Published on Saturday, October 15, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
Things Pfc. Lynndie England Should Wonder About in Prison
by Christopher Brauchli
Legal justice is the art of the good and the fair.
She's unsophisticated and certainly doesn't read the newspapers so she'll not have noticed. Were it otherwise she'd be as puzzled as her limited intellect would permit. And the question she'd ask, if she could find anyone else to discuss such matters with, is was it fair? And the answer she'd be given is that life isn't fair and that's especially true in the George Bush world where tax cuts for the rich are enabled by reductions in benefits for the poor. But that's a topic for another day.
Pfc. Lynndie England almost certainly doesn't understand why she's off to prison for three years. Somewhere deep down she knows what she did was terribly wrong and she shouldn't have done it.. Before her sentencing she apologized for her role in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal "to coalition forces and their families that lost their life or were injured because of the photos."
Pfc. England is doing penance for those in charge who permitted the abuses to occur. She is serving three years in prison. She'll not be spending any time with her 11-month-old son, Pvt. Graner's last gift to her before they quit being friends. No officers have been tried for permitting the kind of conduct in which she engaged to go on, even though a report released by the Pentagon in 2004 blamed leadership failures from Donald Rumsfeld on down for the conditions that permitted the abuse that took place at Abu Ghraib. She would be forgiven if she thought that the chain of command that assigned responsibility for the mistreatment of prisoners to someone no higher than two or three ranks above her had to be one of the shortest chains in the history of the army. Here's what would puzzle her if she read newspapers.
She'd wonder why a report by the CIA's inspector general on dereliction of duty by high ranking officials in the CIA that may have contributed to, if not led to 9/11, would be ignored by the CIA's director. She might even say to herself that what the CIA's inspector general reported on is much worse than what she did. And she'd be right.
The CIA's inspector general is John L. Helgerson. His appointment was announced on February 28, 2002. George J. Tenet, then the head of the CIA said of the appointment: "John's breadth and depth of experience at CIA . . . as well as his sense of fairness and his absolute integrity-make him eminently qualified for this demanding and extraordinarily important position. . . . [H]e will do an outstanding job, approaching every aspect of his work with vigor, independence, and fairness." Mr. Tenet got that right.
At the request of the joint Congressional committee that had done its own review of events leading up to 9/11, Mr. Helgerson investigated events leading up to 9/11. At the conclusion of his investigation he recommended that the agency convene an "accountability review board, a prerequisite to imposing any discipline on responsible parties, like George Tenet. Although the report remains classified notwithstanding requests from senior democratic and republican members of Congress that it be released, it is known that it specifically censures Mr. Tenet (whose praise of Mr. Helgerson's accompanied his appointment) and singled out 19 other current and former officials for criticism.
On October 5, Porter J. Goss, the former Republican Congressman from Florida turned professional spook and CIA director announced he would ignore Mr. Helgerson's recommendation. He said that whether to prosecute or not was "a matter of judgment" and by deciding to do nothing, demonstrated he had none. Mr. Goss said if individuals were disciplined it "would send the wrong message to our junior officers about taking risks." He said the officers identified by Mr. Helgerson "were 'stars' who had excelled in their areas. . . ." Some of those identified as having failed in their responsibility have left the agency. Speaking of those who remain Mr. Goss said they are "among the finest we have."
One of the departed 'stars' was James Pavitt, former deputy director for operations. He was singled out for criticism. He said Mr. Goss did "the right thing" by not going after him and others. Some surprise, that.
John Negroponte is the new director of national intelligence. He said he fully supports Mr. Goss's decision to sweep the report under the rug. Members of Congress still want it released. It won't be.
If Pfc. England read newspapers she'd ask someone to explain to her why her responsibility for the abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib is so much worse than the dereliction of duty by those who, had they been competent, might have been able to prevent 9/11. Sadly, there is no explanation so it's just as well she doesn't ask.
Christopher Brauchli can be reached at Brauchli.firstname.lastname@example.org.