WASHINGTON - An Army general who has been criticized for his role in the treatment of prisoners at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has contradicted his sworn congressional testimony about contacts with senior Pentagon officials.
Gen. Geoffrey Miller told the Senate Armed Services Committee in May 2004 that he had only filed a report on a recent visit to Abu Ghraib, and did not talk to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld or his top aides about the fact-finding trip.
But in a recorded statement to attorneys three months later, Miller said he gave two of Rumsfeld's senior aides - then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Undersecretary for Intelligence Steve Cambone - a briefing on his visit and subsequent recommendations.
"Following our return in the fall, I gave an outbrief to both Dr. Wolfowitz and Secretary Cambone," Miller said in the statement on Aug. 21, 2004, to lawyers for guards accused of prisoner abuse, a transcript of which was obtained by the Tribune.
"I went over the report that we had developed and gave them a briefing on the intelligence activities, recommendations, and some recommendations on detention operations," Miller said.
Specific interrogation techniques, he said, were not discussed.
Miller's statement about the meeting, if true, suggests that officials at the very top of the Pentagon may have been more involved in monitoring activities at the prison than previously disclosed. Abu Ghraib was later at the center of a scandal surrounding prisoner abuse, which has led to punishments for U.S. soldiers.
Miller, Cambone and Wolfowitz, who is now acting director of the World Bank, declined to respond to written questions about Miller's contradictory statements. Rumsfeld, Cambone, Wolfowitz and Miller have denied any knowledge of prisoner abuse.
In the Aug. 21 statement, Miller says that he never spoke directly to Rumsfeld about his Abu Ghraib visit or his subsequent recommendations for new, tougher interrogation tactics there.
Miller's name came up again this week, when he was named in a military investigation made public Wednesday into FBI allegations that detainees held at Guantanamo Bay were being mistreated. The report recommended that Miller be reprimanded for not monitoring the interrogation tactics used on one detainee, Mohamed al-Qahtani, who allegedly intended to be the 20th hijacker in the Sept. 11 plot.
Miller's superior officer, Gen. Bantz Craddock, overruled the reprimand, arguing that there was no evidence that laws had been broken.
Cambone has asserted that he was not briefed by Miller after the general returned from Abu Ghraib. During his appearance on May 11, 2004, before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Cambone said he and Miller did not speak about Abu Ghraib after Miller's return from the September 2003 fact-finding mission.
Wolfowitz, who also testified before Congress in May 2004 about prisoner abuses, was not asked during the hearings whether he had been briefed by Miller.
Miller's role at Abu Ghraib has come under scrutiny since news reports revealed that U.S. personnel within the prison abused inmates. The mistreatment occurred from the fall of 2003 until January 2004, when a soldier reported the abuses.
Miller was sent to visit the prison in late summer 2003 at the suggestion of Cambone, who had dealt previously with Miller on issues related to the detention of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo. At the time, the insurgency in Iraq was growing more violent, and U.S. commanders were keen to get intelligence information from the growing number of Iraqi men detained by U.S. troops.
The abuses at Abu Ghraib began to occur after Miller's visit, according to Pentagon inquiries, and after the arrival of so-called Tiger Team interrogation units from Guantanamo that Miller said in the August 2004 statement that he helped select.
The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.