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Samuel Provance

Samuel Provance was a U.S. Army military intelligence sergeant who is most notable for going public, against the direct orders from his commanders, with what he knew about what happened at the Abu Ghraib Prison, where he worked from the fall of 2003 to the spring of 2004. Despite the consequences for his disobedience, he continued to defy those orders, and eventually presented his case to the United States Government. The main points of what has been described as his "whistleblowing" is the role of military intelligence, specifically military and civilian interrogators, in abusing detainees (that they directed the military police and were abusers themselves), the extent of knowledge of such abuse through the U.S. Army chain of command, and the subsequent cover-up of these practices when investigated.

Soldiers from Provance's unit, with first hand knowledge, had in fact tried to speak with the media weeks before he did, which corroborate his claims, but they chose to remain anonymous, "because of concern that their military careers would be ruined".

Background

Provance arrived at Abu Ghraib shortly after a fatal mortar attack claimed the lives of soldiers from his unit on September 20, 2003. Though an Intelligence Analyst for V Corps during the initial phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom, at Abu Ghraib he was a systems administrator on the so-called infamous night shift for the ICE (Interrogation and Control Element), later named the JIDC (Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center). He was also in charge of the communications security.

In January 2004, in the same month that saw the sudden unexplained death of his Command Sergeant Major, Stacy "Rock" Adams , Provance was interviewed by Army CID (Criminal Investigation Division) agents, as part of Major General Antonio Taguba’s investigation of Abu Ghraib. Months later, Taguba, who headed the investigation, listed Provance as a credible witness (the only Military Intelligence soldier listed—Torin Nelson was the only MI civilian listed), and his along with others’ names were leaked to the public in the first week of May, 2004(Taguba's Report was classified secret).

Months later he was interviewed by Major General George Fay, the lead investigator of a second investigation of Abu Ghraib. Provance says Fay was only interested in the military police in the photographs, not of the military intelligence soldiers (Fay's focus was supposed to be military intelligence). According to Provance, Fay was resistant to his testimony and then after hearing Provance's testimony, decided to bring charges against him for not coming forward any sooner.

After being interviewed by Fay, Provance was exclusively issued an order by his company and battalion commanders, not to speak with anyone about his experiences at Abu Ghraib. Understanding this as a cover-up, Provance spoke to the media, hoping more attention would be given in the direction of military intelligence. Provance's top secret security clearance was suspended, and he was administratively flagged (a career hold) for 16 months (unusual by military standards, which usually last no more than 3 months), until he was given an Article 15 (non-judicial punishment). This began with the May 18th, 2004 broadcast of ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. Provance said, "There's definitely a cover-up...people are either telling themselves or being told to be quiet." "It’s only a matter of time before the truth comes out," Provance told the Stars and Stripes newspaper days later. He went on to give select television and newspaper interviews worldwide, especially to German media

On May 26, 2004 former Vice President Al Gore referred to and quoted from Provance during a speech at New York University.

In June 2004, Jerry Fleishman wrote a profile of Provance for the LA Times. He wrote, "Provance speaks in a near-whisper, but he possesses a steely defiant streak". In addition, Provance is said to have studied at Holmes College of the Bible, but left after "challenging the existence of God", not wanting to become "a drone". Despite his circumstances, he still expresses the soldier life romantically and laments that this was now in jeopardy. The national German newspaper Tageszeitung also profiled Provance , giving him the title, "Der Verräter von Abu Ghraib". He ended that interview saying, "Am Ende siegt die Wahrheit. Immer."

On July 5, 2004 the German news program "Report Mainz" broadcast an interview with Provance, where he exposed the fact that children were detained, and in a few cases he was familiar with, abused at Abu Ghraib. In response, the Norweigan government joined the Red Cross and Amnesty International in protest.

Congressional Testimonies

In September 2004, Provance was sent to Washington D.C. to speak with Senate Armed Services Committee staff, in preparation for a Congressional hearing on the Fay-Jones investigation of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade. , Provance's flight was reportedly delayed at the last minute by the Pentagon, which consequently cut his time with staffers significantly. It has not been made public exactly what happened during these meetings.

In February 2006, Provance tesified before a Congressional investigating committee. Provance testified that at his Article 15 held in July 2005, he was threatened with 10 years in prison if he did not accept a demotion and waive his right to a jury trial. In fact, when the Fay-Jones Report was released, it showed more charges had been lodged against Provance (“interfering with an investigation” and “disobeying a lawful order”). For “disobeying a lawful order”, he was demoted to Specialist. Provance also testified about being informed that a 16 years old boy had been abused in order to make his father, Iraqi General Hamid Zabar, cooperate. Provance and another soldier had interrogated the boy not long after these events. Provance later learned that the son had been imprisoned without charge in a general population section of the prison (along with his brother), in which rapes and other abuses were common practice among detainees. Such treatment had been well known, he said. He also reported the sexual abuse of a 16-year-old girl by two interrogators, actually disrupted by the MPs on duty, as well as many other things before unknown or not as detailed. Congressman Shays, the chairman of the Oversight Committee, said to Provance, "I just want to say to you it takes a tremendous amount of courage with your rank to tell a General what they may not want to hear, and people like you will help move our country in the right direction. And so this full committee thanks you for what you have done."

In July 2006, Provance's original interview with "Report Mainz" was selected among few others in its 40 year broadcasting history for recognition. He gave an update for this television event

On July 6, 2006 the New York Times reported that the House Committee on Government Reform issued a subpoena to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld because he hadn't responded to a March 7 2006 request for information relating to and regarding Provance's case. 4 months later, Rumsfeld resigned citing Abu Ghraib as his darkest hour, and the subpoena and its inquiries still remain a mystery.

Post Army

Provance was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army on October 13, 2006 in Heidelberg, Germany. He has since become a symbol of defiance against corrupt authority. In November 2006, Provance appeared and spoke to a group of 350 peace activists in Maplewood, New Jersey. He recalled the son of an Iraqi General, "whose face haunts me to this day", as well as continuing to try and expose "the real villains committing even greater crimes". He made a call to "raise of fist of indignation" and that changing policy begins with changing the policy makers.

In February 2007, Provance is seen in an HBO documentary, Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, where he describes the prison as, "Apocalypse Now meets The Shining." The documentary premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. The documentary was nominated for 4 Emmys and is now available on DVD An extended interview with Provance is included in the special features section.

In March 2007, Provance published an article confronting Senator Graham (R-SC) for changing his stance on torture since he’s been in contact with him. He reiterated his general defense of the MPs charged in the scandal as well his condemnation of the chain of command he says was truly responsible.

In April 2007, Provance appeared throughout Tara McKelvey's book, "Monstering: Inside America's Policy of Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War", candidly discussing at great length many details about his experiences in Iraq. . According to the New York Times book review, "If the United States still has a chance of winning the battle for the hearts and minds of the Muslim world, then we have people like Provance to thank".

In August 2007, Provance published an article predicting the outcome of the Abu Ghraib trial of Lt. Colonel Steven Jordan (a mere reprimand), "Army Adds Farce To Abu Ghraib Shame" . He quotes Major General Taguba, the initial investigator, in reference to his own discovery of the cover-up, "I had been in the Army 32 years by then, and it was the first time that I thought I was in the Mafia."

On September 20, 2007 Provance was given the Sam Adams Professionals (a group of retired CIA officers) Integrity In Intelligence Award at the American University There he described that after having lost his friends and family, telling the truth wasn't worth it on a personal level. "But," he went on, "this is not about me...and besides, it's not over yet." He finished by saying, "we may not always be successful...but we can always be faithful."

On November 26, 2007 Provance was seen on the Democracy Now! television program in an interview with Amy Goodman. He mentioned an incident where an MP stopped MI soldiers from attempting to have sex with a sixteen year old Iraqi female prisoner--during an interrogation. He said this was, "brushed under the carpet and never heard from again...even later, they denied that anything had even happened at all". A few months later, on January 25, 2008 the entire interview was broadcast. He explained, "the way the military handles a lot of investigations, however big or small, is to play a little mind game with perception, where they tell the soldier that in their mind that’s what happened, but that’s just their perception of events, and so it’s not real, it’s only real in their mind". He laments that "even to this day...there’s been nobody else that has had their conscience bother them to come forward and say, look, this is what was really going on, and that it wasn’t just these MPs, and that these MPs were really doing what they were told".

In March 2008, in response to President Bush's veto of a Congressional ban on harsher interrogation techniques (such as "waterboarding"), the Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA) released a statement from Provance, "It works in the movies, but not real life...nothing useful came out of all the techniques employed at Abu Ghraib...torture affects the torturer as well." He gave an interview to the "Arab Voices Talk Show" for further discussion.

In May 2008, Provance wrote a critical article about the documentary, "Standard Operating Procedure", directed by Errol Morris. He says, "“SOP” does little more than humanize some of the “bad apples”...while gratuitously absolving the civilian interrogators actually responsible for fouling those apples."

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