Hiding a bad guy named Triple X
How the military treated some inmates at Abu Ghraib like 'ghosts'
Some detainees, says Karpinski, "were in the wrong place at the wrong time." She explains: "MI [military intelligence] would do an initial interrogation, find out they were passing by, borrowing a cup of sugar, and they get policed up. They try to explain to somebody that they were only going there to borrow a cup of sugar, but nobody believed them."
No one is arguing that decisions on releasing detainees were easy. Army officers point to an embarrassing incident that took place in May 2003: An Iraqi man was released from Camp Bucca in southern Iraq after convincing an interrogator that he was a "tomato farmer," but he turned out to be Mohammed Jawad An Neifus, Saddam Hussein's most loyal tribal leader. Neifus was believed to be responsible for the deaths of thousands of Shiites, an Army officer says.
Triple X certainly fit the category of a potential threat. Sanchez, in his directive to the 800th MP Brigade--Fragmentary Order (FRAGO) No. 1099--identified the man by name, said he was a terrorist, and told the brigade not to put his name in any electronic roster of detainees. He instructed the brigade not to disclose his whereabouts to the Red Cross pending further notice, military sources say.
When the brigade objected, Sanchez's staff lawyers directed the MP s to implement the order, according to a 25-page report sent to the Senate Armed Services Committee by Capt. Lisa Weidenbush, operations officer for the 800th MP Brigade (box). She included only bare-bones information about the FRAGO in arguing that the brigade was not involved in a scheme to hide detainees. She declined comment when reached last week.
Beginning last November, the military sources say, Triple X was kept alone, under guard in his own room, at the High Value Detention facility near the Baghdad airport. When Red Cross inspectors visited the facility, the military sources recall, they had no reason to know Triple X was there, and they were not shown him. Even today, not much is known about the man--he is said to be Middle Eastern, short, slightly built, and in his 40s.
It is not clear why there was so much secrecy surrounding Triple X. One senior officer says there were "all these wild rumors" last fall that Triple X might know the location of Saddam, who had not yet been captured. In the end, however, only a handful of people knew why he was so valuable, Sanchez included, and they're not talking.