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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing

Aired May 19, 2004 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We spent much of the morning listening to testimony from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. While that was taking place, other important testimony taking place in Washington, D.C.
That is where the top U.S. military commanders appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. To bring us up to date, up to the minute on exactly what we have missed so, here's Ed Henry on Capitol Hill. Ed, good morning.

ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Daryn. Basically, the big news has actually come from behind the scenes. Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner used this hearing to disclose the fact that privately this morning the Pentagon informed the committee that the Pentagon has a new disc of photos, a new disc of images that may show more abuses at the Iraqi prison, Abu Ghraib. The Senate is working to get these images up to Capitol Hill.

The Senate is going on a recess next week, so Chairman Warner is privately saying to his staff that he wants to get these images up to Capitol Hill as soon as possible this week so that senators can find out what is in this new disc of photos.

Also General John Abizaid testified and suggested that there could be more photos beyond this one disc. The quote from General Abizaid, quote, "We still do not know what we don't know," in terms of potential and images out there. Also General Abizaid testified, quote, "This system is broken, we have to fix it."

Also testimony from Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the ground commander for the United States in Iraq. He took responsibility and apologized for the abuses and what went wrong. But he insisted that there was no doubt at all that the Geneva Convention does apply. There's been confusion about that, confusing testimony earlier. But Lieutenant General Sanchez is saying clearly the Geneva Convention applies the Iraqi prisons.

He also denied reports that he approved questionable interrogation methods. That coming from Lieutenant General Sanchez. He also revealed that the prison, Abu Ghraib, is going to be renamed. It's now called Camp Redemption.

Some other new information coming off camera. We've heard that Secretary Rumsfeld is actually coming back up to Capitol Hill. He's going to be in the Senate on Thursday for a private meeting in the Capitol with the entire Senate. This is not just limited to the prison abuse scandal, but it will be a general reading of the situation in Iraq and around the world. So, Secretary Rumsfeld coming back to Capitol Hill on Thursday for a private session -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Ed, I want to ask you about thus specific hearing taking place right. You do have the top commanders from Iraq. There is criticism about this hearing even taking place at this time saying that, really, these men have other things they need to be doing and focusing on the battlefield, not on the questions of senators on Capitol Hill.

HENRY: That's right. There's a rift developing between Republicans on Capitol Hill. Yesterday the House Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter said he believes these commanders should be in the field. They should not be pulled out of the theater in Iraq. They should be focusing on the war on terror, the war in Iraq.

Senate Armed Service Chairman John Warner, who's running today's hearing, responded that that's not true. He believes that both jobs can be done, that this prison scandal needs to be investigated, it needs to be talked about and they need to get it out in the open, but that the generals can still conduct a war on terror.

Also, Senator Warner pointed out that he sent a letter last week to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld insisting that that committee would be glad to take teleconference testimony, video-conferencing testimony from these generals. They would not have to be pulled out of the theater.

But the committee was informed that the general were going to be in the Washington area anyway. They've been at the Pentagon and elsewhere for private meetings. So you're seeing though a split between House Republicans and Senate Republicans.

And even within the Senate there are conservatives on this Senate Committee, like Senator John Cornyn of Texas who will be speaking in a little while, who have been saying publicly they believe this investigation may be going too far. Maybe the Senate should not be having this many hearings. It's a distraction not only for the generals, but it's a distraction for Secretary Rumsfeld -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Ed, let's go ahead and listen into the hearing right now. Senate Democrat Mark Dayton of Minnesota. Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

LT. GEN. RICARDO SANCHEZ, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: Sir, as far as I'm concerned, we are transparent within CJTF-7.

SEN. MARK DAYTON (D), MINNESOTA: Well, sir, all right, I'll accept that then. So you'll provide a copy of that letter and we can assess what the response was?

SANCHEZ: Sir, as long as that is within the approval of the higher headquarters and the department, yes, sir, we will provide that.

DAYTON: That's a big caveat but we'll see what comes forward.

SANCHEZ: Sir, I have no problems with providing you that letter. However, there are higher headquarters directives.

DAYTON: Fair enough.

Sir, on November 19th, you, again according to another newspaper report -- as soon as I think our responsibilities in this body are delegated to reading the newspapers and watching the other news reports to find out these things that we're not getting any information about.

But there's reportedly a memo from your office, General Sanchez, on November 19th that placed two key Abu Ghraib cell blocks where the abuses occurred under the control of Colonel Pappas.

And then there's also reference made to a request he made reportedly made to you 11 days later about an interrogation plan for a particular prisoner that involved: First, the interrogators were to throw chairs and tables in the man's presence at the prison and quote, "invade his personal space," close quote.

This is a request from Colonel Pappas, the man to whom you turned over that authority over those two cells.

DAYTON: Then the police were to put a hood on his head and take him to an isolated cell through a gauntlet of barking dogs. There the police were to strip-search him and interrupt his sleep for three days with interrogations, barking and loud music, according to Army documents.

The plan was sent to you -- is that one of the 25 requests for additional interrogation techniques that you approved?

SANCHEZ: Sir, first of all, you stated that I issued an order that I specifically put key cell blocks under Colonel Pappas. I never issued such an order.

DAYTON: OK, and...

SANCHEZ: Secondly...

DAYTON: The article's incorrect? That I...

SANCHEZ: Sir, I never issued such an order.

DAYTON: I regret the...

SANCHEZ: And secondly, that request never made it to my headquarters -- or to me, personally, rather.

DAYTON: So there wasn't memo on November 19th, to place -- from your office -- to place these cell blocks under Colonel Pappas?

SANCHEZ: No, sir, I never issued such an order.

DAYTON: All right.

SANCHEZ: And that specific request for interrogation methods -- that never...

DAYTON: Let me see that one.

SANCHEZ: ... never got to the CJTF-7 commanding general's level, and I never approved any interrogation methods other than continued segregation.

DAYTON: Thank you.

General Abizaid, you commented on that -- we just stay the course. And I, you know, wanted -- on behalf of, speaking for myself anyway; I won't presume to speak for my colleagues -- but, you know, the Senate has been bipartisanly resolute behind every request the president's made for funding and support.

It's been virtually unanimous. It's been -- across the board, the supplemental appropriations, the authorizations, we're taking up now the 2005 authorization. We're adding, at the request of the president, an additional $25 billion for purposes that haven't even been defined.

But I think it's something I wanted to try to get an answer from various authorities: What is that course? And what is the, you know, the direction that we're on?

And just note, in response, particularly to some comments that were made about how well things are going -- and I don't know how to sort this out. I want us to succeed there. I just want to be told the truth about whether we are or not so we can assess whether the Minnesotans and other Americans who are serving over there are going to be there for months or years and what their likelihood is of returning safely and alive.

But I refer here to a Washington Post comment made by a Kurdish member of the governing council, that if something is not done about the security situation, there will be no transfer of power.

DAYTON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), his name, who is generally pro- American, described the assassination as only the most extreme example of the lawlessness that has grown in the year since President Saddam Hussein was driven from power. Quote, "Never in Iraq has it been like this, never, even under Saddam," he said. "People are killed, kidnapped and assaulted. Children are taken away. Women are raped. No one is afraid of any punishment."

Is that an accurate description of 1 percent of the country? 5 percent? More than that? What is the security situation there, sir?

GEN. JOHN ABIZAID, COMMANDER, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: Yes, sir, I appreciate the question.

First of all, not only were people carried away in the middle of the night and raped and tortured and killed under Saddam, but it happened at a huge scale, on an institutional scale unequaled in any recent memory and I guess perhaps only rivaled by what the Nazis did.

So are things better just by the mere fact that that regime of torture and intimidation is gone? Yes, that's a good thing.

On the other hand, I won't be Pollyannish about where we are, Senator. This is a hard thing. And it's going to take a long time. And it's going to take a lot of courage and a lot of perseverance and unfortunately more blood, and it's going to take more treasure. But there are more people in Iraq that are working with us to try to make their country a better place than are trying to tear it apart.

The people that are trying to tear it apart are ruthless. They are doing it precisely now for the reasons that I think I've been about as honest as I could be with this committee in the past, because this is the vulnerable time. They must make it fail now. They are pulling out everything that they can to make it fail.

And it's hard. That's why we kept extra forces there. And it's hard and it's tough and it's difficult, but we will prevail. And I'm telling you, you know, there are things that are bad about Iraq, and we are responsible for security. And it's not like walking in downtown Washington, D.C. It's a dangerous place.

But I can tell you, people have a right to express their opinion. There's political activity. There's freedom of the press. There are things that are happening in Iraq that don't happen anywhere else in the Middle East. And we ought to be proud of it.

DAYTON: May I just conclude? My time is up. How soon do you expect the 200 or 4,000 or whatever Iraqi police and militia will be in a position to enforce their own law and order on their city streets?

ABIZAID: Well, Senator, I would have said, before the recent events, that somewhere between September and December they would be ready.

ABIZAID: But we had a setback. We know we had a setback. Putting one of our best officers in the United States military on the job. And I'm saying if the creek don't rise somewhere between January and April they'll be ready.

DAYTON: Thank you.

SEN. JOHN W. WARNER (R-VA), CHAIRMAN: Thank you very much, Senator.

Senator Chambliss?

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Gentleman, let me echo the sentiments of all of our colleagues up here relative to the leadership you're providing and the great job that all the men and women underneath you are doing.

And while we've seen on the front pages of the paper for the last three weeks this story, those of us who follow the details of the battles that your men and women are waging every day know and understand that you have scored major victory after major victory in the last three weeks. And we commend you for the great job you folks are doing right on.

Colonel Warren, would you tell me what is the jurisdiction between the Central Intelligence Agency and the Army relative to the arresting, securing, transporting and interrogation of these detainees in Iraq.

Sir, I don't know that it's a matter necessarily of jurisdiction. We do know that other agencies do detain individuals in Iraq. They use the same legal standard under the fourth Geneva Convention, which is that they are imperative threats to security. And once they are brought into a coalition forces detention facility, they are subject to our rules and regulation.

CHAMBLISS: Well, is there any integration or cooperation between the CIA and the Army relative to the securing of prisoners and bringing them to places like Abu Ghraib?

COL. MARC WARREN, ARMY JUDGE ADVOCATE GENERAL: Sir, your question is outside the scope of my knowledge. I can speak to the rules that apply once they are inducted. With arrangements relative to operations, I'm unable to speak to that.

CHAMBLISS: General Abizaid, can you answer that question?

ABIZAID: Sir, I would like to answer the question in closed session.

CHAMBLISS: OK.

General Abizaid and General Sanchez, I have asked this question twice before and I still have not gotten a satisfactory answer. And that is, General Ryder was sent to this prison. He was there in late October, early November of 2003. During the very time he was there, these particular incidents that are alleged -- the alleged abuses that we're talking about now were ongoing during that point in time. Yet, even though he was asking questions of the conditions of the prison and the condition of the prisoners, nobody told him, apparently, one word about these incidents happening.

Can either of you give me any explanation why that would have happened when a general of his stature was there?

ABIZAID: Well, I can tell you that, as I travel around, I don't always get the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You know, I get a lot of, "Everything's OK, everything's fine; don't worry about it." And that's one of the problems we have in the armed forces, that we've got to look beyond our rank and got to think about what would our son be doing in that particular position in that particular unit and is he or she -- or your daughter doing the right thing or not.

ABIZAID: And so because General Ryder was there, because General Sanchez was there, because half a dozen other important people that went there to visit it didn't see it doesn't mean it wasn't happening. And we have a lot to understand about what went on in that organization, and why, and who was responsible.

CHAMBLISS: Well, I accept your answer, and I think it's a repeat of the statement you made earlier that there are some things in this system that are broken. And you're now working to fix them. That's what leadership is all about: When you recognize a problem, you take after it and you fix it. And I commend you for doing that.

General Miller, the situation at Guantanamo has been alluded to by a number of folks during this process. And I've been down there a couple of times, had the opportunity to visit the prison both before the new camp was built, as well as afterwards. Saw interrogation of prisoners down there.

From what I saw and from what I've heard, there's been no systemic prisoner abuse that was ongoing at any point in time in Guantanamo, and I just wish you'd address that very quickly, if you will, please.

MAJ. GEN. GEOFFREY MILLER, DEPUTY COMMANDER FOR DETAINEE OPERATIONS, MULTINATIONAL FORCE-IRAQ: Thank you, Senator.

Sir, there is no -- there was no systemic abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo at any time. I believe that there were three or four events -- I'll have to correct that for the record as we go back and look -- of instances of minor abuse. Two or three of those were corrected by administrative action in Article 15 and one went to court-martial about an abuse of one of the enemy combatants down there.

It was the effect of strong, dynamic leadership by the chain of command, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, that did not allow the abuse to happen.

We walked the cell blocks and the interrogation booths of Guantanamo around the clock, not because we didn't trust our people, but this is a very difficult mission and it takes active engagement by leadership to ensure that it is done correctly. That is why in Guantanamo, because of the enormously talented people who were there, 75 percent, as most of you know, were reserve component leaders, were successful.

CHAMBLISS: Thank you.

Colonel Warren, there is a report in the Wall Street Journal today which -- there is an article today which says, "A senior legal adviser to Lieutenant General Sanchez helped draft a formal response to the Red Cross's November report, according to one senior Army official."

CHAMBLISS: Is that you they're referring to?

WARREN: Sir, that may be me to whom they are referring. In fact, I did not draft that particular response. I believe, however, that my office did. And as General Sanchez alluded to earlier, before January, the intake of working papers, the camp visit reports from the International Committee of the Red Cross, were handled in a haphazard manner. Some of them were given to the camp commander. Some were given to the military police brigade. Some went to my office.

In the particular case that is at issue, the October visit, it took a period of time -- and I don't know how long, but I believe several weeks -- for the working papers to reach the level of my office.

My office participated in the drafting of a response for General Brigadier Karpinski's signature. That response was dated 24 December and would have been delivered to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

When we discovered this haphazard process -- and, frankly, were concerned in the December time frame when I first became aware of the content of the report and its genesis -- I talked to General Sanchez. This would have been in early January.

General Sanchez then mandated that from that point forward all International Committee of the Red Cross reports and working papers would be addressed to him, and that the single entry point for those to the command would be me. And in that way we could maintain positive accountability of those reports, as well as take remediative action and track the corrections that were done by the subordinate commands.

CHAMBLISS: Thank you.

Thank you, gentlemen.

WARNER: Thank you very much, Senator.

Senator Clinton?

KAGAN: We've been listening in to the Senate Armed Services Committee. The top commanders, U.S. military commanders in Iraq, testifying before that committee.

We're going to take a break, much more ahead after this.

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