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Media Availability with Vice Admiral Church

Presenters: Vice Admiral Albert T. Church, III, Naval Inspector General
May 12, 2004
Media Availability with Vice Admiral Church

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  I’m Vice Admiral Albert T.  I usually go by Tom Church, I’m the Naval Inspector General.  Okay, let’s start.  I was directed by the Secretary of Defense last week to go down to Guantanamo Bay, and my specific direction task was to ensure that his orders, DoD orders with respect to detainees at GTMO and Charleston were being carried out.  Let me emphasize a couple things as I start out here.  As I told the secretary, this was a review.  We were on the ground for about two days.  So this was not an inspection, either by length of time or by scope.  Neither was it an investigation because we had no allegation for investigating any incident or any person.  On second thing was this—this was a snapshot of current existing conditions.  There was insufficient time to do what I’ll call reach-back, which is to look at all the things that might or might not have happened since 9-11.  And I’ll talk to you about most of the large for example, we’ve been here nine or 10 months.  So, this is just a snapshot.  I think I did enough to give him a high degree of confidence of what I found. 

 

          What I also told him is you can’t be 100% confident of what your findings are when you have that little time to do the job.  Finally, this is a compliance look I did not, it was not my charter to look at Geneva as it applies to GTMO and try to determine how that applies.  It was not my idea to review all the interrogation phone calls and see if those were wrecked [phonetic].  My job was to see if the orders specific, specifically directed to JTF Commander in GTMO and to Charleston were being carried out.  So, having listened to the previous conversation, I think it’s important you understand that what this is and what it was not.

 

          Okay, the [inaudible] line was received by direction the night of 3 May.  I assembled a team of about 15 on Tuesday, the 4th of May.  We traveled onto Wednesday the 5th.  Got a command brief. I was on station Thursday/Friday 6 to 7.  My military assistant Brigadier General Dwayne Deeson [phonetic] drove up on Thursday, went into Charleston to take a look at the brig there.  We got back on Saturday and started analyzing the results of our visit. 

 

          MALE VOICE:  You didn’t go to prison [inaudible].

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  I did not have, we just didn’t have the time to [inaudible].  I did talk about the team compositions.  Had a number of lawyers, I had a doctor, I had some folks to take foreign testimony.  I had some folks who served there before from the previous X.O., a member of Naval Criminal Investigative Service.  I had a former interrogator.  So I had a as good a cross-section of folks I could get to [inaudible].  Here’s what we did our two days.  We observed interrogations, we watched the detainee movements, we observed the M.P. force and their procedures.  We reviewed as much documentation as we could absorb, including the standard operating procedures.  All incident reports, all unit punishment logs.  We got a hold of some ICRC reports and records of meetings with General Miller, during the outbriefs.  We looked very closely at all detainee medical records—excuse me—100 detainee medical records to see if that would shed any light on any potential abuse.  We did over 100 interviews, and we did 43 selected at random testimonies under oath.  Forty-three under oath testimonies, including interrogators, guards, military civilians, contractor, and we asked them a pretty full range of questions.  Have you seen any abuse, have you heard of any abuse, do you know anybody who has seen abuse, would you report abuse if you saw it, would you feel free to come forward if you see anything that doesn’t look right.  So that’s the nature of the questions that we asked those 43 people.

 

          MALE VOICE:          [Inaudible] military civilians.

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  We did a range of some military civilians, contractors, some analysts, I think there were nine interrogators and nine military police if I remember.  I’m not sure of those numbers exact but they’re approximate.  This is a summation of what I told the Secretary I found.  There is a very, we have a very professional organization in place.  With very detailed and understood roles and responsibilities.  Strong leadership, strong chain of command, and a very positive command climate.  The directions to the Secretary of Defense with respect to humane treatment of detainees and the interrogation techniques were being carried out as best we could determine.  We found minor infractions involving contact with detainees, and we documented eight of those.

 

          MALE VOICE:  Physical contact?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  Some with physical contact.  Let me come back to that in the Q & A.  Cover that and make sure I get that correct.  And we found some of minor items that require some follow-on resolution, and I think it’s supposedly a matter of interpretation primarily.  We looked at the training records in depth.  And I said we looked at standard operating procedures.  And I found those to be in my view, very effective.  I covered the eight minor infractions, as I like to call them.  I also asked the JTF GTMO commander to tell me what the amount of abuse that the guards were taking, and he told me there were about an average of 14 a week.  Abuse against the guards, incidents against a guard, verbal harassment, throwing of excrement, that type of thing.   We noted that there are a number of outstanding ICRC issues.  I also noticed General Miller seemed to take those seriously and appeared to be working on those. 

 

          MALE VOICE:  General Miller?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  Previously General Miller, General Hood currently.

 

          MALE VOICE:  Who is General Hood?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  General Hood, Jeff Hood is—I’m sorry, Jay Hood, is currently the JTF GTMO commander.  That’s a good question.  He was wearing one star.  He may be aselectee, I don’t know.  We found no evidence of current abuse in our underlying currents because the people we talked to had been there nine, 10 months.  They’re ending their rotations.  Specifically we recommend areas of follow-up based on the fact that we really didn’t have a great deal of time on station.  The first of those would be the reach-back, if you want better assurance that there were no incidents early on, you need to probably go back in and look at the, talk to people who have since rotated out.  But based on what I saw, the people who were currently there, I wasn’t able to [inaudible].

 

          MALE VOICE:  [inaudible] abuse [inaudible] administrative punishment there have been two, there were two prison guards [inaudible]. 

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  [inaudible] the eight.  There’s actually more than two.

 

          MALE VOICE:  Who actually were punished and reduced in rank and what-not.

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  There’s more than eight.  There’s more than two.

 

          MALE VOICE:  How many?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  Well, let’s do that now.  There was documented eight, eight minor infractions going back as far as we can get the records, I think to 2002.  The, as I remember, four were, involved guards, three involved interrogators, and one involved a barber.  Those numbers are from my memory.  They’re roughly correct.

 

          MALE VOICE:  [inaudible]?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  A barber.  And, the specific incident was an unauthorized haircut.  To a detainee.

 

          MALE VOICE:   [inaudible]. A haircut?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  It was, it was a haircut.  Now.  What I know Secretary’s…

 

          MALE VOICE:  [interposing] [inaudible].

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  I think it was a Mohawk.  I guess I’m on the record, so I don’t have that in front of me.

 

          FEMALE VOICE:  Unauthorized haircut?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  I would phrase it as an unauthorized haircut.  Now I characterized this to the Secretary as generally good news, because it was clear to me that the incidents are being reported, number one. Number two, the chain of command was taking swift and effective action.  And in every case, the punishments ranged from admonishment to reduction in rate, and some cases maybe more.  In fact, one individual went to Court-Martial.

 

          MALE VOICE:  So all eight have been acted on already?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  All eight were acted on very swiftly.

 

          MALE VOICE:  Inaudible.

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  I’m not sure.  But all of these were reported through the chain of command.

 

          MALE VOICE:  [inaudible]

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  Oh yeah, I’d say, you know, roughly two years.  A year and a half to two years.

 

          MALE VOICE:  [inaudible]

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  No, and in fact, that’s what gives me a great deal of confidence in my findings, is the 43 people taken under oath and specifically asked the kinds of questions we asked them, given that combined with the reports, the incidents we’ve seen reported and acted on, I’m pretty confident that there’s no abuse currently going on, or that there’s been any in recent past that has gone unreported.

 

          MALE VOICE:  [inaudible] allegations [inaudible].

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  With a high level of confidence, but I’ll take you back to my initial statement.  When you interview 43, there’s still a low probability that something’s slipped through the cracks.

 

          MALE VOICE:  Clearly, you didn’t interview 100 detainees, you looked at their medical records.

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  We looked at over just over 100 medical records.

 

          MALE VOICE:  [inaudible]?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  We did not interview detainees, no.  No.

 

          MALE VOICE:  Did you say that you recommended it to the Secretary that a more in depth look be looked, be taken as to what happened [inaudible].

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  I made, I said he should consider several things for follow-up.  Should he decide to do that, one would be to look a little bit more at the ICRC reports.  Apparently there’s a new one forthcoming we tried to get.  We were not able to get that.  And the resolution process for that, that they might go back and take some more sworn testimony, in case there were some gaps.  Although we feel pretty confident that with 43, we hit a pretty wide range of personnel.  And the third thing that he might want to reach back and talk to people who were there at the earlier stages of Task Force 160 and 170, before they combined them into JTF GTMO, see if there may have been prior incidents that either did or did not go reported.  We just didn’t have the capabilities to talk to them, to re-track that far.

 

          MALE VOICE:  [inaudible] characterize in some way.

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  I’ll give you one.  I think this was in the press.  We had a guard, they had to do what they call an IRF, Immediate Response Force for a disturbance in a cell, one of the guards was bitten.  In order to free himself, he hit the detainee with his walkie-talkie.  They were able to free him.  Subsequent to that, the detainee was cuffed.  After he was cuffed, the detainee—I’m sorry, the military police punched the detainee.  He was taken to Article 15.  Not the first incident, which was determined to be self-defense, but the follow-on incident, which was a violation of standard operating procedures, and a standard operating procedures are unambiguous and adhered to. And he was reduced in rate.

 

          MALE VOICE:  Rate?  Or rank?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  Rank.

 

          MALE VOICE:  Rank.

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  Rating, or rank.

 

          MALE VOICE:  Oh, I see, sorry. [inaudible].

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  There was, I don’t know if I’d characterize it as more serious.  That was probably about as serious I could think.

 

          MALE VOICE:  Is there a way to characterize the pending issues with the first ICRC report?  What are the things that need to be solved from the first one?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  The reason I said that they need to do little more in depth look at the ICRC, we didn’t have the time.  Really to get that involved in it, or to, I mean I read,  I read the transcripts of the minutes that General Miller had the last two visits.  It was clear to me that they’re working on the issues.  But there’s a wide range of issues dealing with, you know, the relatively, let’s say lesser important from the speed of which mail was processed, up to the more lasting issues, which are things like the whole legal framework, the long-term and uncertain duration of the [inaudible], some of which we talked about earlier today, and some of which, obviously I wasn’t involved.  I think the, I think the Secretary may already be looking at a process.

 

          FEMALE VOICE:  [inaudible] parameters on these eight incidences.  I mean, is that haircut, is that a violation because the detainee was humiliated, or does this run from humiliation to minor physical abuse but that didn’t result in severe injuries?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  [interposing] That’s a good characterization.  Humiliation to mild physical contact.  There is one issue…

 

          MALE VOICE:  [inaudible] humiliation described by [inaudible]?

 

          FEMALE VOICE:  That is a clear violation of [inaudible].

 

          STAFF MALE VOICE:  I know, but in the current context, humiliation has a new standard, and it’s important to see description that Admiral will provide and the context was understood at the time.

 

          MALE VOICE:  [inaudible]?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  Not in the last 35 years.

 

          MALE VOICE:  What about another incident where a guard had sprayed a detainee with a water hose?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  Well, [inaudible] coming back to me, that was, as I, I won’t recall the details exactly, but as I remember, the guard was passing through, and I’m not certain what was thrown on him, whether it was toilet water or excretement (phonetic), and he did a shot of pepper spray, which was determined to be premature and in violation to standard operating procedures, and military justice was swift.

 

          MALE VOICE:  [inaudible] military police and military intelligence, and what is the [inaudible]?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  What I saw was…

 

          MALE VOICE:  Did you investigate this incident or element?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  I looked at the organization.  It’s very clear to me that CJTF GTMO, who is General Hood, previously General Miller, as a very tight organization where everybody reports to and through him.  So military police, it’s called JDOG, Detention Operations Group, and the Joint Intelligence Group must report directly to him, for all matters relating to what goes on in the camp.

 

          MALE VOICE:  Sorry, I wanted to get his name for, and his name and rank?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  Brigadier General Jay Hood.  He was [inaudible].

 

          MALE VOICE:  J-A-Y?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  J-A-Y?  Like [inaudible].  He was our—I’m sorry.  There may have been a second part to the question.

 

          MALE VOICE:  As far as the organization [inaudible] at the top, but if there’s any interaction, what’s the organizational interaction between the MPs and [inaudible]?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  They, they do what I would call a coordinating role.  Military police, it’s very clearly laid out in standard operating procedures.  It’s all passive.  They monitor the detainees, they monitor their behavior, they monitor who the leaders are, who the followers are, they monitor what is said and they ask for an interpreter it there’s a lot of conversation going on.  They’ll know eating habits, and they’ll record this in a management information system, which could be useful to the intelligence group, during the interrogations.  The only physical thing they do is they escort the detainees to the interrogation.  They escort them back, and they monitor the interrogations in a side room.  So you have interrogators, the analysts, linguists, the guards are monitoring outside the room what’s going on, in case they need to get in there.

 

          MALE VOICE:  All [inaudible] interrogation [inaudible] present, sir?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  I was inside the room.  I watched [inaudible].

 

          FEMALE VOICE:  [interposing] [inaudible] one-way glass?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  Yes, there’s a, on the one-way glass.

 

          MALE VOICE:  [inaudible]

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  That wasn’t my charter. 

 

          MALE VOICE:  [inaudible]

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  [inaudible] the Secretary of Defense go down to see if my orders are being carried out.  I don’t need to interview detainees to do that in my view.

 

          MALE VOICE:  What’s the approximate number of hours in a week that a detainee might get interrogated?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  I don’t know that.  It varies.  I know the interrogation protocol varies based on what their intelligence value is.  It’s all laid out in a plan.  Here’s a good point of clarification. I didn’t look at the plan.  It wasn’t my job to see whether I agree or disagree with the plan.  I wanted to make sure the plans were done, they were approved by proper authority procedures involved.

 

          MALE VOICE:  [inaudible] taped incidents? 

 

          MALE VOICE:  Most are hall guards, not interrogators.

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  No.  As I remember, there were four guards, three interrogators, and a barber.

 

          MALE VOICE:  Oh, I’m sorry.  You went through that.

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  Yeah, it may be three or four the other way, but it’s split about even.

 

          MALE VOICE:  What does it say about this critical Red Cross report that the Secretary referred to?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  Not much because first of all, it’s classified as far as I know.  Secondly, I haven’t seen it.  We tried to get it when we were down there, and we couldn’t get it.

 

          MALE VOICE:  What do you mean you couldn’t get it?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  Well, it hadn’t, it hadn’t been made available to us.

 

          STAFF MALE VOICE:  [interposing] [inaudible] recently, it was our understanding that they’ve been provided to some officials of the State Department.  State Department officials shared it just last night, yesterday, and there’s been no opportunity to get it this way.

 

          FEMALE VOICE:  Total number of guards on the staff, total? Do you have a ballpark [inaudible]?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  Well, there’s, depends on how you define staff.

 

          FEMALE VOICE:  Well, I was told that you interviewed 43 out of how large a sample?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  Oh, actually, that’s a very small sample.  There are six MP companies there are probably close to 600 guards.  There is a batallion guarding the exterior perimeter, but they’re not involved in the process.  The  number of interrogators I have to get back to. 

 

          MALE VOICE:  A hundred?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  I have to get back you.  I don’t think it’s quite that high.

 

          FEMALE VOICE:  [inaudible]?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  I learned it on Monday night.  I think he learned of it, about the same time I did.  [inaudible] we arranged travel [inaudible].

 

          MALE VOICE:  Eight guards have received reductions in rank?  There were two guards that…

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  [interposing] No, no, no, no.

 

          MALE VOICE:  How many guards received…

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  I documented eight minor infractions during my visit, all of which have been reported to higher authority.

 

          MALE VOICE:  Over a period of time.

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  Over a period of between 18 months and two years.  As I remember there were four guards, three interrogators, and a barber.  All were investigated.  Disciplinary action was taken quickly.  All were reported through the chain of command.  And in my view, that was good news because obviously people felt free to report, which is what I was looking for.  And there was swift disciplinary action taken by a strong chain of command, which is another thing I was looking for.

 

          MALE VOICE:  It ranged from reprimands [inaudible].

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  [inaudible].

 

          MALE VOICE:  Yeah.  Reprimands to reductions in rank. [inaudible]

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  [interposing] Yeah, there were reductions in rank to admonitions.  Let’s say that.

 

          MALE VOICE:  [inaudible] Court-Martials [inaudible] Court-Martial result?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  He was acquitted.

 

          MALE VOICE:  [inaudible] punish [inaudible].

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  [inaudible] yeah, but you see the, you see the stress regards work under and the discipline and the whole procedures down there, I think I was very impressed, particularly when you look at the other side, the 14 incidents against the guards weekly.

 

          MALE VOICE:  [inaudible] recommend any substance [inaudible] Secretary in treatment or procedure?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  No.  It wasn’t my job to do that.  I did recommend some follow-up areas where he might consider looking into.  My job was to see that his orders were being carried out.  I did that to the best of my ability.

 

          FEMALE VOICE:  You feel that they are?

 

          ADMIRAL CHURCH:  Yes.  With a high level of confidence, based on what I was able to do in 48 hours.

 

          MALE VOICE:  [inaudible] with respect to…

 

ADMIRAL CHURCH:  With respect to specific areas of interrogation, orders on humane treatment that were passed down, as you mentioned, reviewed by the lawyers and passed down to the commander on the scene.

 

          MALE VOICE:  Thanks a lot [inaudible].

 

          MALE VOICE:  Thank you.

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