Sunday, May 23, 2004

Plan B?

The Washington Post reports that General Ricardo Sanchez not only knew about the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, but was in the room when it happened.

A military lawyer for a soldier charged in the Abu Ghraib abuse case stated that a captain at the prison said the highest-ranking U.S. military officer in Iraq was present during some “interrogations and/or allegations of the prisoner abuse,” according to a recording of a military hearing obtained by The Washington Post.

The lawyer, Capt. Robert Shuck, said he was told that Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez and other senior military officers were aware of what was taking place on Tier 1A of Abu Ghraib. Shuck is assigned to defend Staff Sgt. Ivan L. “Chip” Frederick II of the 372nd Military Police Company. During an April 2 hearing that was open to the public, Shuck said the company commander, Capt. Donald J. Reese, was prepared to testify in exchange for immunity. The military prosecutor questioned Shuck about what Reese would say under oath.

“Are you saying that Captain Reese is going to testify that General Sanchez was there and saw this going on?” asked Capt. John McCabe, the military prosecutor.

“That’s what he told me,” Shuck said. “I am an officer of the court, sir, and I would not lie. I have got two children at home. I’m not going to risk my career.”

Shuck also said a sergeant at the prison, First Sgt. Brian G. Lipinski, was prepared to testify that intelligence officers told him the abuse of detainees on the cellblock was “the right thing to do.” Earlier this month, Lipinski declined to comment on the case.

So far, clear evidence has not emerged that high-level officers condoned or promoted the abusive practices. Officers at the prison have blamed the abuse on a few rogue, low-level military police officers from the 372nd, a company of U.S. Army Reservists based in Cresaptown, Md. The general in charge of the prisons in Iraq at the time has said that military intelligence officers took control of Abu Ghraib and gave the MPs “ideas.”

A Defense Department spokesman yesterday referred questions about Sanchez to U.S. military officials in the Middle East, warning that statements by defense lawyers or their clients should be treated with “appropriate caution.” Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, the senior military spokesman in Iraq, said Sanchez was unavailable for comment last night but would “enjoy the opportunity” to respond later.

Plan B is when a defense attorney attempts to get his client off by turning the evidence to indicate that someone else was responsible for the crime. Legal ethics dictate that the attorney has to have a good-faith belief that his claim is valid in order to avoid sanctions. This could be the start of that…or the chipping away of the facade.