Rogers Staffer Reprimanded in Abu Ghraib Scandal

Mark Benjamin and Michael Scherer report in Salon.com that a staffer for Representative Mike Rogers has been reprimanded for his role in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in his capacity as an Army Reserve captain.

Army Reserve Capt. Christopher Brinson, who supervised some of the military police prosecuted for abuse at Abu Ghraib. A senior staffer to a Republican congressman revealed Thursday that he has been formally reprimanded by the Army for his role in the Abu Ghraib detainee abuse scandal — and that he is fighting the disciplinary move. He says that higher-ups were responsible for the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

U.S. Army Reserve Capt. Christopher R. Brinson, who in civilian life works as the deputy chief of staff for Alabama Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, was directly in charge of some of the military police later prosecuted for abuse at Abu Ghraib during the notorious autumn of 2003. Brinson received the reprimand in January 2005, but it had not been revealed publicly until his attorney, David P. Sheldon, confirmed it to Salon Thursday, noting that Brinson has since submitted a rebuttal to the Army. The attorney would not reveal the exact reason for Brinson’s punishment.

See the complete story, which was emailed to me by Salon, at OTB News.

The Salon piece does not give much information on Brinson’s role at Abu Ghraib but it appears that he was reprimanded for failure to exercise appropriate leadership in stopping some of the abuses. I have no strong opinion on whether that was in fact the case or, as he claims, he was placed in a position where he was essentially powerless.

Still, as a former Army officer myself, my view is that officers, especially company grade officers, have a responsibility to know what their subordinates are doing and to do whatever is necessary to enforce the code of conduct. Given how many things were going on at Abu Ghraib that violated not only every aspect of military norms but basic human decency, any junior officer or NCO stationed there has some culpability even by omission.

That said, he was only given a reprimand. While he likely did not do enough to enforce Army values, he apparently did exercise some leadership:

According to a handwritten log kept by the military police at the prison, obtained by Salon, Brinson may have dialed back abuse ordered in one instance by interrogators. A Nov. 14, 2003, entry notes an order to “strip out” and exercise six detainees. But those orders “were changed by Capt. Brinson,” Graner wrote. Instead, Brinson ordered that the detainees remain in their cells “in jumpsuits.”

In an April 2004 statement by Brinson to the CIA Office of the Inspector General, also obtained by Salon, Brinson admitted his role in the curious handling of Manadel al-Jamadi, a detainee who died during a CIA interrogation at Abu Ghraib in November 2003. The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology ruled al-Jamadi’s death a homicide, caused by “blunt force injuries complicated by compromised respiration.”

According to Brinson’s statement, because of his position of authority at Abu Ghraib, he was awakened early on Nov. 4, 2003, after al-Jamadi died during CIA interrogation in a shower at the prison. Brinson said he arrived in the shower at Abu Ghraib to find a nervous CIA interrogator who said, “This guy just died on us.” Brinson said al-Jamadi was lying on the ground face up with a bloody eye that Brinson was told could have come during an earlier struggle when al-Jamadi was captured. Brinson said he saw blood on the floor, according to the CIA report.

This matter is still under adjudication by the Army. Based on the Salon report, I see no indication that he has done anything that should cause him to lose his job with Rogers’ office. His conduct, while perhaps not living up to the highest callings of the military service, was apparently not enough to merit even nonjudicial punishment. And, I hasten to add, he did at least serve, something relatively few on the Hill can say.

I should note, in the interests of full disclosure, that Rogers is my parents’ congressman. I have met him a couple of times, because we are both alumni of Jacksonville State University, and found him to be incredibly gracious and likeable.

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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 and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jonk says:

    This whole thing still stinks to high hell. I know you were an officer James, so how many times have you seen company commanders basically castrated by the BN or BDE level? They end up being simple managers for the light or full birds with no real power to do much of anything except cover their asses long enough to survive until promotion out of company hell.

    I for one KNOW there is no way in HELL that a company commander would be allowed to maintain any real control at Abu Ghraib unless he was to be used purely as a buffer. The chain of command being out of the loop on a CIA interrogation, please! I say it again. Something stinks in this.

  2. Jack Ehrlich says:

    I joined the Army in 1965. I must tell you that we were instructed that we were not obligated to execute illegal orders. How much evidence is there that those enlisted personnel who committed these illegal dehumanizing acts were following orders, or were they acting on their own? While NCO’s and Commissioned officers have the responsiblity of oversight, that responsiblity is limited in its scope.