Friday, May 20, 2005

Harman Sentencing and Apology

Spc. Sabrina Harman arrives at the courthouse, in Fort Hood, Texas. Harman, 27, was found guilty late Monday on six of the seven charges she faced for her role in the mistreatment of Iraqi inmates at Abu Ghraib prison in 2003. (AP Photo/ Jerry Larson)

By T.A. BADGER Associated Press Writer

FORT HOOD, Texas May 17, 2005 — Army Spc. Sabrina Harman stood before the jury in the sentencing phase of her court-martial Tuesday and tearfully apologized for mistreating Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

"As a soldier I failed in my duties and in my mission," Harman said, her voice cracking. "Not only did I let down the people in Iraq, I let down every single soldier that serves today."

...Much of the defense testimony during sentencing focused on her behavior while at the Iraqi city of Hillah, where the 372nd Military Police Company was based for several months before moving to Abu Ghraib.

Two Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, whose testimony was read into the record, said Harman's gentle treatment was unique among the guards in the part of the prison reserved mostly for detainees believed to have intelligence value.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Defense case begins

Defense to Open Case in Abu Ghraib Trial
Published: May 16, 2005

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) -- The lawyer for Spc. Sabrina Harman expects to call a half-dozen witnesses to help explain her role in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal but doesn't plan to question the reputed ringleader of the abuse.

Frank Spinner is scheduled to open his defense of Harman, 27, on Monday and said over the weekend that he will wrap up his case in about a day. The prosecution rested its case Friday after putting 10 witnesses on the stand.

Spinner said some of the prosecution witnesses -- most notably, Pvt. Ivan Frederick II -- provided testimony that he would have sought from the reputed ringleader, Pvt. Charles Graner Jr.

Spinner said if he calls Graner as a witness, it will be to a brief appearance.

Harman, a former pizza shop manager from Lorton, Va., is the second soldier to be tried for mistreating detainees. Graner, the first, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Harman could face up to 6 1/2 years if convicted of conspiracy to maltreat detainees, five counts of maltreating detainees and dereliction of duty.

Six co-defendants, including Frederick, have made plea bargains.

Pfc. Lynndie England, the most recognizable Abu Ghraib defendant, also reached a plea deal but the judge threw it out in early May after Graner's testimony contradicted England's assertion that she knew her actions were wrong.

Last week's testimony from Frederick, a former staff sergeant serving eight years, contradicted several of the charges Harman faces.

He testified Friday that he, not Harman, handed electrical wires to a hooded Iraqi prisoner forced to stand on a small wooden box for an hour in 2003. Prosecutors say Harman was responsible for the incident, depicted in one of the most notorious photos that ignited the Abu Ghraib scandal.

In his opening statement Thursday, Spinner said the photos were taken as part of a joke in which the prisoner was a participant. But Capt. Chuck Neill, one of the prosecutors, said the prisoner was afraid he was going to be electrocuted if he fell off the box.

Frederick testified that he did not see Harman around when a group of prison guards forced detainees to masturbate and simulate other sexual acts. She is accused of photographing the scene.

Harman also posed for a photo with Graner behind a group of naked detainees stacked in a pyramid. In another photo, the 27-year-old reservist is shown with a prisoner on whose leg she is accused of writing ''rapeist.''

Spinner doesn't dispute that Harman took and appeared in several of the Abu Ghraib photos but contends the images don't tell the whole story of what went on inside the Baghdad-area prison.

He said Harman was a novice soldier who had no prison guard experience and who received virtually no training before going to work at the chaotic and overcrowded prison as part of the 372nd Military Police Company, based in Maryland.

Spinner also said Harman took photographs to record the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib because she was bothered by the wrongdoing she saw there.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

New York Times reports court martial begins

Court Martial Starts for Last Soldier Accused of Abuse at Abu Ghraib

Published: May 12, 2005
FORT HOOD, Tex., May 12 - The court martial for Spc. Sabrina Harman, who is accused of taking part in the abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq last year, began today, with military officials starting the process of picking a panel to hear her case.

Specialist Harman, 27, of Lorton, Va., formally entered a plea of not guilty to charges of conspiracy, dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, making a false statement and assault.

She is the last of seven military police soldiers to face charges in connection with the abuse scandal that erupted last year after photographs were made public showing detainees in Iraq being beaten and forced into sexually humiliating poses.

If she is found guilty of all charges, she could face up to six and a half years in prison.

Specialist Harman appears in some of the now well-known photographs from Abu Ghraib, smiling and displaying a thumbs up over the bodies of detainees who were allegedly beaten.

A former pizza store manager in Virginia, Specialist Harman is also accused of taking the photograph of one inmate dressed in a dark hood, standing on a box and holding wires in his outstretched hands. The prisoner was allegedly told that he would be electrocuted if he fell off the box.

The panel selection is expected to be completed by the end of the day, and the trial was expected to last about a week.

Specialist Harman's lawyer, Frank Spinner, has argued that military authorities at a higher level knew what was going on at the prison, and were making a scapegoat of his client.

During the selection of the panel, Mr. Spinner repeatedly raised concerns that the intense publicity surrounding the case had made it difficult to find unbiased panelists.

Specialist Harman, in dress uniform and with her short black hair pulled back, intensely watched the process, occasionally taking notes.

Four of the others accused in the scandal have pleaded guilty and struck deals that gave them from no time in prison to eight and a half years in prison.

A fifth, Pfc. Lynndie R. England, who was shown in photographs holding a leash around the neck of a prisoner, also made a plea agreement with military prosecutors. But last week her court martial was declared a mistrial when a military judge threw out her guilty plea after testimony by Pvt. Charles A. Graner Jr., the convicted ringleader of the scandal and father of Private England's baby.

Private England is now waiting for charges to be refiled against her.

Private Graner was found guilty in January, sentenced to 10 years in prison and discharged from the military.

Vikas Bajaj reported from Fort Hood, Tex., for this article, and Maria Newman reported from New York.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Main Charge Against Harman Dropped

U.S. Drops One Charge Against Abu Ghraib Defendant

Sat Feb 5, 3:45 PM ET
By Debbie Stevenson

FORT HOOD, Texas (Reuters) - The U.S. government dropped the main charge on Saturday against a female soldier who posed in front of a pyramid of naked Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison.

The charge against Sabrina Harman, over viewing and failing to prevent other soldiers from forcing detainees to masturbate, was dropped without discussion. The charge carried a maximum sentence of five years.

Harman now faces five counts of maltreatment, one count of conspiracy and one count of dereliction of duty.

When charges were filed in March, she faced a maximum 17-year sentence. The latest dropped charge reduced the possible maximum sentence to 6.5 years, said Capt. Patsy Takemura, Harman's military lawyer.

The government dropped four other charges against her in August.

Harman still faces four counts over taking or posing in photographs depicting detainees in sexually humiliating poses -- including the naked pyramid photo. She is also accused of attaching wires to a hooded detainee and telling him he would be electrocuted if he fell off the box on which he was standing.

Attorneys for Harman argued that charges related to the photographs of hooded detainees should be dismissed, because victims must be aware of abuse in order to be abused.

"There is no mental suffering by the mere act of photographing," Takemura said.

Harman is seen in one notorious photograph standing near Spec. Charles Graner -- who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in the scandal -- giving a "thumbs up" sign behind a pile of naked Iraqis.

In another photo from a separate incident, the Virginia native flashes a broad smile in front of a dead Iraqi.

Harman is the only one of the three women charged in the Abu Ghraib abuses who has not been linked romantically with Graner, who was sentenced last month.

Harman's lawyers have argued that there was a breakdown of leadership, and she and others became scapegoats for the failures of a system that reached the highest levels of the military bureaucracy and the Bush administration.

Frank Spinner, another defense attorney, has said that of the seven soldiers from the Army's 372 Military Police Company charged, his client had the least culpability in the abuse.

On Friday, the same court at Fort Hood sentenced another member of Harman's unit, Sgt. Javal Davis, 27, to six months behind bars. He stomped on the fingers and toes of the seven bound and hooded inmates in November 2003 before Graner stacked them into a pyramid and posed with Harman.

Of nine soldiers charged with abuse-related crimes at Abu Ghraib, six including Davis have admitted their guilt and one, Graner, has been convicted.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Gay Wedding and a Court Martial

20Immediately after exposing the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh spoke of the story he was reporting as not only the story of the prisoner abuse taking place in Iraq but the story of these abuses being prosecuted by the US Military as criminal acts perpetrated by individual military personnel and not as violations involving the chain-of-command and its administration by government departments, agencies, systems, policies and procedures. Hersh was reporting a story of two forms of abuse: the treatment of Prisoners of War in Iraq photographed at Abu Ghraib and the treatment of a handful of the lowest-ranking military personnel who were photographed at the scenes of the abuse of Abu Ghraib prisoners.

The army investigation report confirmed the involvement of high-ranking Military Intelligence officials and a systemic and chaotic environment of brutal methods of incarceration and interrogation. Investigations into practices at other Iraqi prisons and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba seemed to confirm Hersh's report of a complex problem encountered by the US Military, the Department of Defense and the Commander-in-Chief in the detention of political prisoners.

Duncan Hunter, Chairman of the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee, didn't let that get in the way of concluding at the Congressional Hearings that the "military started the investigations. The military first reported them to the public. The military took aggressive steps to identify any systemic problems that contributed to the abuse. The Department of Defense took immediate steps to correct problems as it uncovered them. And today, the Department is revising it's doctrine, training and policies in order to ensure the detainees are treated in a manner consistent with our values and obligations. That's the image of the military that must replace the faces of a few individuals photographed disgracing their uniforms, in violation of their orders, their training, our policies and our values."

Sabrina Harman will face court martial on March 8, 2005, International Women's Day. What is the relationship between those systemic problems, the doctrine, training and policies of the US Military and the photographic images of Sabrina Harman at Abu Ghraib?

Like countless other military personnel, Sabrina Harman joined the Army Reserves in order to finance her education, supplementing her income as an Assistant Manager at a fast-food pizza franchise. She wanted to pursue a career in Law Enforcement, following in her father's footsteps. Before the US Military "revised its doctrine, training and policies to ensure detainees are treated in a manner consistent with Anerican values and obligations," Sabrina Harman was shipped to Iraq and assigned to guard the prisoners being aggressively interrogated by MI for information on the Iraqi insurgency and international terrorism.

The issue of Gays in the Military was to the 1992 Presidential election campaign following the first US war with Iraq what Gay Marriage has been to the 2004 campaign during the second US war with Iraq. At the height of the 1992 campaign, the Washington Post ran a centrespread story about Dee Mosbacher,the daughter of prominent Republican Robert Mosbacher, George Bush's Secretary of Commerce and fellow-Texas oil owner and executive. An activist with the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, Dee Mosbacher exposed a dangerous GOP hypricosy, welcoming her and her lover Nanette Gartrell to the White House, embracing them with love in the family and community of Texas and Washingron circles, while publicly promoting legislation and policies that are cruelly discriminatory and placed the most vulnerable at increased risk, particularly young people and people living with AIDS at a time when the epidemic was as much a tsunami upon the shores of the gay community as it is now in Africa and among the world's poorest countries.

Undoubtedly, when "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was conceived as a good-mannered compromise, the prospect of an army reservist being court-martialed in a case of international infamy and overwhelming significance could not have been anticipated. Beyond imagination that letters from the front, sent home to her lesbian lover would be key evidence in the defense of Sabrina Harman.

This week, as the Inaugural proceedings were commencing under unprecedented security, as American military and Iraqi security forces, candidates and citizens suffered increased casualities in anticipation of the upcoming elections, the Sunday New York Times published the wedding announcement of Dee Mosbacher and her partner Dr. Nanette Gartrell. After their San Francisco vows were annulled and a Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage was introduced by Republicans, their 30 year relationship was officiated as a marriage in British Columbia, Canada.

This week, Seymour Hersh was once again prominent in the news as his New Yorker article on secret US military intelligence, including its covert activites in Iran hit the newsstands. Ironically, this same week Sabrina Harman, her lover and her lawyer each made their first public appearance on ABC's 20/20.

Quite a week for gay weddings and court martials. The right-wing may successfully oppose gay marriage and military service, but it certainly hasn't spared us being entangled in the complexities of both.

Email me! Comments, questions and suggestions are always appreciated.

Mosbacher & Gartrell NYT 1.16.05 Wedding Announcement

Mosbacher&Gartrell Diane Mosbacher and Dr. Nanette Kathryn Gartrell were married Thursday at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort, in Victoria, British Columbia. Sharon Russell, a marriage commissioner in the province of British Columbia, officiated.

Dr. Mosbacher (above, left) is 56 and is known as Dee. She is a documentary filmmaker and psychiatrist in San Francisco. Her film "Straight From the Heart," about religious parents coming to terms with the homosexuality of their children, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1995. Dr. Mosbacher's most recent film, "Radical Harmonies: The Story of the Women's Music Cultural Movement," was voted best documentary at the San Francisco International Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in 2002.

Dr. Mosbacher graduated from Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., received a doctorate in social psychology from Union Graduate School and received a medical degree from Baylor College of Medicine.

She is a daughter of Robert Mosbacher of Houston and the late Jane Mosbacher. Dr. Mosbacher's father is the chief executive of Mosbacher Energy Company, an independent oil company in Houston. He was the Secretary of Commerce under President George H. W. Bush from 1989-1992.

Dr. Gartrell, 55, is an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. She is also an author and editor, most recently an editor of "Everyday Mutinies: Funding Lesbian Activism" (Harrington Park Press, 2001). She is also conducting a 30-year study of lesbian mothers and their children. Dr. Gartrell graduated from Stanford and received her medical degree from the University of California Medical School. She is a daughter of Nan Gartrell of Santa Barbara, Calif., and the late Gregory Gartrell, who was an owner of County Lumber in Santa Barbara.

Dr. Mosbacher and Dr. Gartrell say they are the only couple they know who moved in together before they had even met. In July 1975, they became roommates with two other women in Washington. Dr. Mosbacher had already been living in the city, where she was working in construction. Dr. Gartrell had just moved there to do research in neurology at the National Institutes of Health.

They got to know each other over the summer and discovered that they "share the same commitment to social justice," Dr. Mosbacher said. "We also laugh a lot, like to eat but hate to cook, love new adventures and have the same forearm length. Whenever people ask us how we have successfully navigated 30 years, we tell them it's our forearm compatibility."

They first "fell in like," Dr. Gartrell said, but after two months found they had fallen in love. "Each of us had been disillusioned by lovers before, so we kept scrutinizing each other for signs of the familiar Jekyll/Hyde transformation," she added. Happily, that never happened, they both said.

Their initial decision to marry came rather suddenly on Feb. 13, 2004, when the couple heard that same-sex couples were being married at City Hall in San Francisco.

"We raced down to City Hall," Dr. Mosbacher said. "Nanette was in her tennis outfit and I was in sweats," she said. "We knew there would be lines. We got there in two hours. Forgot our rings, which we had gotten on our 20th anniversary. We improvised with some pinky rings we had on. We were so excited."

Dr. Gartrell added: "We drove around town, showing our marriage license to our friends. When the marriages were annulled last summer (their marriage in San Francisco, along with other same-sex marriages, was invalidated by the California State Supreme Court in August) we made a decision that we would get married somewhere, and chose Dee's birthday, so that we would always remember it."

Dr. Mosbacher noted: "The fact is we are together, regardless. And we plan to be together 'till death do us part' or however they say it."

20/20 Interview/Attorney: 'The Army set her up'

Seymour Hersh: Abu Ghraib New Yorker 5-2004