WASHINGTON (AFP) – A US soldier convicted of humiliating and abusing Iraqi prisoners said in an interview she knew of "worse things" happening at Abu Ghraib and insisted military commanders were fully aware of what was going on in Iraq”s infamous jail.
The comments, made by Private First Class Lynndie England in her first post-court marshal interview, contradicted assertions by top Pentagon officials that a small group of out-of-control soldiers were responsible for abuse at Abu Ghraib, and that however repulsive that mistreatment was, it did not amount to torture.
England, who became the face of the scandal because of a photograph of her holding a naked prisoner by a leash, was sentenced last Tuesday to three years in prison and dishonorably discharged from the Army after a military jury found her guilty of maltreating prisoners and committing an indecent act.
The trial capped a damaging scandal that erupted in 2004, following publication of pictures that showed Abu Ghraib inmates piled up naked on the floor in front of US soldiers, cowering in front of snarling military dogs, chained to beds in stress positions and forced to stand naked in front of female guards.
But England, appearing on NBC”s "Dateline" program, said the pictures did not convey the full extent of the abuse that took place in the cell block.
"I know worse things were happening over there," admitted the 22-year-old convict.
She said one night she heard blood-curdling screams coming from the block”s shower room, where non-military interrogators had taken an Arab detainee.
"They had the shower on to muffle it, but it wasn”t helping," she recalled. "They never screamed like that when we were humiliating. But this guy was like screaming bloody murder. I mean it still haunts me I can still hear it just like it happened yesterday."
The interrogators were not identified, but several investigations into the abuse have disclosed that Central Intelligence Agency operatives worked at Abu Ghraib alongside US military intelligence, trying to glean useful information.