Head of Abu Ghraib Prison Speaks Out

Janis Karpinski, the former Army Reserve brigadier general who was in charge of Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, maintains she and other reservists have been unfairly scapegoated for the prisoner abuse scandal that shocked the world last year, and the the mistreatment of detainees may still be occurring.

"All the way up to the top of the Pentagon, they have a long-standing mindset about Reservists and National Guard soldiers, and we are considered disposable," Karpinski said in an exclusive interview with ABC News' "Nightline." "We go back to our lives as civilians once we're released from active duty."

It has been a year since photos became public depicting U.S. soldiers posing with Iraqi detainees in humiliating and abusive situations. The images shocked the world and shed light on the military investigation into conditions at the facility. The soldiers involved say they were following orders, while the Pentagon maintains they were a rogue group acting for their own amusement.

Only two members of the military brass have been disciplined so far, most prominently Karpinski, who was commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade and was in charge of military prisons in Iraq -- despite never having run a prison system. She was reprimanded, demoted to colonel and relieved of her duties, but the U.S. military did not bring criminal charges against her.

In the "Nightline" interview, Karpinski said the events at Abu Ghraib took place when she no longer was in direct control of the prison. She also said blaming her is "convenient" for the military, especially given what she sees as the Army's disdain for the Reservists.

"And I think it goes a long way toward explaining why we were not well received by Gen. [Ricardo] Sanchez or his entire staff," she said of the former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. "They didn't want to acknowledge that they needed a Reserve brigade, especially when commanded by a female general officer, to do this critical mission."

Karpinski said she is "not convinced" that the release of the photographs and subsequent revelations of abuse have put an end to abuse at Abu Ghraib.

"Maybe people who are orchestrating have gotten smarter and have gotten better," she told "Nightline's" Ted Koppel. "And certainly [they] have threatened any soldier coming anywhere near an interrogation with a camera, probably with any kind of military discipline that they can give them."

Images That Sparked Scandal

The soldiers involved snapped the photos of themselves at the end of 2003. In one image, Pfc. Lynndie England gives a thumbs-up sign as she points to the genitals of a naked Iraqi man who has his head covered by a bag. In another, soldiers pose grinning behind naked Iraqis piled one on top of each other. Yet another photo shows a smiling Spc. Sabrina Harman giving a thumbs-up sign with a bloody, dead Iraqi in a body bag in the background.

So far, six soldiers have been charged and either pleaded guilty or been convicted in the scandal. England pleaded guilty in a deal with prosecutors, but the military judge rejected her plea, so her case is still pending. Harman's court-martial began this week.

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