“Definitely a Cover-Up”

ABC News — ‘Definitely a Cover-Up’ Former Abu Ghraib Intel Staffer Says Army Concealed Involvement in Abuse Scandal

Dozens of soldiers – other than the seven military police reservists who have been charged – were involved in the abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, and there is an effort under way in the Army to hide it, a key witness in the investigation told ABCNEWS.

“There’s definitely a cover-up,” the witness, Sgt. Samuel Provance, said. “People are either telling themselves or being told to be quiet.”

Provance, 30, was part of the 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion stationed at Abu Ghraib last September. He spoke to ABCNEWS despite orders from his commanders not to.

“What I was surprised at was the silence,” said Provance. “The collective silence by so many people that had to be involved, that had to have seen something or heard something.”

Provance, now stationed in Germany, ran the top secret computer network used by military intelligence at the prison.

He said that while he did not see the actual abuse take place, the interrogators with whom he worked freely admitted they directed the MPs’ rough treatment of prisoners.


Provance said Fay threatened to take action against him for failing to report what he saw sooner, and the sergeant fears he will be ostracized for speaking out.

“I feel like I’m being punished for being honest,” Provance told ABCNEWS. “You know, it was almost as if I actually felt if all my statements were shredded and I said, like most everybody else, ‘I didn’t hear anything, I didn’t see anything. I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ then my life would be just fine right now.”

In response, Army officials said it is “routine procedure to advise military personnel under investigative review” not to comment.

The headline is rather tabloid-like given the substance here. We’ve got a 30-year-old buck sergeant who operates a computer and had no direct knowledge of anything having to do with the treatment of prisoners who has heard some rumors and then extrapolates that things must be much worse than we know and that, since we don’t know it, there must therefore be a cover-up.

There is, so far as I can see, zero evidence of a cover-up. Nor has Provance been “punished for being honest.” He was verbally reprimanded for not bringing his suspicions forward earlier, which is hardly unreasonable under the circumstances. He is, after all, supposed to be a leader. Will he be punished for making scurilous accusations against his chain of command on national television despite a direct order not to? One would hope. I suspect, however, that fear that enforcing good order and discipline will be viewed as part of the “cover-up” will protect him.

Update: John Hawkins had a similar reaction.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. legion says:

    This is starting to remind me of that airliner that blew up shortly after taking off from New York some years ago. I don’t remember the precise details, but I recall some members of the tinfoil hat brigade claiming that it was actually shot down by an errant (or perhaps deliberate) missile from a US Navy destroyer in the vicinity.

    I never even considerd buying into that, simply because there are a lot of people on a destroyer. Most of them are junior enlisteds, and many of them don’t intend to make the Navy their career (and so are not as beholden to following questionable orders). If they had actually shot down a civ airliner, they’d know about it; they’re smart enough to connect a “live-fire” exercise with the plane going down. And no matter how intimidating the command structure can be, someone, _someone_ would have talked about killing so many civilians.

    I think we’re seeing this theory tested…