Saturday, February 19, 2005

Archival Rescue 3 ~ Aus Interrogation

Hill lied about Iraq interrogations: expert
By Tom Allard
February 14, 2005 Sydney Morning Herald

The Defence Minister, Robert Hill, lied to Parliament when he said no Australians had interrogated Iraqi prisoners, an Australian biological weapons expert says.

Rod Barton, a former Defence Intelligence Organisation specialist, has also painted a picture of a servile Australian, US and British military hierarchy, prepared to suppress the truth to protect their political masters.

Mr Barton says he interrogated prisoners at Camp Cropper, near Baghdad airport, when contracted to work for the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) and told the Defence Department when he returned in March last year.

Yet two months later, Senator Hill told Parliament: "Defence has thoroughly reviewed the information and has confirmed the key facts in this issue. Australia did not interrogate prisoners."

That statement was made to correct earlier false remarks by Senator Hill to the Senate about when Australians became aware of the prisoner abuse scandal, exposed in a series of Herald reports.

But Mr Barton says Senator Hill followed a falsehood with more lies.

"I immediately phoned up the department and reported that I was annoyed," Mr Barton said.

He said the Defence Department responded by saying he had conducted "interviews", not interrogations.

"Someone was brought to me in an orange jumpsuit with a guard with a gun standing behind him," Mr Barton said. "I believe it was an interrogation. The Iraqis regarded it as an interrogation," he said.

Moreover, he says he has since learnt that other Australians were involved in interrogations in Iraq.

A spokesman for Senator Hill said last night: "He [Senator Hill] will look at the details of the story but there was nothing to suggest any error or omission in relation to matters that went before Parliament."

Also, Mr Barton complained to a senior defence official, who he named to the Herald, that he saw abuse in Iraq about one month before the Abu Ghraib scandal became public last April.

"No one asked me any more questions about prisoner abuse," he said.

Mr Barton worked as a weapons inspector in Iraq after the first Gulf War, and then for Hans Blix, the UN weapons inspector whose inconclusive findings on Iraq's alleged WMD programs were ignored by the US, Britain and Australia.

He later joined the ISG but resigned after his reports saying Iraq had no WMD were censored.

After he told the Defence Department why he had resigned, Mr Barton said: "I wasn't the most popular person when I got back ... they weren't very happy with me."

Mr Barton said he clashed with the ISG's head, Charles Duelfer, who wanted a report with "no conclusions in" when Mr Barton knew they had "found out a lot" about the missing weapons.

In particular, he was told to suppress his knowledge that claims that Iraq had mobile WMD labs and aluminium tubes used for uranium enrichment were false.


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