The roots of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal lie not in the criminal inclinations of a few Army reservists but in a decision, approved last year by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, to expand a highly secret operation, which had been focussed on the hunt for Al Qaeda, to the interrogation of prisoners in Iraq. Rumsfeld’s decision embittered the American intelligence community, damaged the effectiveness of élite combat units, and hurt America’s prospects in the war on terror.
According to interviews with several past and present American intelligence officials, the Pentagon’s operation, known inside the intelligence community by several code words, including Copper Green, encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq. A senior C.I.A. official, in confirming the details of this account last week, said that the operation stemmed from Rumsfeld’s long-standing desire to wrest control of America’s clandestine and paramilitary operations from the C.I.A.
... Cambone then made another crucial decision, the former intelligence official told me: not only would he bring the SAP’s rules into the prisons; he would bring some of the Army military-intelligence officers working inside the Iraqi prisons under the SAP’sauspices. “So here are fundamentally good soldiers— military-intelligence guys—being told that no rules apply,” the former official, who has extensive knowledge of the special-access programs, added. “And, as far as they’re concerned, this is a covert operation, and it’s to be kept within Defense Department channels.”
The military-police prison guards, the former official said, included “recycled hillbillies from Cumberland, Maryland.” He was referring to members of the 372nd Military Police Company. Seven members of the company are now facing charges for their role in the abuse at Abu Ghraib. “How are these guys from Cumberland going to know anything? The Army Reserve doesn’t know what it’s doing.”
... The only difficulty, the former official added, is that, “as soon as you enlarge the secret program beyond the oversight capability of experienced people, you lose control. We’ve never had a case where a special-access program went sour—and this goes back to the Cold War.”
Hersh's contacts are presumably among those who are embittered. Hersh points the finger directly at Rumsfeld, and indirectly at Bush. Hersh also connects Rumsfeld & Cambone to William "Islam is Satan" Boykin.
There are many puzzling aspects of this case that have not yet been reported. There's a lot of work to do for any journalists who still care for the truth.
PS. The New Yorker's web pages have a curious behavior. When one copies and pastes text, letters are missing. I've not seen this anywhere else -- I wonder if it's done to discourage blogging. Using OS X print preview one can copy and paste without losing any letters.