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Former State official says Cheney's office shares blame for prison abuse

Associated Press
Published November 5, 2005

WASHINGTON - A former State Department official says Vice President Dick Cheney's office helped trigger abuse of Iraqi prisoners with word that filtered down to soldiers in the field that interrogations were not providing needed intelligence.

Lawrence Wilkerson, who was Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff during President Bush's first term, said Thursday, "It was clear to me there that there was a visible audit trail from the vice president's office through the secretary of defense down to the commanders in the field."

While the view of Cheney's office was put in carefully couched terms, to a soldier in the field it meant sometimes using ways that "were not in accordance with the spirit of the Geneva Conventions and the law of war," Wilkerson, a former colonel, said on NPR's Morning Edition.

"If you are a military man you know that you just don't do these sorts of things because once you give just the slightest bit of leeway there are those in the armed forces who will take advantage of that," Wilkerson said.

Asked if Powell was aware of Wilkerson's remarks, his spokeswoman, Peggy Cifrino, said, "Col. Wilkerson does not speak for or work for him."

A Cheney spokeswoman, Jennifer Mayfield, said: "The vice president's office has no response."

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported Friday that Cheney made an appeal to Republican senators this week to allow CIA exemptions to a proposed ban on the torture of terror suspects in U.S. custody.

Cheney reportedly told senators the United States doesn't engage in torture, but said an exemption was needed from legislation banning "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment in case the president decided such procedures were necessary to prevent a terrorist attack.

[Last modified November 5, 2005, 01:23:12]

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