Revealed: Pentagon's link to Iraqi torture centres

Exclusive: General David Petraeus and 'dirty wars' veteran behind commando units implicated in detainee abuse
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Mona Mahmood, Maggie O'Kane, Chavala Madlena and Teresa Smith The Guardian, Wednesday 6 March 2013 20.04 GMT Link to video: James Steele: America's mystery man in Iraq The Pentagon sent a US veteran of the "dirty wars" in Central America to oversee sectarian police commando units in Iraq that set up secret detention and torture centres to get information from insurgents. These units conducted some of the worst acts of torture during the US occupation and accelerated the country's descent into full-scale civil war. Colonel James Steele was a 58-year-old retired special forces veteran when he was nominated by Donald Rumsfeld to help organise the paramilitaries in an attempt to quell a Sunni insurgency, an investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic shows. After the Pentagon lifted a ban on Shia militias joining the security forces, the special police commando (SPC) membership was increasingly drawn from violent Shia groups such as the Badr brigades.

A second special adviser, retired Colonel James H Coffman, worked alongside Steele in detention centres that were set up with millions of dollars of US funding. Coffman reported directly to General David Petraeus, sent to Iraq in June 2004 to organise and train the new Iraqi security forces. Steele, who was in Iraq from 2003 to 2005, and returned to the country in 2006, reported directly to Rumsfeld. The allegations, made by US and Iraqi witnesses in the Guardian/BBC documentary, implicate US advisers for the first time in the human rights abuses committed by the commandos. It is also the first time that Petraeus – who last November was forced to resign as director of the CIA after a sex scandal – has been linked through an adviser to this abuse. Coffman reported to Petraeus and described himself in an interview with the US military newspaper Stars and Stripes as Petraeus's "eyes and ears out on the ground" in Iraq. "They worked hand in hand," said General Muntadher al-Samari, who worked with Steele and Coffman for a year while the commandos were being set up. "I never saw them apart in the 40 or 50 times I saw them inside the detention centres. They knew everything that was going on there ... the torture, the most horrible kinds of torture." Additional Guardian reporting has confirmed more details of how the interrogation system worked. "Every single detention centre would have its own interrogation committee," claimed Samari, talking for the first time in detail about the US role in the interrogation units. "Each one was made up of an intelligence officer and eight interrogators. This committee will use all means of torture to make the detainee confess like using electricity or hanging him upside down, pulling out their nails, and beating them on sensitive parts." There is no evidence that Steele or Coffman tortured prisoners themselves, only that they were sometimes present in the detention centres where torture took place and were involved in the processing of thousands of detainees. The Guardian/BBC Arabic investigation was sparked by the release of classified US military logs on WikiLeaks that detailed hundreds of incidents where US soldiers came across tortured detainees in a network of detention centres run by the police commandos across Iraq. Private Bradley Manning, 25, is facing a prison sentence of up to 20 years after he pleaded guilty to leaking the documents. Samari claimed that torture was routine in the SPC-controlled detention centres. "I remember a 14-year-old who was tied to one of the library's columns. And he was tied up, with his legs above his head. Tied up. His whole body was blue because of the impact of the cables with which he had been beaten." Gilles Peress, a photographer, came across Steele when he was on assignment for the New York Times, visiting one of the commando centres in the same library, in Samarra. "We were in a room in the library interviewing Steele and I'm looking around I see blood everywhere."

The reporter Peter Maass was also there, working on the story with Peress. "And while this interview was going on with a Saudi jihadi with Jim Steele also in the room, there were these terrible screams, somebody shouting: 'Allah, Allah, Allah!' But it wasn't kind of religious ecstasy or something like that, these were screams of pain and terror." The pattern in Iraq provides an eerie parallel to the well-documented human rights abuses committed by US-advised and funded paramilitary squads in Central America in the 1980s. Steele was head of a US team of special military advisers that trained units of El Salvador's security forces in counterinsurgency. Petraeus visited El Salvador in 1986 while Steele was there and became a major advocate of counterinsurgency methods. Steele has not responded to any questions from the Guardian and BBC Arabic about his role in El Salvador or Iraq. He has in the past denied any involvement in torture and said publicly he is "opposed to human rights abuses." Coffman declined to comment. An official speaking for Petraeus said: "During the course of his years in Iraq, General Petraeus did learn of allegations of Iraqi forces torturing detainees. In each incident, he shared information immediately with the US military chain of command, the US ambassador in Baghdad ... and the relevant Iraqi leaders." The Guardian has learned that the SPC units' involvement with torture entered the popular consciousness in Iraq when some of their victims were paraded in front of a TV audience on a programme called "Terrorism In The Hands of Justice." SPC detention centres bought video cameras, funded by the US military, which they used to film detainees for the show. When the show began to outrage the Iraqi public, Samari remembers being in the home of General Adnan Thabit – head of the special commandos – when a call came from Petraeus's office demanding that they stop showing tortured men on TV. "General Petraeus's special translator, Sadi Othman, rang up to pass on a message from General Petraeus telling us not to show the prisoners on TV after they had been tortured," said Samari. "Then 20 minutes later we got a call from the Iraqi ministry of interior telling us the same thing, that General Petraeus didn't want the torture victims shown on TV." Othman, who now lives in New York, confirmed that he made the phone call on behalf of Petraeus to the head of the SPC to ask him to stop showing the tortured prisoners. "But General Petraeus does not agree with torture," he added. "To suggest he does support torture is horseshit." Thabit is dismissive of the idea that the Americans he dealt with were unaware of what the commandos were doing. "Until I left, the Americans knew about everything I did; they knew what was going on in the interrogations and they knew the detainees. Even some of the intelligence about the detainees came to us from them – they are lying." Just before Petraeus and Steele left Iraq in September 2005, Jabr al-Solagh was appointed as the new minister of the interior. Under Solagh, who was closely associated with the violent Badr

Brigades militia, allegations of torture and brutality by the commandos soared. It was also widely believed that the units had evolved into death squads. The Guardian has learned that high-ranking Iraqis who worked with the US after the invasion warned Petraeus of the consequences of appointing Solagh but their pleas were ignored. The long-term impact of funding and arming this paramilitary force was to unleash a deadly sectarian militia that terrorised the Sunni community and helped germinate a civil war that claimed tens of thousands of lives. At the height of that sectarian conflict, 3,000 bodies a month were strewn on the streets of Iraq.

CV: James Steele
Vietnam Jim Steele's first experience of war was in Vietnam, where from 1965 to 1975 US combat units were deployed against the communist North Vietnamese government and Viet Cong. 58,000 Americans were killed, dealing a blow to the nation's self-esteem and leading to a change in military thinking for subsequent conflicts. El Salvador A 1979 military coup plunged the smallest country in Central America into civil war and drew in US training and funding on the side of the rightwing government. From 1984 to 1986 Steele – a "counterinsurgency specialist" – was head of the US MilGroup of US special forces advisers to frontline battalions of the Salvadorean military, which developed a fearsome international reputation for its death-squad activities. Prof Terry Karl, an expert at Stanford University on El Salvador's civil war, said that Steele's main aim was to shift the fight from so-called total war, which then meant the indiscriminate murder of thousands of civilians, to a more "discriminate" approach. One of his tasks was to put more emphasis on "human intelligence" and interrogation. Nicaragua He became involved in the Iran-Contra affair, which saw the proceeds from covert arms sales by senior US officials to Iran used to fund the Contras, rightwing guerrillas fighting Daniel Ortega's leftwing Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Steele ran operations at El Salvador's Ilopango airport, from where Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North illegally ran weapons and supplies to the Contras. Iraq Soon after the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, now retired Colonel James Steele was in Baghdad as one of the White House's most important agents, sending back reports to Donald Rumsfeld and acting as the US defence secretary's personal envoy to Iraq's Special Police Commandos, whose intelligence-gathering activities he oversaw. Drawn mostly from violent Shia militia, the .co.commandos developed a reputation for torture and later for their death-squad activities directed against the Sunni community. http://www.

uk/world/video/2013/mar/06/us-petraeus-torture-iraq-video • Revealed: Pentagon's link to Iraqi torture centres http://www. worked with Steele and reported directly to General David Petraeus. Colonel James Iraq war: 10 years on index Previous | Next | A 15-month investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic reveals how retired US colonel James • Watch a five-minute edited version of this film narrated by Dearbhla Molloy Another special forces veteran. a veteran of American proxy wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua. played a key role in training and overseeing US-funded special police commandos who ran a network of torture centres in .James Steele: America's mystery man in Iraq .guardian. who had been sent into Iraq to organise the Iraqi security services http://www. commander of multinational forces in Defense Department says 'it will take time' to respond to 15-month investigation by BBC Arabic and the Guardian • • From El Salvador to Iraq: Washington's man behind brutal police squads Richard Norton-Taylor: Donald Rumsfield must be indicted over Iraq militias .uk/world/video/2013/mar/06/james-steele-america-iraq-video US special forces veteran links General Petraeus to torture in Iraq was linked to special forces veteran James Steele • • Watch the full-length documentary on how General David Petraeus.• More on this story • Pentagon investigating link between US military and torture centres in Iraq

" .30 GMT Jump to comments (135) Link to video: US special forces veteran links General Petraeus to torture in Iraq The Pentagon is investigating allegations linking the US military to human rights abuses in Iraq by police commando units who operated a network of detention and torture centres. David Petraeus. Colonel Jack Miller. disclosed that the US sent a veteran of the "dirty wars" in Central America to oversee Iraqi commando units involved in some of the worst acts of torture during the American-led occupation. implicate US advisers for the first time in these human rights abuses. made by US and Iraqi witnesses.Pentagon investigating link between US military and torture centres in Iraq Defense Department says 'it will take time' to respond to 15-month investigation by BBC Arabic and the Guardian • • • Ewen MacAskill in Washington and Mona Mahmood The Guardian. The allegations. a Pentagon spokesman. has been linked through an adviser to the abuses. published on Wednesday. A 15-month investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic. Thursday 7 March 2013 19. told the Guardian on Thursday: "Obviously we have seen the reports and we are currently looking into the situation. It is also the first time that the then US commander in Iraq.

Erin Evers. The relatively muted response in the US contrasted with that in Iraq.In an email. Another special adviser. Requests to key members of the US Senate armed services committee. an assistant professor at the Florida International University college of law. residents greeted a showing of the documentary on Wednesday evening. which could investigate the allegations. It will take time to work a thorough response. The US should investigate US complicity with or responsibility for human rights abuses committed by Iraqi security forces. He said: "We as people of Samara know the whole story as many of the people in Samarra were detainees and sustained great deal of torture and some of them we found their bodies at the forensic department. a retired special forces veteran then aged 58. The investigation was prompted by the release by WikiLeaks of hundreds of documents in October 2010 alleging that Iraqi government forces engaged in torture and systematic abuse of detainees. Waleed Khalid said thousands of people gathered in the city for anti-government protests were excited to watch part of the documentary and there was a plan to set up big screens to show the whole film on Friday. Human Rights Watch at the time called for a US government investigation into whether its own forces breached international law by transferring thousands of Iraqi detainees from US custody in spite of a clear risk of torture. one of the centres of the Sunni insurgency against US-led forces and where Iraqis are alleged to have been tortured in a library. "But it is so important for us that the world would hear our story and reconsider these violations against the detainees which amount to crimes against humanity." The Pentagon argument is that it needs time because of the legal implications and also because those named in the documentary no longer serve in the military." Noah Weisbord. who helped draft additions to the statute of the International Criminal Court and was a law clerk to the . for comment were declined or ignored. worked alongside Steele and reported directly to Petraeus. retired Colonel James Coffman. said on Thursday: "This information provides further evidence of the problematic relationship between the US government and the Iraqi ministry of the interior which includes secret prisons. In Samarra. who was sent to Iraq by then defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld to help organise paramilitaries in an attempt to quell the Sunni insurgency. he added: "As you know the issue surrounding accusation of abuse and torture of Iraqi detainees is a complex one that is full of history and emotion. a Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch." The documentary names Colonel James Steele.

For example. including the politicians who authorised this conduct. and I have every confidence that the committee will expect to see the results of a full investigation into these new allegations. the US was heavily criticised for adopting a policy of impunity towards the officials who committed these grave and systematic crimes. This would have the objective of bringing those responsible. This is unrelated to ICC membership. called for the UN Human Rights Committee to investigate. On Tuesday. a number of fora where US soldiers can be tried for torture. in an email. Ben Emmerson. to justice." Reprieve legal director Kat Craig said: "This latest exposé of human rights abuses shows that torture is endemic to US foreign policy. both US and UK. not only sanctioned but developed by the highest echelons of US security services. and bring to justice those who carried out. given that the US has a veto on the council. said US soldiers could theoretically be tried by the ICC even though the US is not a signatory. But such cases would have to be referred by the UN security council and. Countries that are signatories to the ICC such as Canada or the UK could not arrest US citizens and send them to the Hague. he had presented a report to the council in Geneva urging accountability for Bush-era crimes. Without criminal prosecutions – in this case of Petreaus and many other senior officials – alongside meaningful public inquiries this cycle will never be broken. however. It is time to raise the legal and political cost of torture and send an unequivocal message that it has no place in this day and age. It is due for its next periodic review in the autumn of this year. He added: "As long ago as 2006. "To the list of international crimes committed by that administration must now be added the evidence uncovered by the Guardian and the BBC." Emmerson said. We must increase public scrutiny and accountability for state agents. this makes it very improbable. sanctioned or conceived of these gross violations of human rights.chief prosecutor of the ICC in the Hague." The UN special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights. Jurisdiction stems from their domestic laws." . Weisbord added: "There are. during its last periodic review by the UN Human Rights Committee. these are considered and deliberate acts. some states have national laws that give their courts universal jurisdiction or other types of robust extraterritorial jurisdiction.

A coiled green garden hose lies on the lawn. an energy company. Similar efforts to track him down at his company's office in Monrovia are futile. And. Messages are left. Texas. is not at home. Nor is he at his office headquarters in Geneva. Josh Strauss. four Legions of Merit. three Bronze Stars and the Purple Heart.From El Salvador to Iraq: Washington's man behind brutal police squads In 2004. like the other deserted luxury houses in this gated community near Bryan. the US drafted in a veteran of Central America's dirty wars to help set up a new force to fight the insurgency. Roisin Glynn. Maggie O'Kane. where he is listed as the chief executive officer of Buchanan Renewables. Irene Baqué. Ben Ferguson.16 GMT Link to video: James Steele: America's mystery man in Iraq http://www. Retired Colonel Jim Steele. Guy Grandjean. Marcus Patrick Farrelly. The result: secret detention An exclusive golf course backs onto a spacious two-storey house. Teresa Smith. nothing moves. whose military decorations include the Silver torture and a spiral into sectarian carnage • • Mona Mahmood. He doesn't call back. The grey-slatted wooden shutters are closed. with the war in Iraq going from bad to worse. the Defence Distinguished Service Medal. Wednesday 6 March 2013 16. . Jake Zervudachi and Joshua Boswell The Guardian. Chavala Madlena.

It was a role made for Steele. to ask him about his role during the Iraq war as US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld's personal envoy to Iraq's Special Police Commandos: a fearsome paramilitary force that ran a secret network of detention centres across the country – where those suspected of rebelling against the US-led invasion were tortured for information. The aim: to halt a nascent Sunni insurgency in its tracks by extracting information from detainees. is facing a 20-year sentence. A helicopter pilot. Celerino Castillo." But the arming of one side of the conflict by the US hastened the country's descent into a civil war in which 75. accused of leaking military secrets. Of his El Salvador experience in 1986. Steele told Dr Max Manwaring. And I was devastated because I knew the atrocities that were going to occur in Iraq which we knew had occurred in El Salvador. The veteran had made his name in El Salvador almost 20 years earlier as head of a US group of special forces advisers who were training and funding the Salvadoran military to fight the FNLM guerrilla insurgency. On the 10th anniversary of the Iraq invasion the allegations of American links to the units that eventually accelerated Iraq's descent into civil war cast the US occupation in a new and even more controversial light. Petraeus visited El Salvador in 1986 and reportedly even stayed with Steele at his house.For over a year the Guardian has been trying to contact Steele. Steele's contribution was pivotal. Then a young major. Steele's own biography describes his work there as the "training of the best counterinsurgency force" in El Salvador. He was the covert US figure behind the intelligence gathering of the new commando units. While the congressional inquiry that followed put an end to Steele's military . But while Petraeus headed for the top. Steele's career hit an unexpected buffer when he was embroiled in the Iran-Contra affair. says: "I first heard about Colonel James Steele going to Iraq and I said they're going to implement what is known as the Salvadoran Option in Iraq and that's exactly what happened. That means getting people to talk to you. he ran the airport from where the American advisers illegally ran guns to right-wing Contra guerrillas in Nicaragua. 68. who also had a licence to fly jets.000 people died and 1 million out of a population of 6 million became refugees. 25. The investigation was sparked over a year ago by millions of classified US military documents dumped onto the internet and their mysterious references to US soldiers ordered to ignore torture. a Senior Drug Enforcement Administration special agent who worked alongside Steele in El Salvador." It was in El Salvador that Steele first came in to close contact with the man who would eventually command US operations in Iraq: David Petraeus. Private Bradley Manning. These government units developed a fearsome international reputation for their death squad activities. the author of El Salvador at War: An Oral History: "When I arrived here there was a tendency to focus on technical indicators … but in an insurgency the focus has to be on human aspects.

His memos were so valued that Rumsfeld passed them on to George Bush and Cheney. It was 2004 – the neo-cons had dismantled the Ba'athist party apparatus. it won him the admiration of then congressman Dick Cheney who sat on the committee and admired Steele's efforts fighting leftists in both Nicaragua and El Salvador. developed a close relationship with the new advisers. There was a violent backlash against the US occupation that was claiming over 50 American lives a month by 2004. My advisers. General Manuel Noriega. In late 1989 Cheney was in charge of the US invasion of Panama to overthrow their once favoured son. and half the world away. "It's not called 'dirty war' for nothing. "They became my friends. including General Adnan Thabit. There was already talk in Washington DC of using the Salvador option in Iraq and the man who would spearhead that strategy was already in place. and that had fostered anarchy. America's war in Iraq was going from bad to worse. Cheney picked Steele to take charge of organising a new police force in Panama and be the chief liaison between the new government and the US military. many of them among the toughest survivors of the old regime. reappear at different points in these conflicts. sentenced to death for a failed plot against Saddam but saved by the US invasion.ambitions." In June 2004 Petraeus arrived in Baghdad with the brief to train a new Iraqi police force with an emphasis on counterinsurgency. Thabit. Soon after the invasion in March 2003 Jim Steele was in Baghdad as one of the White House's most important "consultants"." . were all from special forces. James Steele and Colonel Coffman." he says. so I benefited from their experience … but the main person I used to contact was David Petraeus. selected by the Americans to run the Special Police Commandos. The US Army was facing an unconventional. A generation later. sending back reports to Rumsfeld. who worked in the US embassy in El Salvador and knew Steele. Steele and serving US colonel James Coffman introduced Petraeus to a small hardened group of police commandos. so it's no surprise to see individuals who are associated and sort of know the ins-and-outs of that kind of war. A mainly Sunni uprising was gaining ground and causing major problems in Fallujah and Mosul. guerrilla insurgency in a country it knew little about. Rumsfeld spoke of him in glowing terms. "We had discussion with General Petraeus yesterday and I had a briefing today from a man named Steele who's been out there working with the security forces and been doing a wonderful job as a civilian as a matter of fact. was not surprised at the way he resurfaced in other conflict zones. Todd Greentree.

and a chance to hit back at the violent insurgents and the indiscriminate terror of al-Qaida. but by the summer of 2004 they had lifted the ban. and Steele's field expertise in counterinsurgency the stage was set for the commandos to emerge as a terrifying force.Link to video: Iraq's Special Police Commandos chief Adnan Thabit: 'The Americans knew about everything I did' http://www. Petraeus and Steele would unleash this local force on the Sunni population as well as the insurgents and their supporters and anyone else who was unlucky enough to get in the It was also letting a lethal. With Petraeus's almost unlimited access to money and weapons. brutal Saddam rule. At the height of the civil war two years later 3. Shia militia members from all over the country arrived in Baghdad "by the lorry-load" to join the new commandos. These men were eager to fight the Sunnis: many sought revenge for decades of Sunni-supported.000 bodies a month were turning up on the streets of Iraq — many of them innocent civilians of sectarian war. . Petraeus began pouring money from a multimillion dollar fund into what would become the Special Police With Steele and Coffman as his point men. It was classic counterinsurgency. The exact amount they received is classified. The consequences for Iraqi society would be The US had barred members of the violent Shia militias like the Badr Brigade and the Mahdi Army from joining the security forces.2bn (£5. they received a share of an $8.4bn) fund paid for by the US taxpayer. According to the US Government Accounts Office. One more element would complete the picture. sectarian genie out of the bottle.

the commandos set up a network of secret detention centres where insurgents could be brought and information extracted from them. Col Steele. torture. but General Muntadher al Samari. never declared. a former general in the Iraqi army. The ugliest sort of torture I've ever seen. "They were secret. He says he tried to stop the torture. Desperate for information. who worked after the invasion with the US to rebuild the police force." He says there were 13 to 14 secret prisons in Baghdad under the control of the interior ministry and used by the Special Police Commandos. he didn't say anything – it was just normal for him. and the door opened and Captain Jabr was there torturing a prisoner. He [the victim] was hanging upside down and Steele got up and just closed the door. claims that they knew exactly what was going on and were supplying the commandos with lists of people they wanted brought in.But it was the actions of the commandos inside the detention centres that raises the most troubling questions for their American masters. The things that went on there: drilling. There is no evidence that Steele or Coffman took part in these torture ." Link to video: Iraqi general Muntadher al-Samari: 'He was hanging upside down. But the American top brass and the Iraqi leadership knew all about these prisons. Col Coffman. "We were having lunch. The commandos used the most brutal methods to make detainees talk. Steele didn't react' http://www. but failed and fled the country. He alleges that Steele and Coffman had access to all these prisons and that he visited one in Baghdad with both men.

" he said.' When you say: 'I have done nothing. a 20-year-old medic who was based in Samarra. stab them. English. but none except Smith were prepared to go on camera. From the sunset. They [the commandos] would essentially torture anybody that they had good reason to suspect. He left the army in September 2006..' "I did not confess about anything.. "If somebody gets arrested and we hand them over to MoI they're going to get their balls hooked. That they would beat people. including Iraqis. it sounds like pretty awful things. although I was tortured and [they] took off my toenails. and people knew about that. remembers what low ranking US soldiers in the canteen said. The Americans told us to bring as many detainees as possible in order to keep them frightened. One. said: "There was no sleep. which includes instructions to his own soldiers … reflects his clear opposition to any form of torture. he works with refugees from the Arab world in Detroit teaching recent arrivals. Now 28. or was part of the insurgency … or supporting it. If you sent a guy there he was going to get tortured and perhaps raped or whatever." He now lives in Detroit and is a born-again Christian. "General (Ret) Petraeus's record. Shall I confess about something I have not done?'. the torture and all kinds of stuff. shock them with electrical shock.According to one soldier with the 69th Armoured Regiment who was deployed in Samarra in 2005 but who doesn't want to be identified: "It was like the Nazis … like the Gestapo basically. "They wanted confessions. a man who says he was held for 20 days. Twitter and social media the Guardian managed to make contact with three soldiers who confirmed they were handing over detainees to be tortured by the special commandos. electrocuted or they're going to get beaten or raped up the ass with a coke bottle or something like that. the torture would start on me and on the other prisoners." The Guardian interviewed six torture victims as part of this investigation. "I don't think folks back home in America had any idea what American soldiers were involved in over there. They'd say: 'Confess to what have you done. When the Guardian/BBC Arabic posed questions to Petraeus about torture and his relationship with Steele it received in reply a statement from an official close to the general saying. He spoke to the Guardian because he said he now considered it his religious duty to speak out about what he saw. I don't know what else . knew something. this is our way. definitely in our platoon. "I suppose it is my way of saying sorry. was that they were pretty violent with their interrogations. they said: 'Yes." Through Facebook." Neil Smith. humiliated and brutalised by the special commandos in order for them to get whatever information they wanted. "What was pretty widely known in our battalion." ." one said.

guardian. working in the area of the Iraqi police. "What I heard is prisoners screaming all night long. just don't come near this. They were pulling at my ears with pliers. although General Petraeus did see him on a number of occasions during the establishment and initial deployments of the special police. Everybody knew that he was Petraeus's There was no set frequency for Colonel Steele's meetings with General Petraeus. don't. "We'd be tied to a spit or we'd be hung from the ceiling by our hands and our shoulders would be dislocated. then reporting for the New York Times. "You know at which point you had a young US captain telling his soldiers." Peress said. asking me about my wife. in which Colonel Steele played a significant role." ." But Peter Maass."Colonel (Ret) Steele was one of thousands of advisers to Iraqi units. The second said: "They electrocuted me." Link to video: 'We were interviewing James Steele in Iraq and I saw blood everywhere' http://www." one told us. remembers the relationship differently: "I talked to both of them about each other and it was very clear that they were very close to each other in terms of their command relationship and also in terms of their ideas and ideology of what needed to be done. and who has interviewed both men." Maass and photographer Gilles Peress gained a unique audience with Steele at a library-turneddetention-centre in Two men from Samarra who were imprisoned at the library spoke to the Guardian investigation team. saying they would bring her here. They hung me up from the ceiling. Even Steele defined himself as Petraeus's man. stamping on my head.

" One of the torture survivors remembers how Adnan Thabit "came into the library and he told Captain Dorade and Captain Ali. James Steele? Did I have evidence against him? Photographs. This was because people were having to undergo surgery when they were released from the library. they've just captured a Saudi jihadi. They didn't stop it happening and they didn't punish the perpetrators. documents: things which proved he committed things in Iraq.According to Maass in an interview for the investigation: "The interrogation centre was the only place in the mini green zone in Samarra that I was not allowed to visit. there were these terrible screams. you know." . I reminded him of the incident where he had opened the door and Colonel Jabr was torturing one of the prisoners and how he didn't do anything. He got out of Iraq and went to Jordan. "I am prepared to go to the international court and stand in front of them and swear that highranking officials such as James Steele witnessed crimes against human rights in Iraq. I was surprised by this. somebody shouting Allah Allah Allah." General Muntadher fled after two close colleagues were killed after they were summoned to the ministry. Would you like to interview him?' "I'm taken not into the main area." Maass says: "And while this interview was going on with this Saudi with Jim Steele also in the room. he says. their bodies found on a rubbish tip. Steele was anxious to meet and suggested he come to the luxury Sheraton hotel in Amman where Steele was staying. They met in the lobby at 8pm and Steele kept him talking for nearly two hours. In less than a month. one day. and there was actually blood dripping down the side of this desk in the office. He (Steele) hears the scream from the other guy who's being tortured as we speak." According to General Muntadher: "He wanted to know specifically: did I have any information about him. 'hey. go easy on the prisoners. He didn't comment or answer. there's the blood stains in the corner of the desk in front of him. So I said to him: 'No. "He was asking me about the prisons. you didn't — you didn't tell the officer off. the kind of main hall – although out the corner of my eye I can see that there were a lot of prisoners in there with their hands tied behind their backs – I was taken to a side office where the Saudi was brought in. Don't dislocate their shoulders. Jim Steele said to me. But it wasn't kind of religious ecstasy or something like that. these were screams of pain and terror. Steele said: 'But I remember that I told the officer off'. However. And he was silent. You didn't even tell General Adnan Thabit that this officer was committing human rights abuses against these prisoners'. I was surprised by the questions and I reminded him that these were the same prisons where we both used to work. Peress picks up the story: "We were in a room in the library interviewing Steele and I look around and I see blood everywhere. Steele contacted him. This was the purpose of his visit. things he was worried I might reveal.

guardian. It captures Steele.Link to video: James Steele in Iraq: only known video footage http://www. . then a 58-year-old veteran in Iraq. He left Iraq in September 2005 and has since pursued energy interests. remains an enigma. there he may well have remained. One video clip just 12 seconds long features in the hour-long TV investigation into his work. the man. looking uncomfortable when he spots a passing camera. hesitating. He draws back from the lens. Were it not for Bradley Manning's leaking of millions of US military logs to Wikileaks. which lifted the lid on alleged abuses by the US in Steele. Footage and images of him are rare. Until now he has stayed where he likes to be – far from the media watching warily out of the side of his eye and then pulls himself out of sight. joining the group of companies of Texas oilman Robert Mosbacher.

was nominated by Rumsfeld to help organise paramilitaries to quell a growing Sunni insurgency in Iraq. Thursday 7 March 2013 12. a special forces veteran. Steele reported directly to Rumsfeld. evidence that he asked a veteran of American dirty wars in central America to help set up vicious sectarian militias in Iraq should end them once and for all. should be indicted before a criminal Donald Rumsfeld.25 GMT Jump to comments (276) Link to video: James Steele: America's mystery man in Iraq If there were any lingering doubts about whether the former US defence secretary. A Guardian investigation reports that Colonel James Steele. He was in charge. and if he had a plan the militias wouldn't have existed • • o o o Richard Norton-Taylor Rumsfeld must be indicted over Iraq militias What he knew of detention centres is not the only point. . The paramilitary groups were drawn from Shia militia and set up detention centres where Iraqis were tortured.

and the kind of Shia militia exposed in the Guardian. His failure to take on the responsibilities of an occupying power – that was what US and UK forces were. Blair. and senior Whitehall officials. Rumsfeld's covert decisions. Having ripped responsibility from the US state department for postinvasion planning. the UK's senior military representative in Baghdad at the time. and whatever those in charge of America's closest ally. implicated. Strong criticism of Rumsfeld and Bremer is a theme running through evidence to the Chilcot inquiry. The next question is how far is the then British government. as far as Washington was concerned. whatever his obligations under international law.What Rumsfeld and his Pentagon officials knew precisely about these centres is not the only point. in law as well as practice – was in clear breach of obligations laid down in the Geneva conventions. at Rumsfeld and his Pentagon. Senior military commanders made it quite clear to this writer soon after the invasion that they believed there was sufficient evidence to indict Rumsfeld and his cohorts. and Tony Blair in particular. had he worked out even a most elementary basic plan for what to do after the invasion of Iraq. may have vented their frustration too. Rumsfeld was in charge. and was allowed to do anything he pleased. now exposed. the Sunni insurgency might never have happened. leaving a huge and dangerous vacuum which was filled by assorted criminals. . might have said. Britain. first privately and later more publicly. quoted Rumsfeld as saying growing attacks in 2004 were the work of a "bunch of no-hopers". In any case. his first crime was to fail to take any responsibility himself. These militias would not have been needed. or even the main one. in autobiographies and in reports by Commons committees. Rumsfeld's notorious "stuff happens" response to looting rampages in Baghdad reflected the most cynical complacency. There is no evidence they actually did so. compounded the felony. In evidence to the Chilcot inquiry. vented their anger and frustration. His senior military advisers. His appointment of Paul Bremer as head of the so-called coalition provisional authority – in effect governor of Iraq – and their decision to banish Ba'ath party members and the Iraqi army. indeed that they would even have dared. Lieutenant General Sir John Kiszely. Jack Straw and defence secretary. insurgents. Some of those Shia militia attacked and killed British troops in Basra who were themselves in part the victims of a failure to adopt any kind of coherent or responsible plan about what to do after the invasion. Geoff Hoon. suggest such complacency was mere rhetoric. his foreign secretary. to say boo to a goose .

multimedia investigations editor at The Guardian.000 More Civilian Deaths.S. 2013 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES BBC-Guardian Exposé Uses WikiLeaks to Link Iraq Torture Centers to U. March 22. Petraeus download: Video Audio Get CD/DVD More Formats • WikiLeaks Iraq War Logs Expose US-Backed Iraqi Torture. She is a former foreign correspondent. Her past awards include British journalist of the year and foreign correspondent of the year. and Contractors Run Amok Maggie O'Kane. Col. Steele & Gen. “Behind the Death Squads: An exclusive report on the US role in El Salvador's official terror.Friday.” By Allan Nairn (The Progressive) Transcript | Printer-friendly . 15.

NARRATOR: This is one of the great untold stories of the Iraq War." said Col." [includes rush transcript] Transcript This is a rush transcript. who notes the investigation was sparked by memos found in the Iraq War Logs released by WikiLeaks. "We spent maybe six months trying to track down young American soldiers who served in Samarra. but first I want to play an excerpt of the documentary that accompanies their report.S. advisers who trained notorious Salvadoran paramilitary units to fight leftwing guerrillas. The man on his left is his collaborator. the issue surrounding accusation of abuse and torture of Iraqi detainees is a complex one that is full of history and emotion.S. U. This is the only known Iraqi video footage of Steele. At its height. played in training Iraqi police commando units.000 victims a month. He reported directly to General David Petraeus. He was in charge of the U. Copy may not be in its final form.backed death squads in Central America during the 1980s to the imprisoned Army whistleblower Bradley Manning. who funded this police commando force from a multibillion-dollar fund. Jack Miller. Maggie O’Kane. In a moment. This is also the story of James Steele. the veteran of America’s dirty war in El Salvador. It is a story that stretches from the U. Steele was chosen by the Bush administration to work with General David Petraeus to organize these paramilitary police commandos. 75. and over a million people became refugees. the United States funded a sectarian police commando force that set up a network of torture centers to fight the insurgency.A shocking new report by The Guardian and BBC Arabic details how the United States armed and trained Iraqi death squads that ran torture centers. "As you know. observing. AMY GOODMAN: As we continue to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2003 U. a veteran of American proxy wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua. a shadowy figure. always in the background. evaluating. "But many were too frightened because of what happened to Bradley Manning.S. SOLDIER: First to fight for the right and to build the nation’s might. invasion of Iraq. In the course of that civil war.-backed involvement in Latin America to the imprisoned Army whistleblower Bradley Manning. we turn today to a shocking new report by The Guardian newspaper and BBC Arabic detailing how the United States armed and trained Iraqi police commando units that ran torture centers and death squads." says the film’s executive producer. colonel James Steele. "It will take time to work a thorough response.S." A Pentagon spokesman told The Guardian it had seen the reports and is looking into the situation. We play extended excerpts of "James Steele: America’s Mystery Man in Iraq. we’ll be joined by one of the chief reporters behind the investigation. how just over a year after the invasion. It’s a story that stretches from the U. it was claiming 3. . Colonel James Coffman.000 people died. It was a decision that helped fuel a sectarian civil war between Shia and Sunni that ripped the country apart." which exposes the role the retired U.S. and the Army goes rolling along.S.

" which was Fragmentary Order 242. welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about why you undertook this documentary. They were torturing detainees for information on the insurgency. Maggie. She’s multimedia editor and director of investigations at The Guardian newspaper and executive producer of the new documentary. because they were the actual documents and what the State Department was sending . So. military order instructing U. MUNTADHER AL-SAMARI: [translated] The things that went on there: drilling. that there was a deeper story here. came up over a thousand times in the documents as we looked at it.-backed commando units was sparked by memos found in the Iraq War logs leaked by Bradley Manning to WikiLeaks. And one of the things that made us very interested was there was a reference to a thing called "Frago 242. MAGGIE O’KANE: Well. There’s the blood stains on the corner of the desk in front of him. The investigation into the U. this Frago 242. Now. who was visiting the American embassy. soldiers to ignore Iraq-on-Iraqi torture. mostly made up of militias.S.S. which was a U. and the team that I work with who have spent a lot of time covering the war in Iraq. hungry to take revenge on the Sunni supporters of Saddam Hussein. Joining us now in London from BBC headquarters is Maggie O’Kane. and we wondered why was this order issued and what was the story behind it.The thousands of commandos that Steele let loose came to be mostly made up of Shia militias. torture—the ugliest sorts of torture I’ve ever seen. his commandos and their American advisers turned the main library into a detention center.S. GEN. this incidence. AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt from the Guardian/BBC Arabic documentary Searching for Steele. like the Badr Brigades. NARRATOR: The U. this investigation. In the city of Samarra. And Steele’s expertise was turning that information obtained from thousands of detainees into actionable intelligence. TODD GREENTREE: Colonel Steele is one of the few people who understands how to conduct intelligence-driven operations against operational cells of an insurgency or terrorist organization. it was a sense that there was a deeper story to tell here and that the WikiLeaks documents. NARRATOR: The Iraqi leader of these feared commandos was Adnan Thabit. GILLES PERESS: He hears the scream of the other guy who’s being tortured. you know. where torture was routine occurrence. longtime reporter who’s been named British journalist of the year and foreign correspondent of the year.S. And there was also references in the WikiLeaks to a General Adnan Thabit. I think when the WikiLeaks documents came out in November 2011. I had a sense. as we speak. murder. Steele oversaw the commandos. was desperate for information on the insurgency.

S. AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk about Jim Steele’s time in Latin America. Todd Greentree got to know James Steele when he was working in the U. NARRATOR: Steele was the chief American counterinsurgency expert on the ground in El Salvador. He was described by General George Patton Jr. NARRATOR: The U. I was very impressed with Colonel Steele.S. So. DR.S. But if Vietnam shaped his formative military career. soldiers died. His decorations. is where James Steele was first introduced to counterinsurgency as an alternative way of combating a guerrilla uprising. Castillo met James Steele in Salvador. military and the Salvadoran military. very disciplined. MilGroup. NARRATOR: Vietnam. trainers were based. medals and stuff that was given to him by the U.D.back to Washington about what was going on. a group of U. Celerino Castillo was a U. it was in the war against left-wing insurgents in El Salvador that James Steele secured his reputation as the counterinsurgency specialist. Steele served in the Vietnam War in the Blackhorse Regiment from 1968 to 1969. I don’t think he had any hesitations about obtaining information by very rough forms that were being carried out by the Salvadoran armed forces under the eyes of U. GEORGE VICKERS: He was totally committed to defeating the guerrilla insurgency in El Salvador. and American experts trained the Salvadoran security forces in the dark arts of counterinsurgency.S. George Vickers got to know and like James Steele when he visited Salvador to write a Ph.000 U. was trying to defeat a guerrilla insurgency. He talked about the importance of building human intelligence information as opposed to just technical information. a figure of enormous authority to the El Salvadoran military. were surrounding his office. as the MilGroup commander.S. embassy in El Salvador at the time. thesis on U. . the conflict in which over 58.S. CELERINO CASTILLO: A very military type. Steele arrived in El Salvador in 1984 as the leader of the U. as the best troop commander in his regiment.S. NARRATOR: Dr. TODD GREENTREE: Colonel Steele. that this was a real treasure trove that we should explore. was in charge of all of the special forces teams. He used to discuss how he traveled around to the military bases where U. military strategy in Central America.S. and go back to a clip of Searching for Steele. Some of these Salvadoran paramilitary units were effectively death squads.S. rather than just become excited about the means of these documents being delivered. specifically El Salvador.S. military trainers. He was widely acknowledged for his efforts. military advisers to the El Salvadoran army. drug enforcement agent who was involved in training these paramilitaries. the training teams that were out at the head—the brigade headquarters.

. One former member of the Salvadoran treasury police. The whole filing system was set up for them by the U. I was given a chance to see the archives of the Salvadoran national police." Actually. at least 75. These surveillance reports were given to them. . These people are traitors to the country. which included surveillance reports on activists who had traveled to other countries. the army. He said they targeted people who speak—and these are his words—"against Yankee imperialism.. but about three dozen other countries. where American officers gave instruction in techniques including electroshock torture. I interviewed many of the officers involved in running these squads. leading some in Washington to believe the U. on the penis. and you could see they had files marked "union.CELERINO CASTILLO: He was the MilGroup commander in El Salvador. the intelligence archives. And their objective was to eradicate the guerrilla movement. the U. then an ambitious 33-year-old major. He said—these are his words: "You put wires on the prisoner’s vital parts. by the CIA." These are the names of the Salvadoran death squads. Often they brought them to the headquarters of the treasury police. so the blow is stronger." They showed me a card file. General "Chele" Medrano. For example. and they tortured them for days.S.S. government. Mano Blanco. AMY GOODMAN: The BBC Arabic/Guardian investigation called Searching for Steele. In Salvador. The Salvadoran military halted the advance of the guerrillas. and they’re seated on iron. Newsweek magazine reporting the Pentagon considering using what it described as the "Salvador Option" in Iraq. through history. backed the creation of military units that targeted civilian activists. the Pentagon and the State Department. described how they picked their targets. Agency for International Development. Nothing moves without his authority. I wanted to turn right now." exposed the CIA’s backing of El Salvador death squads and led to an investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee. … When it’s over. in January 2005. they didn’t always kill them. who was on the CIA payroll. René Hurtado. investigative journalist Allan Nairn appeared on Democracy Now! His 1984 article in The Progressive magazine. Shortly after the article’s publication. according to the captain who was giving me this tour. The prisoners feel it more if their feet are in the water. visited El Salvador to study this counterinsurgency campaign.000 Salvadoran civilians had died. that there were major massacres being conducted. they kill them. the national guard. against military men. so much so that even David Petraeus. in the vagina. The young Petraeus even reportedly stayed in Steele’s house while there. Hurtado himself said he conducted such torture. and not just Salvador. described a course that was given at army general staff headquarters." "religious. and one million refugees had fled the country. advisory role was a success. ALLAN NAIRN: In El Salvador. . against the oligarchy. you just throw him in the alleys with a sign saying. What can the troops do? When they find them. By the end of the civil war.S. It’s very well written. NARRATOR: We put these allegations to retired Colonel Steele and have received no reply. ESA (Secret Anticommunist Army). You place the wires between the prisoner’s teeth. titled "Behind the Death Squads. or Maximiliano Hernandez Brigade." "student. in an integrated effort involving the CIA.

but the death squad operations. which the Pentagon. as well as British journalist of the year. And what you have seen is an almost exact parallel between the platforms in El Salvador.Something on the order of 75. He’s employed by Enron. He then went on and was appointed by Dick Cheney to go to Panama to set up the police force there after the overthrow of Noriega." It exposed the CIA’s backing of El Salvador death squads and led to an investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee. along with Oliver North. flesh out more for us Colonel James Steele. which were the regional torture centers. most of them during the ’70s. They were sometimes engaged by the Salvadoran military in combat. who ran the special police commandos that were carrying out the torture. we turn to the city of Samarra. His 1984 article in The Progressive magazine was called "Behind the Death Squads. the bridge between Salvador and Iraq. And between that. He works for various private military companies. one of the things that just strikes me. These were not armed guerrillas. there is a call from Steele—to Steele directly from Donald Rumsfeld that he is to go to Iraq and to get involved in the training of the special police commandos. to the Contras there. that was funneling arms to the Ilopango air base to Nicaragua.S. before we go to break and then move into the Iraq part of this story. we now understand. which was bringing in hundreds of mostly Sunni men and boys and torturing them for information. was to go to Iraq and set up a similar platform operation. in 2004. these went after civilians. to get information on the insurgents. And then he seems to be called back in at periods of crisis or at periods where they need his experience. and the platforms in Iraq.000 Salvadoran civilians were killed by the Salvadoran military. used the phrase "to fight terror with terror. where the U. in between the Salvador operation. which operated in the same way. he goes in and out of the energy business. listening to that. we go to the excerpt of Searching for Steele in Iraq. So. When we come back. multimedia investigations editor at The Guardian. Maggie O’Kane. is the sort of extraordinary parallels that exist between Salvador and Iraq. MAGGIE O’KANE: Well. these were not combatants who were being killed. And this." which is exactly the same phrase that was used by General Montana phon. in El Salvador when they were operating what was called the "platforms. voted best foreign correspondent of the year. [break] AMY GOODMAN: As we turn back to the documentary Searching for Steele. This is another excerpt of the film." which were basically the torture and interrogation centers where the American advisers were present. So. And the majority of these were targeted by these death-squad-type forces. was one of six key people. when the insurgency was gaining strength in Iraq. One of the interesting things in the WikiLeaks documents is that General Adnan Thabit. AMY GOODMAN: That was investigative journalist Allan Nairn. Now. AMY GOODMAN: We’re speaking with Maggie O’Kane. She’s speaking to us from London. which would involve regional torture centers. . we find that James Steele was involved in Iran-Contra. one point is.-backed Iraqi special commandos took over the city’s library and turned it into an interrogation center. Stay with us. according to Newsweek. is now talking about using for Iraq.

captain telling his soldiers. TORTURE SURVIVOR 1: [translated] We would be blindfolded and handcuffed behind our backs. American soldiers at this base. Would you like to interview him?" GILLES PERESS: Was Steele completely together to bring us into the library? Maybe not. TORTURE SURVIVOR 2: [translated] They electrocuted me. PETER MAASS: The interrogation center was the only place in the kind of mini Green Zone in Samarra that I was not allowed to visit. NARRATOR: Maass and Peress were about to get an unprecedented glimpse into this clandestine world. However. although out the corner of my eye I could see there were a lot of prisoners in there with their hands tied behind their backs. James Steele crops up in these photographs repeatedly. talking about having watched prisoners be kind of strung up like animals after a hunt over a bar. having watched prisoners be actually tortured.NARRATOR: Samarra was the first place that the connection between James Steele and the activities of the police commandos was made known to the outside world. NARRATOR: Adnan Thabit and the American military made the joint decision to set up the commando headquarters and interrogation center in the city’s main library. and there was actually blood dripping down the side of a desk in this office. you know. Then they would beat us with shovels and pipes. and our shoulders would be dislocated. and I overheard soldiers. I was taken to a side office where the Saudi was brought in. or we’d be hung from the ceiling by our hands. asking me about my wife. kind of the main hall. Jim Steele said to me. And then I’m taken not into the main area." NARRATOR: Gilles Peress’ stark black-and-white photographs capture how the commandos worked in Samarra. and I’m looking around. stamping on my head. We’d be tied to a spit. an American base. I see blood everywhere. GILLES PERESS: We were in a room in the library interviewing Steele. they just captured a Saudi jihadi. They hung me from the ceiling. Still fearful. New York Times journalist Peter Maass convinced General Petraeus to allow him and photographer Gilles Peress to visit the commandos in Samarra.S. Their host was James Steele. PETER MAASS: I was staying at the base in Samarra. PETER MAASS: We kind of walk into the entrance area. and the first thing that I see is one of the Iraqi guards beating up one of the Iraqi prisoners. you know. . "Don’t come near this thing. saying they would bring her here. at which point you have the young U. They were pulling at my ears with pliers. they asked us to conceal their identities. "Hey. GILLES PERESS: What I heard is prisoners screaming all night long. one day. We spoke to two men from Samarra who were imprisoned in the library.

I just felt like everybody knew and nobody cared that there was torture going on. and the interview continued.PETER MAASS: And while this interview was going on. NEIL SMITH: What was pretty widely known in our battalion. GEN. And he was tied up with his legs above his head. was that they were pretty violent with their interrogations. NARRATOR: Army medic Neil Smith remembers just how frightened Iraqi civilians in Samarra were of the special police commandos. there were these terrible screams. ADNAN THABIT: [translated] Maybe sometimes when officers visit prisons. And while he was gone. NARRATOR: Petraeus defended his record with the police commandos to PBS Frontline’s Martin Smith. . what was going on. kind of religious ecstasy or something like that. He says he was aware of individual militia members in the commandos. because it was breaking up our interview. NEIL SMITH: At the time. NARRATOR: Although James Steele did not respond to our request for an interview about his activities in Samarra. NARRATOR: We asked General Adnan why he thought the prisoners were screaming. humiliated and brutalized by the special commandos in order whatever information they wanted. he was going to get tortured and perhaps raped. he did tell The New York Times that he opposes human rights abuses. They’re a bit like whirling dervishes. that they would beat people. stab them. tied up. these were screams of pain and terror. you know. I don’t know what all else—you know. His whole body was blue because of the impact of the cables with which he had been beaten. electrical shock. sounds like pretty awful things. DAVID PETRAEUS: I did not see militia groups in the special police during the time that I was there. that Steele left the room to go find out. and they were so disturbing. but not militia groups. you know. you know. and then he came back into the room. MUNTADHER AL-SAMARI: [translated] I remember a 14-year-old who was tied to one of the library’s columns. GEN. the screaming stopped. shock them with. the prisoners do start shouting. GEN. with Jim Steele also in the room. There was somebody shouting. "Allah! Allah!" PETER MAASS: They were so loud. or whatever. "Allah! Allah! Allah!" But it wasn’t. If you sent a guy there. They love to scream. One American soldier in Samarra was deeply affected by what he saw. me and the Saudi. definitely in our platoon.

About General Petraeus’s relationship with James Steele. who was a senior adviser in police affairs to the Iraqi Interior Ministry says that Petraeus must have known that organized Shia militia were dominant in the police commandos. working side by side with James Steele in the detention centers where torture was taking place. These things were discussed openly. JERRY BURKE: He had to have known. It is not acceptable to turn a blind eye. NARRATOR: International humanitarian law imposes obligations on those engaged in armed conflict regarding the treatment of prisoners. that this or that. don’t—I have not seen—you know. very strongly in the commandos. whether it was at staff meetings or. who interviewed Petraeus at the time. GEN. servicemember. and wanted them to become bigger." Journalist Peter Maass. and. remembers the relationship being a lot closer than the Petraeus statement would indicate. And he must have known about the death squad activities. I. to have prevented the development of these militias that were effectively developing under your watch? GEN. again. PETER PACE: It is absolutely the responsibility of every U. . Pretty much the whole world in Iraq knew that the police commandos were Badr Brigade. it was common knowledge across Baghdad. the official speaking for the general said: "Steele was one of thousands of advisers to Iraqi units working in the area of the Iraqi police. NARRATOR: But Jerry Burke. thought the commandos were successful. To find the absolute evidence of this has actually been quite difficult. you know. DAVID PETRAEUS: Well. before or after various staff meetings in general conversation. we kept hearing this all the time. to stop it.S. Not only must prisoners not be abused. according to many witnesses. NARRATOR: Even Petraeus’s own special adviser in the military chain of command. as well. PETER MAASS: It was very clear that they were very close to each other in terms of their command relationship and also in terms of their ideas and ideology about what needed to be done. it’s to report it. again. Petraeus explicitly told me that he believed very.MARTIN SMITH: Did you think about what you could have done differently. Colonel Coffman declined to be interviewed by us. Colonel James Coffman. Martin. stronger and even more prevalent in the fight against the insurgency. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DONALD RUMSFELD: But I don’t think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it. to intervene. if they see inhumane treatment being conducted. was. but those detaining prisoners also have an obligation to ensure respect. might have done differently.

[break] AMY GOODMAN: "Peace Train.S. AMB. he was denied entry into the United States after mistakenly being . NARRATOR: The publication by WikiLeaks of thousands of diplomatic cables show that by July 2005 the U. Major General Thabit. ADNAN THABIT: [translated] Until I left. We’ll come back to her in a minute..S. multimedia editor and director of investigations at The Guardian newspaper. We’ll link to the complete film online. the way you phrased it. government knew what the commandos were doing. who created and commands the Special Police Forces. GEN. frankly. is a Sunni officer who served time in prison for attempting to overthrow the Saddam Regime.GEN. PETER PACE: If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place." by the British singer-songwriter Yusuf Islam. They expressed the view that it’s necessary to fight terror with terror and that it is critical that their forces be respected and feared as this was what was required in Iraqi Society to command authority. In 2004. .. Maggie O’Kane. if I knew there was torture going on at that time with the people I was talking to. They knew what was going on in the interrogations.. CABLE EXTRACT: ". formerly known as Cat Stevens. the BBC Arabic/Guardian investigation. He told us that the American officials he dealt with were aware of what his men were doing. they have an obligation to try to stop it. AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt from James Steele: America’s Mystery Man in Iraq .we remain troubled by the indications that at times units commanded by Thabit cross the line.. embassy in Baghdad was telling Washington about the abuse being committed by the commandos." NARRATOR: We asked Ambassador Crumpton if he had been aware that Adnan Thabit’s commandos were engaged in torturing detainees. Adnan Thabit remained officially in charge until the middle of 2006.. the Americans knew about everything I did. We also learned that Adnan Thabit was a guest at the American embassy in Baghdad." NARRATOR: Despite these concerns. NARRATOR: But there are indications that the U. They are lying.S. Our guest is the executive producer of the film. You’re implying that I didn’t know that. This is an extract from what he’s reported to have said. HENRY CRUMPTON: Well. He met the U. and they knew the detainees. ambassador for counterterrorism and talked about his approach to policing. I would have raised it and discussed it. CABLE EXTRACT: "Summary: Fight Terror with Terror. And even some of the intelligence about the detainees came to us from them. I assure you. sir.. . and I resent that question.

AMY GOODMAN: So. But so far. And in the United States. there’s been very little response. they did not option this film. we have had very little response in the American mainstream media.S. While the former Army Colonel Jim Steele and the former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld refused to talk to your newspaper. I mean. And it’s going out in France tomorrow. "Obviously we have seen the reports and we are currently looking into the situation. one wonders. I wanted to get your response to the Pentagon response. quote. America’s war in Iraq and the American special advisers. this documentary. Colonel Jack Miller. he said to us. is a sort of acknowledgment of what happened to the male population of that time. you’re saying that U. that they’re—to quote one high-ranking military officer. multimedia investigations editor at The Guardian. And we know. and also very little response from the American mainstream media. the Pentagon did issue a response after your report was published. in a sense. for example. especially at this time. The Guardian. I mean. they’re monitoring reaction to this all over the world. we’re still waiting. 14 countries have—are showing the film over the next 10 days and have bought it. democracynow. your response to the Pentagon? MAGGIE O’KANE: Well. is huge. Her past awards include British journalist of the year and foreign correspondent of the year. Our guest is Maggie O’Kane. So I presume they’re just going to try and ignore it. which is the German state channel. unofficially. I’m Amy Goodman. one of the interesting things I find is that the interest in this in Europe. told The Guardian. I mean. We know also that there were public screenings of the film in We’ve heard nothing from Donald Rumsfeld. This is Democracy Now!.placed on the Department of Homeland security watchlist. on this 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. Maggie. since this is about. And except for what your program has done. which. As you know the issue surrounding accusation of abuse and torture of Iraqi detainees is a complex one that is full of history and emotion. play it. We have heard nothing from James Steele. But actually. and also Real TV. a Pentagon spokesman. She is joining us from London. former foreign correspondent. So. it seems to have been played down. why is America not interested? . It went out last night on ZDF in Germany. the commercial networks. the Pentagon has said nothing. MAGGIE O’KANE: Yeah." Maggie O’Kane. And we await to hear what they’ve got to say. within the America mainstream television networks. set up a monitoring unit within CENTCOM to see what the response has been among the Arab population. I mean. you know. "The difficulty is that those guys were wearing the same uniform that we’re wearing now. It went out on the Swedish state channel two nights ago. in which people came out onto a square to watch the film. from sources within the Pentagon." So I think the Pentagon is in a very difficult position. We also know that CENTCOM. It will take time to work a thorough response. The War and Peace Report. immediately after the film was broadcast on BBC Arabic. Central Command.

-backed police commandos are also accused of evolving into a Shia death squad targeting Sunnis. the local police forces in between your actions. And El Salvador is a classic example. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DONALD RUMSFELD: Good afternoon. You spoke about this at the beginning of the broadcast. something that actually can’t be denied. does the Pentagon feel that they don’t actually have to respond to these—to this investigation? AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you about WikiLeaks. Even the ones who were friendly with us couldn’t understand why we were allowing this to happen. you know. and also the information from Frago 242 that officially there was an order to ignore torture. I want to return to your film. give journalists like me and other investigative journalists the basis of something to work on. JERRY BURKE: It became very obvious that this was criminal activity by the special commandos.S. The U. Amy. you know. They were eliminating their own opposition and terrorizing citizens from the Sunni community. And it was that bedrock. in fact. and you can put a layer of. REPORTER: Are you concerned over—and. if it hadn’t been for WikiLeaks. of the documents they released. as the foundation of this report and so many others? MAGGIE O’KANE: Well. because it’s there in black and white. but the significance of the information. NARRATOR: One man who survived Samarra and Nisoor Square says that the police commandos lied about the fate of some of his fellow detainees. what would that say about stability in Iraq? . State Department that they knew what was—they knew what was going on. it wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the WikiLeaks document. And you wouldn’t be seeing this film. folks. indeed. and there’s always been plausible deniability. because so many things are about deniability and distancing and not taking responsibility. AMY GOODMAN: Maggie. Maggie O’Kane. TORTURE SURVIVOR 3: [translated] They started releasing some of the detainees. that. They were killing them and dumping their bodies on the streets of Baghdad. They were claiming that these detainees would return to their families. I wanted— MAGGIE O’KANE: Or why. is the United States looking into growing reports of uniformed deaths squads in Iraq perhaps assassinating and torturing hundreds of Sunnis? And if that’s true.AMY GOODMAN: A very important question. You can push away with a distance. What WikiLeaks gave us was a clear indication from the U. We lost the support of a lot of Iraqi citizens who became very cynical and very antiAmerican. I wanted to turn to another clip.S. And that is an extraordinarily valuable tool for an investigative journalism. we wouldn’t be looking back at El Salvador.

found in alleys. extortion of detainees and a general pattern of corruption. despite the warnings of many within the Iraqi political establishment.thugs like the commander of the Wolf Brigade who has been involved in death squad activities. were effectively a Shia militia engaged in death squad activities. I just don’t have any data from the field that I could comment on in a specific way. they developed into a force that was nearly 12. a sectarian civil war. in which as many as 3. and it began a full-scale war on the Sunni community. Steele left in September 2004. I have not seen reports that hundreds are being killed by roving death squads at all. Then you had another step. . talk more about what you have found here. which had been armed by the Americans. I don’t believe." AMY GOODMAN: Maggie O’Kane. And then hell broke out in Iraq. Our information is that while Steele was organizing the platform of torture centers. had been—was being advised by them. That’s what—and that was precipitated and certainly aided by the formation of the special police commandos. there was not wide-scale death squad activity. And then. in June 2005. sir. which was. REPORTER: Well.. which began in 2004. again. before this was—this was building up. .S. people shot in the head. James Steele had written to Rumsfeld six weeks earlier warning him that the police commandos. who said. And basically this force now was handed over also to his control. you had a highly sectarian Shia minister taking over in the Ministry of the Interior.000 strong. the special police commandos were handed over to Jabr Solagh. So. effectively. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DONALD RUMSFELD: What you’re talking about are unverified. and included this network of torture platforms. MEMO TO DON RUMSFELD: "MEMO TO DON RUMSFELD “FROM JIM STEELE ". Many of them are Badr members. Some of the other advisers stayed. to my knowledge at least.. this brought the killing onto a new scale. that’s not a hypothetical. unverified comments. I’m not going to get into speculation like that.SECRETARY OF DEFENSE DONALD RUMSFELD: I’m not going to comment on hypothetical questions. when. Nearly all of the new recruits within the commandos are Shia. armed and financed by the U. Now. "Do not hand this force over to the control of Jabr. That took place after 2005.000 bodies a month were turning up in the streets of Iraq. Through 2005 and 2006.. NARRATOR: But Donald Rumsfeld should have known about the death squad activities. which involved large-scale death squad activity. there was a civil war. I think what’s very important to understand here is that there was a creation of the special police commandos. and over the period of the next year. The Sunnis themselves are charging that hundreds have been assassinated.. MAGGIE O’KANE: Well." it was allowed to happen..

by what you found? . who was reporting to General Petraeus.S. GEN. one said to me. Maggie O’Kane. on a number of occasions. I remember he always wore his gun here. who was the direct link in the chain of command between Petraeus and special police commandos. he worked with the Americans to rebuild the police force. But Muntadher was very disturbed by the abuse and torture he witnessed being committed by the police commandos. In the 40 or 50 times I saw them inside the detention centers. that’s James Steele. Maggie. the military newspaper. NARRATOR: General Muntadher al-Samari is a former general in the Iraqi army. NARRATOR: General Muntadher alleges that James Steele had access to all of these prisons and that he visited one in Baghdad with him.-backed torture program. MAGGIE O’KANE: Well. They were secret. Maggie.S. GEN." So there was clearly a close working relationship between Steele and Coffman. to stop it. That’s what he always used to wear: jeans and a leather jacket. He described himself in the Stars and Stripes. Colonel Coffman was appointed as the special adviser to the special—to the police commandos. torture—the ugliest sorts of torture I’ve ever seen. They came in separate cars every morning and left separately. but worked hand in hand. the things that went on there—drilling. He tried. on the right-hand side. and we understand that because Donald Rumsfeld actually writes to George Bush in September 2004 and tells him about sending James Steele to Iraq. murder. MUNTADHER AL-SAMARI: [translated] Yes. AMY GOODMAN: What most surprised you by this investigation. never declared.AMY GOODMAN: A central figure in your investigation is a former Iraqi general who spoke out for the first time in your film about Army Colonel Jim Steele and the U. AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of the documentary Searching for Steele. played in running the special police commandos. He has never spoken before about the part the U. So. MUNTADHER AL-SAMARI: [translated] The Ministry of Interior had 14 to 15 prisons. talk more about the significance of what he said and also Steele’s relationship with Petraeus. when he was interviewed. But we understand that Steele was sent to Iraq by Donald Rumsfeld. After the invasion. as General Petraeus’s eyes and ears on the ground in Iraq. "Steele and Coffman were never apart. reporting directly to General Petraeus. multimedia investigations editor at The Guardian. from our interviews with people who worked within the special police commandos who observed Steele and Coffman. I never saw them separated. the main link between Colonel Steele and General Petraeus was Colonel James Coffman. in terms of the relationship with Petraeus. But the American top brass and the Iraqi leadership knew all about these prisons.

Maggie O’Kane. as he remains behind bars facing decades in prison. that I have learned from this is that we’re very— we’re very easy with words like "human intelligence.MAGGIE O’KANE: I think the most surprising thing was the scale and the organization of the—of the torture. But I do want to go back to the point which I made before. this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general. It means men being turned on spits. this is what war means. And that’s called "counterinsurgency. that there were these platforms. that we never. And I’ll tell you something else that’s very. had access to the information contained within the CIDNE-I and CIDNE-A tables. the basic information. AMY GOODMAN: Bradley Manning says he released these documents to open up a debate. as well as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan. you were talking about the information that was released." "counterinsurgency. There hasn’t been the response we expected in America. Really. And also that there was one man whose history goes back through so many of America’s wars. has been very key. that it was sort of so well organized. never really seem to reach the—to report it in a way that people could really understand what was happening there.S. And the other thing that surprised me about it is that somehow in the kind of fog of war. as journalists. Let’s go to just an excerpt of a leaked audio recording of Bradley Manning. and I’m shocked. BRADLEY MANNING: I believed that if the general public. And I think one of the things. that there were hundreds of people being lifted all of the time. It was called "The Way of the Commandos." There were reports that torture was going on. This is from his hearing last month. but somehow it never penetrated." and that we don’t really understand that this is about systematic and brutal torture that has repercussions among the civilian population. I want to ask about the chilling effect his case has had among soldiers who may otherwise speak out against abuses. though you’re getting it everywhere else all over the world. if you want to go to war. Listen very carefully. AMY GOODMAN: And as we wrap up. very chilling. It means 14-year-old boys being hung up and tortured. or it was never sort of acknowledged that that’s the way the war was being conducted. Many of them knew what was . this would not be coming out. MAGGIE O’KANE: Yes. that we want to forget it. brutal time. in a way. that I hope this film will be a legacy that actually says." So I just feel it’s important that this information comes out. This information. the great things. having so much difficulty getting into the United States corporate media. the U. indeed. And I think it’s indicative of a very dysfunctional. I wanted to turn to Bradley Manning. We spent maybe six months trying to track down young American soldiers who served in Samarra. on which you built your report. especially the American public. Army private who has admitted to leaking hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. There were reports. first time we hear him speaking in his own words in custody. if it hadn’t been for Bradley Manning. Very interesting.

MAGGIE O’KANE: He spoke out because. I want to thank you so much for the documentary and your time. in Park Hall Auditorium. who was 21 when he was there. And on Sunday. in Detroit. he said. at 8 p. Maggie O’Kane. we found one guy. . James Steele: America’s Mystery Man in Iraq . a BBC Arabic/Guardian investigation. AMY GOODMAN: We have five on there." But many were too frightened because of what happened to Bradley Manning. "I’m a born-again—I’m born-again Christian. called Neil Smith. We’ll link to the complete film at democracynow. I’ll be speaking at Ithaca College in Ithaca. You can also go online to see our interactive timeline featuring highlights of Democracy Now!’s decade of coverage of the Iraq War. You can go to our website for details. executive producer of the new documentary. multimedia investigations editor at The Guardian. who spoke out. AMY GOODMAN: Well. New York. In the end.

the four of spades with a bounty of one million dollars on his head. He headed the advisory team that organized. Jim Steele’s actions during the battle were instrumental in defeating the enemy and saving the lives of both Iraqi commandos and U. despite intense fire. Jim serves as the chairman of the executive committee of the RC Group. Jim Steele led a small group of Iraqi police and U. From May 2003 until assuming the position of senior counselor to Ambassador Bremer for Iraqi security forces in November 2003. During one such operation. he was awarded the Special Forces Gold Medal by the Government of Iraq. advisors on an undercover operation into the city to recover the remains of the Blackwater contractors that had been ambushed and killed there. Jim Steele and his team successful overpowered the terrorists and rescued two hostages that had been kidnapped. In addition. prior to the Marine offensive in Fallujah. a consulting firm specializing in corporate and personal security with offices in Houston and The Woodlands. the members of the Governing Council. Because of an increasing threat throughout the country. Texas. He is the president of J&D International. Jim Steele continues to work periodically in Iraq with the U. he organized and supervised the training and equipping of over 300 members of the personal security details for members of the Governing Council and key ministries. He personally led the unit on a series of highly successful operations that netted former high-ranking members of the Saddam regime as well as numerous other criminal and terrorist elements. the Iraqi commandos with which Jim Steele was operating were a key force in protecting . Department of Defense to assist in building effective Iraqi security forces. a business development firm in Washington. trained and operated with this special unit. For his heroic actions. During the Iraqi elections in January 2005. D.C. Jim Steele also assumed responsibility for the security of Iraq’s most senior government officials. Jim Steele was the senior police advisor with the Iraqi police SWAT unit in Baghdad. having served over two years there. The success of this mission was repeatedly demonstrated by the superb performance of these protective security details under fire. In April 2004.S. he participated in the raid that resulted in the capture of Saddam’s former Minister of Interior. brutally beaten and tortured by their captors. soldiers. the Iraqi commando unit that he was advising came under attack by a large insurgent force in Mosul. In March 2004. Jim returned from Iraq in September 2005. determine exactly what had occurred and assess the enemy situation. In the execution of this mission. General Mohammed Zimam Abdul Al-Razzaq.S. In November 2004.Jim Steele Counselor to US Ambassador for Iraqi Security Forces Biography Jim Steele is an expert in the areas of security and counterterrorism.S.

Army Special Forces. In a recent article in The New York Times Magazine. Jim served in a series of leadership positions ranging from a recon platoon leader in Vietnam to the deputy commander of U. During his military career. Jim Steele was the primary military interface with the new government and responsible for establishing a new professional police force. He was instrumental in the rapid response and negotiations that resulted in the safe return of President Duarte’s daughter after she was kidnapped by FMLN guerillas. Jim Steele became President and CEO of Mosbacher Power Group. As a colonel. Army after 24 years of distinguished service. he also became President and CEO of TM Power Ventures. After being evacuated to Japan to recover. In early 1995. Jim Steele returned to Vietnam to command another recon unit in combat. U.S. the Deputy Secretary of Defense described Jim Steele as having “incredible bravery and also incredible expertise about police forces in third world countries.” He characterized his work with the Iraqi police as “heroic.the polling sites in Baghdad and pivotal in the overall success of the election process. Army South.S. he was described as “one of the United States military’s top experts on counterinsurgency. Upon his departure. Jim Steele served briefly as a vice president in Enron Power Corp. His regimental commander in Vietnam. He was consistently promoted ahead of his peers culminating in his selection for promotion to brigadier general. Jim Steele retired from the U. His efforts in Iraq received substantial press coverage and favorable mention in Congressional testimony. Jim Steele was credited with training and equipping what was acknowledged to be the best counter-terrorist force in the region. 1968. military police and civilian police advisors. During an attempted coup in 1990.S. In addition to administering one of the largest US military assistance programs in the world.. with operational control of U. In November. he was asked by Texas oilman and former U. the Salvadoran Government awarded Jim Steele the Gold Medal of El Salvador for his extraordinary service. Navy SEALs.” In December 2004. Robert Mosbacher. Secretary of Commerce. Jim’s small recon patrol came under fire from a large North Vietnamese force. Jim was shot twice attempting to aid a fallen comrade. His promotion was pending Senate confirmation at the time he left the Army to join the private sector. a joint venture between TECO Power Services and Mosbacher Power Group. an independent power company with operating power plants in North America and Europe. During “Operation Just Cause” in Panama.” Prior to April 2003.S. an international security company headquartered in Pinehurst. he commanded the U. During hearings by the Senate and House Armed Services Committees. During the Cold War. In 1998. Military Group in El Salvador during the height of the guerrilla war. he also commanded the Second Armored Cavalry Regiment stationed along the Czech and East-West German borders. rebels comprised of former members of Noriega’s military .S. Jim Steele was the president and CEO of TM Power Ventures. to join the Mosbacher family of companies and form a new independent power company. During the ensuing battle. General George Patton Jr. In May 1995. and later as a managing director in Enron Development Corp. He also served as chairman of the board of Commonwealth Chesapeake Company. the youngest officer of his branch to be selected at that time. which built the largest power plant on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.S. Secretary Rumsfeld presented Jim the Department of Defense Medal of Valor for his actions under fire and the Distinguished Public Service Medal for his extraordinary service in Iraq. Texas. He was also the chairman of the advisory board of RPM. described Jim Steele as the best small unit combat leader he had witnessed during two wars.

Special Operations Badge and Aviator Wings. He is a graduate of the Army and Naval War Colleges. Jim Steele earned the Combat Infantryman Badge. the Order of Vasco Nunez de Balboa. He is certified in law enforcement operations by the International Institute for Counterterrorism Studies and is a Charter Member of the International Society of Counterterrorists. For his exceptional efforts. Senior Parachutist Badge. He speaks Spanish. President Endara awarded him the nation’s highest award granted to a foreigner. and various other service and campaign medals.attempted to take him and his small team of advisors hostage. Jim Steele led the force that thwarted the coup and captured the rebels. http://premierespeakers. He is a martial arts expert with a Black Belt in the Korean art of Hopkido. conversational German and limited Arabic. the Defense Distinguished Service Medal. he is a commercial pilot with helicopter. Jim Steele earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from the University of Dayton and a Masters degree in International Affairs from the University of Florida. and the Defense Language Institute. Ranger Tab. three Bronze Stars. four Legions of Merit. After an all-night standoff. multi-engine and jet aircraft . Jim’s military decorations include the Silver Star. as well as the Salvadoran Parachutist Badge. the Purple Heart. In addition.

Iraq.General Abul Waleed. Head of Command for the Wolf Brigade. Gilles Peress/Magnum. and Col. James Steele. Samarra. . for The New York Times.

" The army that did all . 2005 by The Nation From Iran-Contra To Iraq by David Corn The George W. Elliott Abrams--who pleaded guilty to misleading Congress regarding the Reagan administration's secret support of the contra rebels fighting the Sandinista government of Nicaragua--was hired as a staffmember of George W. the first director of national intelligence. Bush presidency has been one long rehab session for the Iran-contra scoundrels of the Reagan-Bush administration. who supervised Oliver North during the Iran-contra days. Otto Reich--who mounted an arguably illegal pro-contra propaganda effort when he was a Reagan official--was appointed by Bush to be in charge of Latin American policy at the State Department. then ambassador to Iraq. mostly civilians. most recently.000 people. and who was convicted of several Irancontra crimes before the convictions were overturned on a legal technicality--was retained by the Pentagon to search for terrorists using computerized Big Brother technology. May 7. Bush's National Security Council and placed in charge of democracy promotion. and. Many infamous veterans of the foreign policy connivance of the Reagan days have found a home in Bush II. Retired Admiral John Poindexter--who was Reagan's national security adviser. James Steele was recently featured in a New York Times Magazine story as a top adviser to Iraq's "most fearsome counterinsurgency force." And. and "[m]ost of the killing and torturing was done by the army and right-wing death squads affiliated with it. John Negroponte--who as ambassador to Honduras in the early 1980s was the on-the-ground overseer of pro-contra operations there--was recruited by Bush to be UN ambassador. by Peter Maass. The article. noted that Steele "honed his tactics leading a Special Forces mission in El Salvador during that country's brutal civil war in the 1980s. Now comes the news that another Iran-contra alum--a fellow who failed a polygraph test during the Iran-contra investigation--is playing a critical role in Bush's war in terrorism. as Maass reminded his readers." an outfit called the Special Police Commandos that numbers about 5000 troops.Published on Saturday. that civil war resulted in the deaths of 70.

As Walsh wrote. (A 1993 UN truth commission." But he neglected to mention that Steele ran afoul of the Iran-contra investigators for not being honest about his role in the covert and illegal contra-support operation." Walsh's description suggested that Steele tried to lie his way past investigators as part of a larger coverup. (George H. used to ferry weapons to the contras. At the time of the scandal. Steele had made sure that the North network's planes.000 atrocities that occurred during the twelve-year civil war in El Salvador. which examined 22. Furthermore. Edwin G.W. the Pentagon sent to the Senate a list of 50 Army colonels who were up for promotion to brigadier general. Usually such promotions fly though the Senate with no debate. Steele escaped indictment and his flunking of the polygraph exam was not revealed until Walsh's book came out in 1997. a Democrat from Iowa. Steele admitted not only his participation in the [clandestine] arms deliveries [to the contras] but also his early discussions of these activities with Donald Gregg [the national security adviser to Vice President George Bush] and the U. For one. as independent counsel Lawrence Walsh later pointed out in his book. Corr. ambassador to El Salvador." Steele's name had also turned up in the private notebooks in which North kept track of his various Iran-contra operations. But. Steele had not told the truth. "Confronted with the results of the lie-detector test and North's notebook. After the Iran-contra story broke in 1986. Steele maintained that he had limited his actions to providing humanitarian assistance to the contras--an act that would not have violated the prohibition passed by Congress on supplying the contras with weapons. . The Army claimed that it had found that Steele had committed nothing wrong. as Walsh later determined. who had good reason to seek information from him.that killing in El Salvador was supported by the United States and US military officials such as Steele.) And according to the accounts of others. Colonel Robert Earl. The secret contra-supply network managed by Oliver North had flown weapons and supplies to the contras out of Illopongo Air Base in El Salvador. Bush's own diaries--which he withheld for several years and did not release until after he had lost his 1992 bid for reelection as president--prove that despite his claim of ignorance he knew about the Iran-contra affair before it became public. But he did have to pay for his participation in the North's contra scheme. In 1988. who was head of the US military assistance group in El Salvador for two years in the mid-1980s. a North deputy who assisted the contra supply effort and participated in the destruction of records after the Iran-contra scandal exploded.) Maass reported that the Special Forces advisers in El Salvador led by Steele "trained front-line battalions that were accused of significant human rights abuses. "There is no way any of these people is going to get a promotion" without a congressional inquiry. Congressional investigators discovered evidence indicating that aviation fuel given to El Salvador under a US military aid program that Steele supervised was illegally sold to the North network. law-skirting contra-support network implicated Vice President Bush. for. who was running for president and claiming he had been out of the loop on the Iran-contra affair. But aides working for Senator Tom Harkin. Steele claimed that he had observed the North network in action but that he had never assisted it. a significant question was how much Donald Gregg knew about the operation in El Salvador. he did not tell the truth and kept his mouth shut as long as he could.S. attributed 85 percent of the abuses to the US-backed El Salvador military and its deathsquad allies. Firewall.) Steele had played the good soldier--that is. When questioned by the Iran-contra independent counsel. for Gregg's connection to the secret. Why did Steele need this device if he had nothing to do with the operation? And for a time Steele passed this device to Felix Rodriguez. a lie-detector examination indicated Steel "was not being truthful. one of North's key operatives in El Salvador. An a list of proposed promotions to full colonel submitted at the same time included Lt. could come and go from Illopongo. Harkin told The Washington Post. noticed Steele's and Earl's names on these lists. Steele was questioned by Iran-contra investigators. it had not looked hard enough. and Harkin blocked these two promotions. (The Reagan administration refused to respond to congressional inquiries about this oil deal. North had given Steele a special coding device that allowed encrypted communications to be sent securely over telephone lines. The evidence didn't support this assertion. Obviously.

Let's hope that if his actions this time around become of interest to government investigators he is truthful when they come knocking. He is once more advising a military unit with a questionable human rights record.But misleading congressional and independent investigators didn't fully derail Steele's career. Copyright © 2005 The Nation .

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