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July 22, 2005
Notes from the Pentagon

GIs criticize
Soldiers from Massachusetts and Hawaii who work at the U.S. military detention facility at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, gave visiting home-state senators a piece of their mind last week.

Sens. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, and Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat, met with several soldiers during a visit led by Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican.

Pentagon officials said soldiers criticized the harsh comments made recently by Senate Democrats.

Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, last month invoked widespread military outrage when he compared Guantanamo to the prison labor systems used by communist tyrant Josef Stalin, Cambodia's Pol Pot and Adolf Hitler.

"They got stiff reactions from those home-state soldiers," one official told us. "The troops down there expressed their disdain for that kind of commentary, especially comparisons to the gulag."

A spokesman for Mr. Kennedy had no comment. A spokeswoman for Mr. Akaka confirmed that the senator met with soldiers from Hawaii but did not recall receiving any complaints during the meeting.

Both senators made no mention of the incident in press statements after the visit. Mr. Kennedy, in his statement, said that he is "impressed with the courtesies and professionalism of the men and women in our armed forces."

Mr. Kennedy has been a leading advocate for closing the prison facility. Mr. Akaka in April voted for an amendment that would have cut funds for the prison.

Terms of engagement
We've obtained the confidential "rules of engagement" for an Army military police brigade in Iraq. It shows soldiers enjoy wide latitude in deciding when to defend themselves and buddies with deadly force.

The rules state, in part, "You may use force, up to and including deadly force against hostile actors in self-defense; in defense of your unit, or other U.S. forces; [and] to prevent the theft, damage or destruction of firearms, ammunition, explosives or property designated by your commander as vital to national security. Protect other property with less than deadly force."

The rules also give military police the flexibility of using lethal force in subduing detainees.

"If U.S. or coalition forces or innocent civilians are being attacked or reasonably perceived to be in danger you are authorized to respond with deadly force without first employing less forms of force," the rules state. "Any persons demonstrating hostile intent or committing a hostile act may be engaged using necessary and proportional force, up to and including deadly force."

The document urges MPs to first shout a verbal warning, using the word for "halt" that sounds like "cough" in Arabic; shove or block access; show your weapon; and, if that fails, "shoot to remove the threat of death/serious bodily injury or to protect designated property."

Finally, the rules say, do not fire warning shots. "Fire only aimed shots."

Prison break
We've obtained an after-action report written by an Army sergeant on a detainee disturbance at Abu Ghraib prison last year.

The report shows how effectively military police put down the riot using intimidation and a few nonlethal flash grenades.

The sergeant concludes his report with some good advice: He tells commanders that part of the problem stemmed from inmates not receiving hearings and trial. "A critical problem is the failure of the Iraqi justice system to speedily try individuals current[ly] detained at Abu Ghraib," the sergeant wrote.

U.S. officials said recently that Iraqi and foreign detainees now get yearly reviews. Some have been released based on these investigations into why they were arrested.

The disturbance erupted when inmates in Tier 3A began making noise, smashing light bulbs, banging bunks on the floor and pounding windows. The rowdiness quickly spread to other tiers. MPs identified the ringleaders and took steps to pull them from the prison population. Soldiers brought in security dogs as intimidation.

Once MPs tossed a few "flashbang" grenades and extracted 18 inmates and moved them to another section, the disturbance died down after less than two hours.

London's lessons
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Thomas McInerney, an author and terrorism analyst, says al Qaeda could execute a London-type train bombing "within 24" hours in the United States.

"But why attack here," Gen. McInerney said in an interview, "when you have leftists in America who have aided and abetted the enemy more than Tokyo Rose did in World War II? They don't need to set off bombs. If they set off bombs, they would silence the shrill of leftists in the United States."

Gen. McInerney says the July 7 London bombing was an attempt by Muslim militants to bring down Prime Minister Tony Blair and see him replaced by a left-wing Laborite who would pull troops out of Iraq.

Roberts rules
One of Supreme Court nominee John G. Roberts Jr.'s most important cases has missed press scrutiny so far.

Maybe it's because the winning side in the case, Elaine Donnelly, is not always popular with the liberal press establishment in Washington. Yet, it was Mrs. Donnelly who raised more than $600,000 in legal funds to win a case that was a big victory for freedom of the press.

Mrs. Donnelly, who runs the Center for Military Readiness, was sued for libel by Navy pilot Carrey Dunai Lohrenz.

Judge Roberts sat on the three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that unanimously ruled that Lt. Lohrenz was a public figure. As such, she did not reach the threshold needed to prove libel. The court dismissed her lawsuit.

Judge Roberts concurred in an opinion written by Judge Judith W. Rogers and joined by Judge Laurence Silberman.

Mrs. Donnelly had put out a report charging the Navy with giving Lt. Lohrenz special favors during fighter-pilot training. The Navy and Lt. Lohrenz denied the charge.

Judge Rogers wrote, "The information that Donnelly and CMR received reasonably led them not to investigate allegedly contradictory evidence. By the time Donnelly published The Donnelly Report, she had additional information from the Navy that appeared to confirm much of what [her source] had told her about Lt. Lohrenz."

  • Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough are Pentagon reporters. Gertz can be reached at 202/636-3274 or by e-mail at Scarborough can be reached at 202/636-3208 or by e-mail at

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