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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, June 18, 2007

Taguba claims Pentagon knew of abuse

Advertiser Staff and News Services

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba

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The Army two-star general who led the first investigation into detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq believes senior defense officials were involved in directing abusive interrogation policies, according to an article on the New Yorker magazine's Web site.

Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, a Leilehua High School graduate, told the magazine that he felt mocked and shunned by top Pentagon officials, including then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, after filing an exhaustive report on the now-notorious Abu Ghraib abuse that sparked international outrage and led to an overhaul of the U.S. interrogation and detention policies.

Taguba's report examining the 800th Military Police Brigade put in plain terms what had been documented in shocking photographs.

In interviews with New Yorker reporter Seymour M. Hersh to be published in the magazine today, Taguba said he was ordered to limit his investigation to low-ranking soldiers who were photographed with the detainees and the soldiers' unit. But he said that it was always his sense that the abuse was ordered at higher levels.

Taguba, who said that he was forced to retire early because of his pursuit of the issue, was quoted as saying that he thinks top commanders in Iraq had extensive knowledge of the aggressive interrogation techniques that mirrored those used on high-value detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and that the military police "were literally being exploited by the military interrogators."

Taguba also said that Rumsfeld misled Congress when he testified in May 2004 about the abuse investigation, minimizing how much he knew about the incidents.

Taguba said that he met with Rumsfeld and top aides the day before the testimony.

"I know that my peers in the Army will be mad at me for speaking out, but the fact is that we violated the laws of land warfare in Abu Ghraib," Taguba said, according to the article. "We violated the tenets of the Geneva Convention. We violated our own principles and we violated the core of our military values. The stress of combat is not an excuse, and I believe, even today, that those civilian and military leaders responsible should be held accountable."

Taguba also said in the article that as he watched Rumsfeld at the hearings he recalled thinking, "Rumsfeld is very perceptive and has a mind like a steel trap. There's no way he's suffering from C.R.S. Can't Remember Sh--. He's trying to acquit himself."

Taguba could not be reached for comment.

Lawrence T. Di Rita, Rumsfeld's former spokesman at the Pentagon, disputed several of Taguba's characterizations.

"Secretary Rumsfeld appreciated that General Taguba had a tough job to do and did it to the best of his abilities," Di Rita said. "I only observed Secretary Rumsfeld treating him with the respect that a general officer performing a challenging assignment deserved."

Taguba retired in January.

"They always shoot the messenger," the article quoted Taguba telling Hersh. "To be accused of being overzealous and disloyal that cuts deep into me. I was being ostracized for doing what I was asked to do."

Taguba came to Hawai'i with his family from the Philippines when he was 11. During World War II, his father became a member of the Philippine Scouts in early 1942, according to the article.

In 1961, the family moved to Hawai'i, and a year later Antonio Taguba became a U.S. citizen, delivering newspapers, serving as an altar boy and doing well in school, the article said. He graduated from Idaho State University in 1972.

Taguba became the second Filipino-American to attain the rank of general in the U.S. Army.

The Washington Post contributed to this report.