Saturday, May 15, 2004



Lawyers from the military's Judge Advocate General's Corps, or JAG, had been urging Pentagon officials to ensure protection for prisoners for two years before the abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison came to light, current and former JAG officers told ABCNEWS.

But, the JAG lawyers say, political appointees at the Pentagon ignored their warnings, setting the stage for the Abu Ghraib abuses, in which military police reservists photographed each other subjecting Iraqi prisoners to physical abuse and sexual humiliation.

As the military's uniformed lawyers, JAG officers are in charge of instructing military commanders on how to adhere to domestic and international rules regarding the treatment of detainees.

"If we — 'we' being the uniformed lawyers — had been listened to, and what we said put into practice, then these abuses would not have occurred," said Rear Admiral Don Guter (ret.), the Navy Judge Advocate General from 2000 to 2002.

Specifically, JAG officers say they have been marginalized by Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, and William Haynes II, the Pentagon's general counsel, whom President Bush has nominated for a judgeship on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.