Lynndie England: "They said, 'Good job. Keep it up'"

Excerpts from an interview with the infamous soldier from Abu Ghraib.

Published October 20, 2006 4:35PM (EDT)

Marie Claire has the first-ever interview with the infamous Lynndie England, the female soldier known for flashing a thumbs-up sign when pointing at naked prisoners in Abu Ghraib. It's a fascinating piece; though mostly an account of England's life and experiences, specifically her relationship with Spc. Charles Graner Jr., one of the other soldiers convicted for the prisoner abuse, it does provide some brief insight into what went on in the prison, and who -- besides the ordinary soldiers, who are the only ones to face any repercussions thus far -- may have been responsible for the abuse. The depths to which the interviewer can go are clearly limited by England's lawyer, Roy Hardy, but what does emerge is worth reading. Two key excerpts follow. (Via Eat the Press)

England and Hardy talked about Iraq. She spoke of Abu Ghraib, and how they would "smoke" the detainees -- the code word for forcing prisoners to exercise until the point of collapse -- as well as making them walking around wearing women's underwear on their heads and other unusual disciplinary measures.

"She told me their job was to keep them awake: Let them sleep a little bit and then wake them back up. I said, 'Are you allowed to do that?' And she said, 'Oh yeah, that's what we're told to do,'" says Hardy. "She told me the officers were involved; they knew what was going on. There were a lot of what she called 'OGAs.'"

Officially, OGA stands for "other government agency." But everyone in the army knows it means the CIA. It also means, don't ask questions.

Clearly, England has confided in her lawyer about things she saw or did that never came up in court, and Hardy wants to protect her from any new charges. So he has counseled her to say, "I heard," or "There were rumors," or "I was told," when she describes things.

"Some of them were nice," she says, referring to the detainees. "Some of them spoke English. Some of them hated Americans."

Is it true that an American contractor sexually assaulted an Iraqi boy in prison?

"I heard rumors he did things to boys in the cell," she says.

Were men hung in their cells with their arms tied behind their backs?

Hardy gives England a stern look. "Remember what I said," he tells her.

"I was told there were hangings of people in the doorways of cells," she says.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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