACI stated that one of the men
listed in the report "is not and never has been a CACI employee"
without providing more detail. A U.S. intelligence source revealed
that in the world of intelligence "carve out" subcontracts
such confusion is often the case with "plausible deniability"
being a foremost concern.
In fact, the Taguba report does reference the presence of non-U.S.
and non-Iraqi interrogators at Abu Ghraib. The report states, "In
general, US civilian contract personnel (Titan Corporation, CACI,
etc), third country nationals, and local contractors do not appear
to be properly supervised within the detention facility at Abu Ghraib."
The Pentagon is clearly concerned about the outing of the Taguba
report and its references to CACI, Titan, and third country nationals,
which could permanently damage U.S. relations with Arab and Islamic
nations. The Pentagon's angst may explain why the Taguba report is
classified Secret No Foreign Dissemination.
The leak of the Taguba report was so radioactive, Daniel R. Dunn,
the Information Assurance Officer for Douglas Feith's Office of the
Under Secretary of Defense, Policy (Policy Automation Services Security
Team), sent a May 6, 2004, For Official Use Only Urgent E-mail to
Pentagon staffers stating, "THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS
REPORT IS CLASSIFIED; DO NOT GO TO FOX NEWS TO READ OR OBTAIN A COPY."
Considering Feith's close ties to the Israelis, such a reaction by
his top computer security officer, a Certified Information System
Security Professional (CISSP), is understandable, although considering
the fact that CISSPs are to act on behalf of the public good, it is
The reference to "third country nationals" in a report
that restricts its dissemination to U.S. coalition partners (Great
Britain, Poland, Italy, etc.) is another indication of the possible
involvement of Israelis in the interrogation of Iraqi prisoners. Knowledge
that the U.S. may have been using Israeli interrogators could have
severely fractured the Bush administration's tenuous "coalition
of the willing' in Iraq. General Taguba's findings were transmitted
to the Coalition Forces Land Component Command on March 9, 2004, just
six days before the Spanish general election, one that the opposition
anti-Iraq war Socialists won. The Spanish ultimately withdrew their
forces from Iraq.
During his testimony before the Senate Armed Service Committee, Rumsfeld
was pressed upon by Senator John McCain about the role of the private
contractors in the interrogations and abuse. McCain asked Rumsfeld
four pertinent questions, ". . . who was in charge? What agency
or private contractor was in charge of the interrogations? Did they
have authority over the guards? And what were the instructions that
they gave to the guards?"
When Rumsfeld had problems answering McCain's question, Lt. Gen.
Lance Smith, the Deputy Commander of the U.S. Central Command, said
there were 37 contract interrogators used in Abu Ghraib. The two named
contractors, CACI and Titan, have close ties to the Israeli military
and technology communities. Last January 14, after Provost Marshal
General of the Army, Major General Donald Ryder, had already uncovered
abuse at Abu Ghraib, CACI's President and CEO, Dr. J.P. (Jack) London
was receiving the Jerusalem Fund of Aish Ha Torah's Albert Einstein
Technology award at the Jerusalem City Hall, with right-wing Likud
politician Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and ultra-Orthodox
United Torah Judaism party Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski in attendance.
Oddly, CACI waited until February 2 to publicly announce the award
in a press release. CACI has also received grants from U.S.-Israeli
Titan also has had close connections to Israeli interests. After
his stint as CIA Director, James Woolsey served as a Titan director.
Woolsey is an architect of America's Iraq policy and the chief proponent
of and lobbyist for Ahmad Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress.
An adviser to the neo-conservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies,
Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs, Project for the New
American Century, Center for Security Policy, Freedom House, and Committee
for the Liberation of Iraq, Woolsey is close to Stephen Cambone, the
Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, a key person in the chain
of command who would have not only known about the torture tactics
used by U.S. and Israeli interrogators in Iraq but who would have
also approved them. Cambone was associated with the Project for the
New American Century and is viewed as a member of Rumsfeld's neo-conservative
"cabal" within the Pentagon.
Another person considered by Pentagon insiders to have been knowledgeable
about the treatment of Iraqi prisoners is U.S. Army Col. Steven Bucci,
a Green Beret and Rumsfeld's military assistant and chief traffic
cop for the information flow to the Defense Secretary. According to
Pentagon insiders, Bucci was involved in the direction of a special
covert operations unit composed of former U.S. special operations
personnel who answered to the Pentagon rather than the CIA's Special
Activities Division, the agency's own paramilitary group. The Pentagon
group included Arabic linguists and former members of the Green Berets
and Delta Force who operated covertly in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran,
Pakistan, and Uzbekistan. Titan also uses linguists trained in the
languages (Arabic, Dari, Farsi, Pashto, Urdu, and Tajik) of those
same countries. It is not known if a link exists between Rumsfeld's
covert operations unit and Titan's covert operations linguists.
Another Titan employee named in the Taguba report is Adel L. Nakhla.
Nakhla is a name common among Egypt's Coptic Christian community,
however, it is not known if Adel Nakhla is either an Egyptian-American
or a national of Egypt. A CACI employee identified in the report,
Steven Stephanowicz, is referred to as "Stefanowicz" in
a number of articles on the prison abuse. Stefanowicz is the spelling
used by Joe Ryan, another CACI employee assigned with Stefanowicz
to Abu Ghraib. Ryan is a radio personality on KSTP, a conservative
radio station in Minneapolis, who maintained a daily log of his activities
in Iraq on the radio's web site before it was taken down. Ryan indicated
that Stefanowicz (or Stephanowicz) continued to hold his interrogation
job in Iraq even though General Taguba recommended he lose his security
clearance and be terminated for the abuses at Abu Ghraib.
In an even more bizarre twist, the Philadelphia Daily News identified
a former expatriate public relations specialist for the government
of South Australia in Adelaide named Steve Stefanowicz as possibly
being the same person identified in the Taguba report. In 2000, Stefanowicz,
who grew up in the Philadelphia and Allentown areas, left for Australia.
On September 16, 2001, he was quoted by the Sunday Mail of Adelaide
on the 911 attacks. He said of the attacks, "It was one of the
most incredible and most devastating things I have ever seen. I have
been in constant contact with my family and friends in the US and
the mood was very solemn and quiet. But this is progressing into anger."
Stefanowicz returned to the United States and volunteered for the
Navy in a reserve status. His mother told the Allentown Morning Call
in April 2002 that Stefanowicz was stationed somewhere in the Middle
East but did not know where because of what Stefanowicz said was "security
concerns." His mother told the Philadelphia Daily News that her
son was in Iraq but she knew nothing about his current status.
Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based
investigative journalist and columnist. He served in the National
Security Agency (NSA) during the Reagan administration and wrote
the introduction to Forbidden Truth. He is the co-author, with John
Stanton, of "America's Nightmare: The Presidency of George
Bush II." His forthcoming book is titled: "Jaded Tasks:
Big Oil, Black Ops, and Brass Plates."