[News] Detainee Abuse by Marines and Navy Seals

Anti-Imperialist News News at freedomarchives.org
Wed Nov 16 08:59:51 EST 2005


Tuesday, November 15th, 2005
Former U.S. Army Interrogator Describes the Harsh Techniques He Used 
in Iraq, Detainee Abuse by Marines and Navy Seals and Why "Torture is 
the Worst Possible Thing We Could Do"
http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=05/11/15/1632233


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With deep remorse, former U.S. Army interrogator Specialist Tony 
Lagouranis talks about his own involvement with abusing detainees in 
Iraq and torture carried out by the Navy Seals. He apologizes to the 
Iraqi people and urges U.S. soldiers to follow their conscience. 
Lagouranis returned from Iraq in January and until now had given no 
live interviews. But Lagouranis says he now feels it his duty to 
speak out about what he witnessed in Iraq:

    * His use of harsh interrogation techniques on prisoners in Iraq 
including dogs, sleep deprivation, prolonged isolation and dietary 
manipulation.
    * How Navy SEALS induced hypothermia by using ice water to lower 
the body temperature of prisoners.
    * Serving in Fallujah and going through the clothes and pockets 
of some 500 dead bodies to try and identify them.
    * The corpses on men, women and children in Fallujah, which had 
been lying in the streets for days and had been "eaten by dogs and 
birds and maggots," were then stacked up in a warehouse where U.S. 
soldiers ate and slept.

AMY GOODMAN: He joins us from a studio in Chicago. Tony, welcome to 
Democracy Now!.

TONY LAGOURANIS: Good morning, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. Well, why don't you start 
by telling us how you joined the Army?

TONY LAGOURANIS: I had a lot of student loans, so I was looking for a 
way to pay those off. I also was interested in learning Arabic. I had 
met a former Army interrogator, who had learned Russian and German in 
the Army. And it just seemed like an attractive deal to me.

AMY GOODMAN: So, where did you first go? Where did you train?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, basic training was at Ft. Benning, Georgia. 
Then I went to Ft. Huachuca, which is where they do most of the 
intelligence training. That's where I learned to do interrogations 
and general human intelligence collecting. After that, I went to 
Monterey, to DLI, where they teach languages, and I learned Arabic there.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you join before or after the September 11 attacks?

TONY LAGOURANIS: I joined in May of 2001.

AMY GOODMAN: Right before.

TONY LAGOURANIS: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: Did things change after those attacks, in terms of the 
climate, when you were training?

TONY LAGOURANIS: No. Not really. I mean, certainly, I was in 
interrogation school at the time of the attacks. So the doctrine 
stayed the same. They didn't have time to change it. They also didn't 
know where we'd be fighting. We really didn't have a clear picture of 
what the enemy would be at that time, so the doctrine just stayed the same.

AMY GOODMAN: So talk about going to Iraq, when you went.

TONY LAGOURANIS: OK. We flew to Kuwait first and then we convoyed up 
to Abu Ghraib, which is just outside of Baghdad. We were in humvees 
with no armor. But it was relatively safe at that time. The 
insurgency was just beginning. I arrived at Abu Ghraib, and as soon 
as we arrived there, the events that caused the scandal had already 
happened, in November of 2003, and I arrived there in January of 
2004. So, they told us that bad things had happened, that, MPs had 
gotten in trouble for detainee abuse and that everything was going to 
change. But no one was really allowed to talk about it. So, we didn't 
know what had happened, exactly.

AMY GOODMAN: So, you knew as you got there that military police had 
abused prisoners?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Right. Yeah, the first briefing we got from the 
colonel at Abu Ghraib told us this. And, you know, there were 
interrogators who had been there during the time of the events of the 
scandal, but they weren't allowed to talk about it, and we really 
didn't ask them about it. So, we didn't know what was going on.

AMY GOODMAN: And the month you arrived at Abu Ghraib?

TONY LAGOURANIS: It was January of 2004.

AMY GOODMAN: And who were you responsible to? Who was the general in 
charge as you were military interrogator?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Honestly, I don't remember at that time who was in 
charge. I was only at Abu Ghraib for about a month, month-and-a-half 
until I got sent off on a mobile team. So, I don't know who it was.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us what happened at Abu Ghraib.

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, you know, things had started to get a lot 
cleaner there. There was a lot more oversight. That progressed in the 
month that I was there and also -- all of my friends, my unit was 
working there the whole time. They saw things progress. So, Abu 
Ghraib became a pretty sterile interrogation facility by the time we 
left Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you interrogate prisoners at Abu Ghraib?

TONY LAGOURANIS: I did, yes. I was on a team that was -- we were the 
special projects team at that time we were working on people who were 
arrested with Saddam Hussein, and arrests that surrounded that case.

AMY GOODMAN: And who did you interrogate? Do you remember their names?

TONY LAGOURANIS: I can't say that.

AMY GOODMAN: And how did you interrogate them?

TONY LAGOURANIS: It was totally straightforward at Abu Ghraib. It was 
just like we were trained in the schoolhouse, right out of the Army 
field manual. We would just talk to them, ask them questions, maybe, 
you know, use some psychological approaches but nothing -- nothing 
too serious. But I knew that some interrogators there were still at 
that time, in January of 2004, using a little bit harsher techniques. 
Like, they -- if a prisoner wasn't cooperating, they could adjust his 
diet. People were in deep, deep isolation for months there, which I 
believe is illegal, according to Army doctrine. They would also take 
their clothes and their mattress so they would be cold in their cells 
if they weren't cooperating.

AMY GOODMAN: Naked?

TONY LAGOURANIS: I don't know if naked, but they would take blankets 
and take extra clothes that they would need to stay warm.

AMY GOODMAN: Tony, can you talk about the use of dogs?

TONY LAGOURANIS: We were using dogs in the Mosul detention facility 
which was at the Mosul airport. We would put the prisoner in a 
shipping container. We would keep him up all night with music and 
strobe lights, stress positions, and then we would bring in dogs. The 
prisoner was blindfolded, so he didn't really understand what was 
going on, but we had the dog controlled. He was being held by a 
military police dog handler on a leash, and the dog was muzzled, so 
he couldn't hurt the prisoner. That was the only time I ever saw dogs 
used in Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Did the prisoner know that there was a muzzle on the dog?

TONY LAGOURANIS: No, because he was blindfolded. So, the dog would be 
barking and jumping on the prisoner, and the prisoner wouldn't really 
understand what was going on.

AMY GOODMAN: What did you think of this practice that you were engaging in?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I knew that we were really walking the line, 
and I was going through the interrogation rules of engagement that 
was given to me by the unit that we were working with up there, 
trying to figure out what was legal and what wasn't legal. According 
to this interrogation rules of engagement, that was legal. So, when 
they ordered me to do it, I had to do it. You know, as far as 
whether, you know, I thought it was a good interrogation practice, I 
didn't think so at all, actually. We never produced any intelligence.

AMY GOODMAN: At this point when you got there, the photos were out. 
If not out to the public, they came out in April of 2004, certainly 
being circulated among soldiers. Had you seen pictures?

TONY LAGOURANIS: I only saw the pictures when they came out on the 
news. In fact, I was up there using the dogs like at the very time 
that the scandal broke. But I don't think those pictures were being 
circulated among soldiers. I mean, I certainly never saw them before 
they came out on 60 minutes.

AMY GOODMAN: So, when you saw them, and you yourself were engaging in 
this practice, what were your thoughts?

TONY LAGOURANIS: I think my initial reaction was that these were bad 
apples, like the White House line, but you know, it's funny, like I 
didn't really tie it to what we were doing up there. We were using 
some pretty harsh methods on the prisoners. I had seen other units 
that were using -- like, really severe methods, but I didn't tie it 
to the scandal. It just seemed like -- I don't know why. I don't know.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean by really harsh methods?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, we were an army detention facility, and we 
would get prisoners from other units that were arresting people up 
there. For instance, the Navy SEALS.

TONY LAGOURANIS: When the Navy SEALS. Would interrogate people, they 
were using ice water to lower the body temperature of the prisoner 
and they would take his rectal temperature in order to make sure that 
he didn't die. I didn't see this, but that's what many, many 
prisoners told me who came out of the SEAL Compound, and I also heard 
that from a guard who was working in our detention facility, who was 
present during an interrogation that the SEAL had done.

AMY GOODMAN: Where is the SEAL Compound.

TONY LAGOURANIS: It was in the same place. It was at the Mosul 
airport, but I never actually went inside the compound myself.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you use hypothermia as a means of interrogating?

TONY LAGOURANIS: We did. Yeah, we used hypothermia a lot. It was very 
cold up in Mosul at that time, so we -- it was also raining a lot, so 
we would keep the prisoner outside, and they would have a polyester 
jumpsuit on and they would be wet and cold, and freezing. But we 
weren't inducing hypothermia with ice water like the SEALS were. But, 
you know, maybe the SEALS were doing it better than we were, because 
they were actually even controlling it with the thermometer, but we 
weren't doing that.

AMY GOODMAN: At what point did you start to ask questions? When you 
say about the pictures that you didn't associate what you did with 
the scandal of the photographs that had come out, but when did you 
start to say -- is this right?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I always was, and it's funny, Amy, because I 
was sort of pushing to back away from the harsh tactics, but at the 
same time I was-- in a way, I sort of wanted to push, because we were 
frustrated by, you know, not getting intel. I don't know why. So, I 
was on both sides of the fence. I don't know.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you having discussions with other interrogators?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Sure. We all talked about it. I discussed this with 
my team leader all the time. The people I was working with all the 
time. You know part of the problem back then too, is that I was still 
under the impression that we were getting prisoners who had intel -- 
who had intel to give us, and you know, I still thought that these 
were bad guys.

I was believing the intelligence reports that came in with the 
prisoner. I believed the detainee units, but later it became clear to 
me that they weren't -- they were picking up just farmers, you know, 
like these guys were totally innocent and that's why we weren't 
getting intel. And it just made what we were doing, like, seem even 
more cruel.

AMY GOODMAN: You said that you engaged in abuse, specifically what 
did you feel was your most egregious abuses that you engaged in?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, as I said, in Mosul, I was using dogs and 
hypothermia, I was using sleep deprivation, isolation, dietary 
manipulation, you know, that's all abuse, according to the army field 
manual, the army doctrine and certainly according to the Geneva Conventions.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you understand the Geneva Conventions?

TONY LAGOURANIS: No. Particularly because I didn't understand what 
classification the prisoners that we had were, because, you know, you 
can get an E.P.W., an Enemy Prisoner of War, you can get a-- I don't 
know, a Security Internee, you can get Protected Persons. They have 
different classifications in the Geneva Conventions and they get 
different treatment by interrogators. I didn't know what their 
classification was in Iraq. I was being told by my leaders that these 
people were not enemy prisoners of war, and therefore, we could 
really sort of do whatever we wanted, but I don't know if that's even 
true. I don't know.

AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Tony Lagouranis, a former U.S. Army 
interrogator in Iraq, at Mosul, and Abu Ghraib. Where else?

TONY LAGOURANIS: I was in north Babel at FOB Calsu, I was also at Al 
Asad Airforce base which is in the western desert in the north. I was 
also in Fallujah during the last offensive.

AMY GOODMAN: You were in Fallujah?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: What were you doing there?

TONY LAGOURANIS: My job in Fallujah was to go through the clothes and 
pockets of the dead bodies that we were picking up on the streets, 
and we would bring them back to a warehouse, and I would go through 
their pockets and try to identify them, and read whatever intel or 
anything that they had on them.

AMY GOODMAN: Because you spoke Arabic?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Right. Right. That's why I was sent there.

AMY GOODMAN: How many dead bodies, corpses did you go through?

TONY LAGOURANIS: 500.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about that experience?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Sure. I mean, you know, obviously it was terrible, 
you know, like these bodies had been laying out in the street in the 
sun for days, for sometimes ten days before we picked them up. They 
had been eaten by dogs and birds and maggots, and the Army thought -- 
actually, it wasn't the Army, it was the Department of Defense had 
sent this electronic equipment for us to use to like take the retinal 
scans and take their fingerprints, but it was just impossible because 
these guys -- they didn't have eyes anymore. They didn't have 
fingerprints anymore.

Then we couldn't bury the prisoners, either. Because they hadn't 
really figured out how they were going to do that, so they were just 
stacking up in the warehouse in Fallujah, and that's where we were 
living and sleeping and eating. With all of those dead bodies.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean they didn't have eyes, they didn't have 
fingerprints, they were burned?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, certainly, some of them were burned. I mean, 
some of them didn't have arms anymore or whatever, but I mean, they 
were just so rotten that their eyes were gone. They were just sockets 
with maggots.

AMY GOODMAN: Tony, can you talk about the use of dogs?

TONY LAGOURANIS: We were using dogs in the Mosul detention facility 
which was at the Mosul airport. We would put the prisoner in a 
shipping container. We would keep him up all night with music and 
strobe lights, stress positions, and then we would bring in dogs. The 
prisoner was blindfolded, so he didn't really understand what was 
going on, but we had the dog controlled. He was being held by a 
military police dog handler on a leash, and the dog was muzzled, so 
he couldn't hurt the prisoner. That was the only time I ever saw dogs 
used in Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: Did the prisoner know that there was a muzzle on the dog?

TONY LAGOURANIS: No, because he was blindfolded. So, the dog would be 
barking and jumping on the prisoner, and the prisoner wouldn't really 
understand what was going on.

AMY GOODMAN: What did you think of this practice that you were engaging in?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I knew that we were really walking the line, 
and I was going through the interrogation rules of engagement that 
was given to me by the unit that we were working with up there, 
trying to figure out what was legal and what wasn't legal. According 
to this interrogation rules of engagement, that was legal. So, when 
they ordered me to do it, I had to do it. You know, as far as 
whether, you know, I thought it was a good interrogation practice, I 
didn't think so at all, actually. We never produced any intelligence.

AMY GOODMAN: At this point when you got there, the photos were out. 
If not out to the public, they came out in April of 2004, certainly 
being circulated among soldiers. Had you seen pictures?

TONY LAGOURANIS: I only saw the pictures when they came out on the 
news. In fact, I was up there using the dogs like at the very time 
that the scandal broke. But I don't think those pictures were being 
circulated among soldiers. I mean, I certainly never saw them before 
they came out on 60 minutes.

AMY GOODMAN: So, when you saw them, and you yourself were engaging in 
this practice, what were your thoughts?

TONY LAGOURANIS: I think my initial reaction was that these were bad 
apples, like the White House line, but you know, it's funny, like I 
didn't really tie it to what we were doing up there. We were using 
some pretty harsh methods on the prisoners. I had seen other units 
that were using -- like, really severe methods, but I didn't tie it 
to the scandal. It just seemed like -- I don't know why. I don't know.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean by really harsh methods?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, we were an army detention facility, and we 
would get prisoners from other units that were arresting people up 
there. For instance, the Navy SEALS.

TONY LAGOURANIS: When the Navy SEALS. Would interrogate people, they 
were using ice water to lower the body temperature of the prisoner 
and they would take his rectal temperature in order to make sure that 
he didn't die. I didn't see this, but that's what many, many 
prisoners told me who came out of the SEAL Compound, and I also heard 
that from a guard who was working in our detention facility, who was 
present during an interrogation that the SEAL had done.

AMY GOODMAN: Where is the SEAL Compound.

TONY LAGOURANIS: It was in the same place. It was at the Mosul 
airport, but I never actually went inside the compound myself.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you use hypothermia as a means of interrogating?

TONY LAGOURANIS: We did. Yeah, we used hypothermia a lot. It was very 
cold up in Mosul at that time, so we -- it was also raining a lot, so 
we would keep the prisoner outside, and they would have a polyester 
jumpsuit on and they would be wet and cold, and freezing. But we 
weren't inducing hypothermia with ice water like the SEALS were. But, 
you know, maybe the SEALS were doing it better than we were, because 
they were actually even controlling it with the thermometer, but we 
weren't doing that.

AMY GOODMAN: At what point did you start to ask questions? When you 
say about the pictures that you didn't associate what you did with 
the scandal of the photographs that had come out, but when did you 
start to say -- is this right?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I always was, and it's funny, Amy, because I 
was sort of pushing to back away from the harsh tactics, but at the 
same time I was-- in a way, I sort of wanted to push, because we were 
frustrated by, you know, not getting intel. I don't know why. So, I 
was on both sides of the fence. I don't know.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you having discussions with other interrogators?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Sure. We all talked about it. I discussed this with 
my team leader all the time. The people I was working with all the 
time. You know part of the problem back then too, is that I was still 
under the impression that we were getting prisoners who had intel -- 
who had intel to give us, and you know, I still thought that these 
were bad guys.

I was believing the intelligence reports that came in with the 
prisoner. I believed the detainee units, but later it became clear to 
me that they weren't -- they were picking up just farmers, you know, 
like these guys were totally innocent and that's why we weren't 
getting intel. And it just made what we were doing, like, seem even 
more cruel.

AMY GOODMAN: You said that you engaged in abuse, specifically what 
did you feel was your most egregious abuses that you engaged in?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, as I said, in Mosul, I was using dogs and 
hypothermia, I was using sleep deprivation, isolation, dietary 
manipulation, you know, that's all abuse, according to the army field 
manual, the army doctrine and certainly according to the Geneva Conventions.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you understand the Geneva Conventions?

TONY LAGOURANIS: No. Particularly because I didn't understand what 
classification the prisoners that we had were, because, you know, you 
can get an E.P.W., an Enemy Prisoner of War, you can get a-- I don't 
know, a Security Internee, you can get Protected Persons. They have 
different classifications in the Geneva Conventions and they get 
different treatment by interrogators. I didn't know what their 
classification was in Iraq. I was being told by my leaders that these 
people were not enemy prisoners of war, and therefore, we could 
really sort of do whatever we wanted, but I don't know if that's even 
true. I don't know.

AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Tony Lagouranis, a former U.S. Army 
interrogator in Iraq, at Mosul, and Abu Ghraib. Where else?

TONY LAGOURANIS: I was in north Babel at FOB CALSU, I was also at Al 
Asad Airforce base which is in the western desert in the north. I was 
also in Fallujah during the last offensive.

AMY GOODMAN: You were in Fallujah?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: What were you doing there?

TONY LAGOURANIS: My job in Fallujah was to go through the clothes and 
pockets of the dead bodies that we were picking up on the streets, 
and we would bring them back to a warehouse, and I would go through 
their pockets and try to identify them, and read whatever intel or 
anything that they had on them.

AMY GOODMAN: Because you spoke Arabic?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Right. Right. That's why I was sent there.

AMY GOODMAN: How many dead bodies, corpses did you go through?

TONY LAGOURANIS: 500.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about that experience?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Sure. I mean, you know, obviously it was terrible, 
you know, like these bodies had been laying out in the street in the 
sun for days, for sometimes ten days before we picked them up. They 
had been eaten by dogs and birds and maggots, and the Army thought -- 
actually, it wasn't the Army, it was the Department of Defense had 
sent this electronic equipment for us to use to like take the retinal 
scans and take their fingerprints, but it was just impossible because 
these guys -- they didn't have eyes anymore. They didn't have 
fingerprints anymore.

Then we couldn't bury the prisoners, either. Because they hadn't 
really figured out how they were going to do that, so they were just 
stacking up in the warehouse in Fallujah, and that's where we were 
living and sleeping and eating. With all of those dead bodies.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean they didn't have eyes, they didn't have 
fingerprints, they were burned?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, certainly, some of them were burned. I mean, 
some of them didn't have arms anymore or whatever, but I mean, they 
were just so rotten that their eyes were gone. They were just sockets 
with maggots.

AMY GOODMAN: We did a piece recently on the use of white phosphorus, 
"Whiskey Pete," I think it's referred to in the military. There was 
an Italian documentary that just came out talking about the use of 
this, not to light up the sky, but to burn, to incinerate the victims 
in Fallujah at the time that you were there. Did you see use of this?

TONY LAGOURANIS: No, well, not that I know of. I don't know. I mean, 
I only heard about that recently, probably from your report, but no, 
I don't know anything about that.

AMY GOODMAN: Hmm. You slept with the bodies, meaning that they were 
at the -- you had to sleep in this warehouse?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about that? And who you understood the 
people who were dead to be?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, a lot of them were certainly insurgents. You 
know, a lot of them had weapons. They had hand grenades, they had 
ammo vests, but a lot of them weren't, either. We had women and 
children, old men, young boys. So, you know, it's hard to say. I 
think initially, the reason that we were doing this was they were 
trying to find foreign fighters. They were trying to prove that there 
were a lot of foreign fighters in Fallujah. So, mainly, that's what 
we were going for, but most of them really didn't have I.D.'s but 
maybe half of them had I.D.'s. Very few of them had foreign I.D.'s. 
There were people working with me who would -- in an effort to sort 
of cook the books, you know they would find a Koran on the guy and 
the Koran was printed in Algeria, and they would mark him down as an 
Algerian, or you know guys would come in with a black shirt and khaki 
pants and they would say, well, this is the Hezbollah uniform and 
they would mark him down as a Lebanese, which was ridiculous, but -- you know.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what did you say?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I was only a specialist, so actually, you 
know, I did say something to the staff sergeant, who was really in 
charge, and you know, I just got yelled down you know, shot down.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean shot down?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, he just told me, just put me in my place. He 
said, this is not for you to decide. I'm saying he's Lebanese, he's 
Lebanese. That's it.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the women and kids?

TONY LAGOURANIS: I don't know. I mean, I don't know, I would get a 
kid burnt to a crisp. I don't know. I don't know what to say. We had 
women and children.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you have discussions about that?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Not really. No. I mean, we just sort of like noted 
it. Too bad, a kid died. Too bad, we had a woman. We didn't really 
talk about that.

AMY GOODMAN: How many people would you estimate died in Fallujah.

TONY LAGOURANIS: I have no idea. I don't know. I remember hearing the 
-- a number of 10,000 out there from the marines, but I don't know if 
that's accurate.

AMY GOODMAN: And could you estimate how many of them were what the 
U.S. Military calls "insurgents"?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I think we probably got-- we got a small 
number, we got 500 bodies. And from that sample, I would say about 
20% of them actually had weapons on them. But -- so, who knows. I 
don't know. I imagine, I think most people left Fallujah who weren't 
going to stay there and fight. But I really don't know. I cannot really say.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you ever deal with ghost detainees? This whole issue 
of people who were brought in, who were not on the books, so that the 
red cross wouldn't know about them to ask about them?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Sure. Yeah. That happened pretty often. In a way, 
that was a good thing because sometimes they wanted to just, bring 
somebody in and just get a little bit of information out of them, and 
then release him, which would have been difficult if they had 
actually registered him in the prison. Because then he would be 
caught up in the bureaucracy, and he might be there for weeks. In a 
way, the ghosting was a good thing.

But sometimes it wasn't, like, you know, the SEALS. Or the FBI would 
put somebody in the prison, and there were no records of what 
physical damage had been done to him, just nothing. There were no 
records of it, so it probably made abuse -- you know, a lot more easy to do.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you able to get intelligence out of your sessions 
with these men?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Sometimes. Pretty rarely, honestly. I did more than 
300 interrogations in Iraq, and I'm guessing like 20 people, I got 
any like real intel out of. And when I did it was when I would sort 
of form a rapport with the person and get them to trust me. Nothing 
ever came out of the harsh interrogation sessions.

AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Tony Lagouranis, former U.S. Army 
interrogator. Time Magazine this week is reporting that CIA 
Interrogators apparently tried to cover up the death of an Iraqi 
ghost detainee who died while being interrogated at Abu Ghraib. 
Autopsy reports showed that the detainee, his name is Manadel 
al-Jamadi died of blunt force injuries and asphyxiation, believed to 
have suffocated after an empty sandbag was placed over his head while 
his arms were secured up and behind his back in a crucifixion-like pose.

To cover up the killing, blood was mopped up with chlorine before the 
scene could be investigated. A blood stained hood that covered his 
head disappeared. The CIA ruled the killing a homicide, the CIA 
Interrogator involved in his death remains free and continues to work 
at the agency.

Jamadi was being held in a secret part of the Abu Ghraib prison 
that's off-limits to international observer, including the Red Cross. 
Concern has been growing, as you know, about the whole issue of 
secret CIA prisons and even places within known prisons that are sort 
of off the books. Do you know about this man, Jamadi?

TONY LAGOURANIS: No. I never heard about that case at all.

AMY GOODMAN: Does this story sound familiar in other cases that you 
know, or were involved with?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Yeah. North Babel was probably the place where I saw 
the worst evidence of abuse. This was from August to October of 2004, 
so, it was well after the Abu Ghraib scandal. And we were no longer 
using any harsh tactics within the prison, but I was working with a 
marine unit, and they would go out and do a raid and stay in the 
detainee's homes, and torture them there. They were far worse than 
anything that I ever saw in a prison. They were breaking bones. They 
were smashing people's feet with the back of an axe head. They burned 
people. Yeah, they were doing some pretty harsh stuff.

AMY GOODMAN: Who is they?

TONY LAGOURANIS: This particularly was Force Recon. I don't know if 
they were subordinate to the 24th MEW. 24th MEW was running the 
detention facility there and running the FOB CALSU and Force Recon 
was stationed there. I don't know who they were subordinate to. These 
are marines.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you, for people who are not familiar with the 
military, what these words are short for? What's Force Recon?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Oh, FOB? Force Recon is-- they're reconnaissance, so 
their job is to go out and spy on people, basically. But it's not -- 
they're not really intel. They're much more like special forces unit.

AMY GOODMAN: And FOB?

TONY LAGOURANIS: FOB is Forward Operating Base. So, it's Forward 
Operating Base CALSU that I was at.

AMY GOODMAN: That's where, exactly.

TONY LAGOURANIS: It's in north Babel, south of Baghdad.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to go to break and then come back to you. 
We're talking about Tony Lagouranis US Army interrogator from 2001 to 
2005 in Iraq. For a year, at Abu Ghraib, at al Asad, at Mosul and at 
North Babel. We'll talk more in just a minute. [break]

AMY GOODMAN: If it you could once again repeat what it is you saw 
there in Babel. Who were the forces involved, and what they were doing?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I was interrogating at the detention facility 
at Forward Operating Base, CALSU. I was getting prisoners that were 
arrested by Force Recon marines, and they -- every time Force Recon 
went on a raid, they would bring back prisoners who were bruised with 
broken bones, sometimes with burns. They were pretty brutal to these 
guys, and I would ask the prisoners what happened, you know, how they 
received these wounds, and they would tell me that it was after their 
capture, while they were subdued, while they were handcuffed and they 
were being questioned by the force recon marines.

AMY GOODMAN: And what did they say happened to them?

TONY LAGOURANIS: They were being punched, kicked, you know, hit with 
-- as I said the back of an axe head. One guy was forced to sit on an 
exhaust pipe of a humvee. I would check out that story with other 
people that they had been arrested with, and they were consistent. 
So, I tended to believe what they were telling me.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean one was forced to sit on the exhaust 
pipe on the back of a humvee. So, what would happen to him?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, he had a giant blister, third degree burn on 
the back of his leg.

AMY GOODMAN: Because it was so hot?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: And then at this point, you're supposed to question them?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Right. So I was supposed to interrogate these guys. Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: And how do you go about doing that, as they're in front 
of you with broken bones, beaten, smashed, punched, burned?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, as you know, as I said, this was really late 
in the year, and I had really sort of given up using any harsh 
tactics, so, I was trying to get these guys to trust me, telling them 
I'm going to help them out, which I really couldn't help anybody out 
at that place, because everyone they arrested, innocent or guilty, no 
matter what I said, they would just send them to Abu Ghraib anyway. But --

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, you know, the interrogators-- I'm the only 
person who is going to talk to this guy. There's no officer that's 
going to talk to him. The person who decides whether to let them go 
or keep them is not going to interrogate them. So, my recommendation 
should count for something, you know, but it didn't at FOB CALSU with 
the 24th MEW Marines. Basically everybody who came to the prison, 
they determined, they were a terrorist, they were guilty and they 
would send them to Abu Ghraib.

AMY GOODMAN: What did you determine?

TONY LAGOURANIS: That like 98% of these guys had not done anything. I 
mean, they were picking up people for the stupidest things like -- 
there's one guy they picked up, they stopped him at a checkpoint, 
just a routine stop, and he had a shovel in his trunk, and he had a 
cell phone in his pocket. They said, well, you can use the shovel to 
bury an IED, you can use the cell phone to detonate it. He didn't 
have any explosives in his car, he had no weapons, nothing. They had 
no reason to believe that he was setting IED's other than the shovel 
and cell phone. That was the kind of prisoner they were bringing us.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you ever call for a stop to this, or ask to speak to 
a higher up? Tony Lagouranis.

TONY LAGOURANIS: I did all the time. You know, at that point, I was 
like so pissed at the military for what they were doing, you know. 
And you know, I was yelling at the chief warrant officer marine who 
was in charge of the defense facility. I was making an issue about it 
to the major of the Marines, and the lieutenant colonel who was the 
JAG guy who was in charge of release, who organize keeping the 
prisoners. I mean, but they just wouldn't listen. You know? They 
wanted numbers. They wanted numbers of terrorists, apprehended at FOB 
CALSU, so they could brief that to the general?

AMY GOODMAN: Who was the general?

TONY LAGOURANIS: I don't know. Who knows. But you know, they were 
trying to impress somebody, so they wanted to say that we arrested 
this many terrorists. When I would say they were innocent in my 
interrogation reports, they would send the prisoner up to Abu Ghraib 
without my interrogation report. They would just send him up with no 
paperwork.

AMY GOODMAN: Who was in charge there, who was your immediate superior?

TONY LAGOURANIS: My immediate superior was an army -- my team leader, 
an army sergeant, the guy in charge of the detention facility or 
rather the intelligence operations was Chief Warrant Officer Kern. He 
was a marine.

AMY GOODMAN: And he was holding back your interrogation reports?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Whether it was him or somebody higher up, I don't 
know. But I know that he was the guy we were submitting the 
interrogation reports to. I was also submitting abuse reports at FOB 
CALSU. I really suspected that those didn't really get investigated.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean by abuse reports?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, any time I see abuse or prisoner tells me 
about abuse, I'm supposed to write a report about it. So that it can 
be investigated, and you know, see who abused them or whatever. I 
would send that up through the chain of command, but I don't think 
they were doing anything with these abuse reports. In the army, when 
you send this up, it should go to C.I.D., which is Criminal 
Investigations Division, I don't know what the 'D' stands for, 
division or department. I talked to those departments, those guys, 
five times in Iraq. I talked to them after I came back to Fort 
Gordon, Georgia. After I did an interview with Frontline, and told 
Frontline the same things that I told you, the C.I.D. Called me up 
and said we ran your name through the system, and we don't have any 
reports from you. Why didn't you report this stuff? So, like, I don't 
know what's happening to these abuse reports but I don't think they 
have been investigated.

AMY GOODMAN: Who called you?

TONY LAGOURANIS: His name was special agent Kerr from C.I.D.

AMY GOODMAN: From here in the United States?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Right. But he was in Iraq while I was there. 
Actually, I had filed one abuse report about the Navy SEALs that I 
told you about in Mosul with this guy's roommate in Iraq while that 
guy was there, and he still had no idea, you know, that I had ever 
filed a report.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what did you tell him?

TONY LAGOURANIS: I told him everything that I had reported on before, 
which is ridiculous, because I filed -- you know, I filed multiple 
reports about these things before.

AMY GOODMAN: About how many, roughly.

TONY LAGOURANIS: I don't know how many I filed at CALSU, I think it 
was three, but I know for sure, two.

AMY GOODMAN: And at Abu Ghraib?

TONY LAGOURANIS: In Abu Ghraib, I filed two reports, and --

AMY GOODMAN: Mosul?

TONY LAGOURANIS: In Mosul, I don't remember. I actually don't think I 
ever actually filed a report in Mosul. I filed it when I came back to 
Abu Ghraib, so that was sort of included in one of the reports that I 
filed in Abu Ghraib.

AMY GOODMAN: So, now that they tell you that they don't have any of 
your reports, on abuse, have you re-filed?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Yes. Yeah. When special agent Kerr called me up 
after the Frontline interview, he came out to Chicago, and we had 
like a six-hour interview, in my house, and I re-filed all of these 
sworn statements.

AMY GOODMAN: Are they being investigated now?

TONY LAGOURANIS: I don't know. They wouldn't really tell me about 
that. I don't know. My guess is no, since they didn't do it before.

AMY GOODMAN: There's a term in the military, but also in civilian 
society, Tony, called 'moral courage.' Can you talk about what that 
means to you?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I don't know if I'm really the right person to 
talk about that, Amy. I don't know.

AMY GOODMAN: Well --

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I sort of feel like, you know, I didn't really 
have enough of it over there. You know? Don't know.

AMY GOODMAN: What when you look back now, do you wish you had done?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, you know, we were trained to do interrogations 
according to the Geneva Conventions with enemy prisoners of war. And 
we trained using role players using a conventional army prisoner, and 
also a terrorist organization, and we treated both of them as though 
they were enemy prisoners of war. We weren't allowed to cross any 
lines. So, I don't know why I allowed the army to order me to go 
against my training, and against my better judgment and against my 
own moral judgment. But I did. I should have just said no.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel like there's something that you can do now?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I guess talking about it on television is one 
thing. I don't know.

AMY GOODMAN: Would you say when you see the court-martial of a few 
low-level soldiers, would you say that will start to stop the abuse, 
or how high up do you feel it goes?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, it obviously goes right up to the Pentagon, 
because they were issuing the interrogation rules of engagement, and 
the interrogation rules of engagement are not in accordance with the 
army field manual and not in accordance with the Geneva conventions. 
So, it's all the way up. You know, obviously, Lindsey England and 
Grainer, these guys -- you know, they needed to be punished, but it's 
not just them. It's -- it should have gone all the way up the chain.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you see Donald Rumsfeld in Iraq? He went to al 
Assad. He went to Abu Ghraib, and in fact when we had former general 
Karpinski in our studio, now demoted, who was in charge of the 
military police at Abu Ghraib, she said she took him on a tour, and 
he went to the Saddam Hussein torture cells and she was taking him 
beyond, but he didn't want to go beyond. He just left after that 
photo op. Did you see him?

TONY LAGOURANIS: I didn't. Actually, I was convoying back from Mosul 
when he was flying in. I would have gone to see him, but I didn't get 
a chance.

AMY GOODMAN: Vice president Dick Cheney is trying to get an exemption 
for CIA officers to be allowed to torture. What do you have to say to 
ice president Cheney?

TONY LAGOURANIS: I think that using torture is the worst possible 
thing we could do. You cannot win a war against terrorism with bombs 
and force. It doesn't work. You have to win hearts and minds and 
we're really failing. You know, using torture is absolutely the wrong 
way to go. And we're not getting any intel out of it, either. Like 
how many people did we get intel out of in Guantanamo? You know, a 
small handful, and in Abu Ghraib also. I didn't work there for that 
long, but many of my friends did they worked there all of 2004, and 
they told me, they got nothing. They got no intel out of that place.

AMY GOODMAN: Sexual abuse?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I can't even understand like how anybody 
thinks that that's a good interrogation procedure, like what -- who 
is going to talk to you if you are going to like sexually abuse 
somebody? That's not -- that doesn't make any sense.

AMY GOODMAN: What about giving false so-called intelligence just to 
stop the abuse?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Sure. Yeah. I'm sure that happens, too.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you witness sexual abuse?

TONY LAGOURANIS: No. No. We never participated in anything like that.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you concerned about being retaliated against for 
speaking out?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Sure. Yeah. I think, you know, that when C.I.D. 
called me, when special agent Kerr called me after the Frontline 
interview is that the army was going to try to prosecute me. I'm a 
little bit more worried about some, just, like a navy SEAL. Or some 
marine is going to decide he hates me because I'm talking about this 
stuff, and come in to my house. I have been getting hate emails. My 
mom has received hate phone calls.

AMY GOODMAN: Yet you're speaking out?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Sure. Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Because --

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I feel like that's what my duty is right now, 
and I sort of want to correct some wrongs that I might have done.

AMY GOODMAN: And to someone who is in Iraq right now, what would you 
say to them, and what would you say to Iraqis?

TONY LAGOURANIS: Well, I'd like to apologize to Iraq honestly, 
because I think we have done so many things wrong over there. I think 
the military guys wanted to go over there and really liberate Iraq, 
and we have just really screwed it up. So, that's terrible, but to 
the military guys in Iraq, I would say, follow your conscience, and 
don't do what everybody else is doing just because it seems like 
that's the right thing to do. It's not.

AMY GOODMAN: Tony Lagouranis, I want to thank you very much for being 
with us, former US Army interrogator in Iraq for a year. Thanks for 
speaking out.

TONY LAGOURANIS: Thank you, Amy.


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