bARABie – Hard Hitting Facts

September 22, 2007

Israel was a translator at Abu Ghraib

Filed under: Uncategorized — barabie @ 5:57 pm

More than a year after he gave it, John B. Israel’s sworn testimony in the initial Army investigation of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal has found its way into the public domain.
    Testimony of the Canyon Country copier and printer technician-turned-Army intelligence translator, still considered classified, paints a picture of a man who received little training in military procedures before being pushed into service, and minded his own business to the extent that he was oblivious to the abuses that were going on around him.
    During the questioning, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba gives Israel no indication that he thinks Israel is lying.
    In fact, at the conclusion of the Feb. 12, 2004, interview, Taguba tells Israel reassuringly, “For now, sir, you are not being suspected of anything. We just want to gain your knowledge of conditions and information associated with Abu Ghraib.”
    However, in his final report less than a month later, Taguba said he “suspected” that Israel, along with the interrogator with whom Israel worked most closely and the two senior Army intelligence officers at the prison, “were either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib.”
    Taguba recommended “immediate disciplinary action” and a second inquiry “to determine the full extent of their culpability.”
    While several military police officers were court-martialed for offenses at Abu Ghraib, no intelligence officer has been court-martialed, and no charges are known to have been brought against Israel or any other private military contractor.
    The second investigation was conducted, but all names were omitted from reports released to the public.     Israel told Taguba he had no prior experience as a military translator before going to work at the notorious prison.
    Born in Baghdad in 1955, Israel told Taguba he entered the United States in 1981 and attained U.S. citizenship.
    He told Taguba he worked as a senior field technician for Ikon Office Solutions, a document management service with several Los Angeles-area offices, for 12 years before going to work for a subcontractor to San Diego-based Titan Corp., the Army’s main provider of civilian linguists in Iraq.
    Israel arrived at Abu Ghraib on Oct. 14, 2003 � about two weeks before MPs took the widely publicized pictures of stripped and hooded inmates. He was still working as a translator in February 2004 when Taguba interviewed him; neighbors have said he was back home in Canyon Country by the first week of April 2004.
    Taguba asked whether Israel had been told upon arrival in Iraq that the Geneva Conventions applied at Abu Ghraib. Israel said yes.
    “I believe they gave us some paper to read, and we had to sign it at the time,” Israel said. “To be honest with you, Geneva Convention, I might have read it. I might have signed it, but I don’t recall too much.”
    Taguba asked if he knew what the Geneva Convention is.
    “You know, how to � if somebody has a prisoner of the war, you have to treat them nicely, because it’s a mutual situation,” Israel said.
    Taguba asked again about the Geneva Conventions at the end of the interview.
    “They might have mentioned it, but I don’t recall it,” Israel said. “They may not have mentioned it because it didn’t register in my mind. They might, but you know, the situation is so stressful. I might forgot (sic) about it. I apologize for that.”
    Israel told Taguba his “job is just a translator, no more, no less,” and that he took his directions from the interrogator.
    (Each interrogation team, known as a Tiger Team, consisted of an interrogator, a translator and an analyst who interpreted the intelligence information gained from the prisoners. Any or all of the personnel could be military or civilian.)
    At the time of his testimony, Israel had been working closely with Steven A. Stefanowicz, a civilian interrogator sent to Abu Ghraib by CACI International Inc., a private military firm in Arlington, Va.
    Israel told Taguba that he and Stefanowicz were currently working on “a special project.”
    “I have to be quiet,” Israel said. “Even, I can’t tell you anything unless if you want to go ahead and ask, that’s up to you.”
    Taguba didn’t.


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