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Ex-chief of Iraq prisons baffled by suspension

Janis Karpinski, an Army reserve officer, has since rotated out of Iraq.
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The former commander of military police at U.S. prisons in Iraq says she does not know why she was suspended and insists the Army was aware of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison months before it launched an investigation.

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, an Army reserve officer who has since rotated out of Iraq, said she has not been officially notified of her suspension -- or the reasons why -- and said she doesn't know whether she will be reinstated.

"It can certainly have an impact, a dramatic impact, on my career," she told CNN's "American Morning" Wednesday. "Suspended means they take you out of the position pending the results of something. I don't know [what the reasons are] because I've never been officially notified. I found out, as everybody knows, through the media, initially."

Karpinski was relieved of duty in Iraq on January 17, a day after the coalition military announced an investigation into allegations of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.

The case erupted last month when CBS broadcast graphic photographs of American troops posing for photographs with naked, hooded prisoners.

Karpinski told CNN the U.S. Army was aware of prisoner abuses well before January when a soldier made a direct report of misconduct, prompting the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, to order a criminal investigation.

Karpinski said she saw an International Committee for the Red Cross report detailing human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib at an "impromptu meeting" at Combined Joint Task Force-7 ( CJTF-7) headquarters in late November 2003.

"The people that were there at this meeting -- it was very informal -- they were all aware of the report," she said. "As a matter of fact when I asked a question about the report, the SJA to the CJTF-7 -- the lead lawyer -- responded very quickly and said I have a copy of the report right here, you can see it.

"So clearly they had already seen the report, maybe it had been intercepted or routed to them in this particular case, and they were already working on a response for my review."

Karpinski has taken partial responsibility for the prisoner abuse scandal, but insists the military police officers implicated in the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners were being given instructions by military intelligence, as part of the process of interrogating prisoners.

"Those cell blocks, 1-A and 1-B in particular, were under the control of the MI [military intelligence] brigade before they took control of the whole facility in November," Karpinski said. "We had 16 facilities. Interrogations were run at one of those facilities, Abu Ghraib, and in two cell blocks, 1-A and 1-B, and it is the only place where these infractions and these photographs have been taken and reported."

U.S. intelligence officials insist the CIA, which is separate from military intelligence, was not involved.

Seven U.S. soldiers have been accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners at the prison, which is west of Baghdad. One of the seven, Spec. Jeremy Sivits, pleaded guilty and received the maximum sentence of one year in prison last week for his role in the scandal. That sentence is under automatic appeal.

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