HAGERSTOWN, Md.-- A platoon leader's memorandum to an Army reservist charged with abusing Iraqi detainees praised him for "doing a fine job" and said prisoners often tried to incite the guards to aggression.
The message from Captain Christopher Brinson to Specialist Charles A. Graner Jr. also held Graner blameless for a prisoner's injuries but urged him to study the military's rules governing treatment of detainees.
The memo is dated Nov. 16, 2003, eight days after Graner was photographed in images showing some of the abuse alleged at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. In one, the former Pennsylvania prison guard stands grinning behind a pyramid of naked prisoners. In another, his fist is cocked as if to punch a hooded prisoner.
Brinson's memo bolsters defense claims that higher-ranking soldiers condoned rough treatment of detainees by Graner and six other members of the 372d Military Police Company charged in the scandal. Some defendants have claimed commanders and military intelligence personnel encouraged such treatment to soften up prisoners for interrogation.
The Associated Press obtained a copy of the memo last week from former Sergeant Kenneth A. Davis of the 372d Military Police Company. He returned to the United States in December 2003 for medical treatment and received an honorable discharge for disability in July.
Brinson, who in civilian life is deputy chief of staff to Republican Alabama Representative Mike Rogers, has neither been recommended for, nor received any discipline for his role at Abu Ghraib. He declined through an attorney, David Sheldon, to comment while the government continues its investigation into the alleged abuse.
Rogers, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, also declined to comment. His spokesman said it was an Army issue.
Graner's lawyer, Guy L. Womack, said Brinson was right to investigate the prisoner's injury and praise Graner's performance. Womack denied Graner hurt prisoners, except in self-defense.
"The praise was for helping soften up prisoners, and that would certainly include being aggressive and perhaps intimidating the prisoners to help control them psychologically," Womack said.
Graner has been identified by three witnesses at separate military hearings as a ringleader in the abuse. One of his former commanders, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry L. Phillabaum, wrote in a memo that Graner "led acts of abuse in clear violation of any standard of morality."
Brinson's memo begins with praise: "Corporal Graner, you are doing a fine job in Tier 1 of the BCF." Tier 1 was the part of the prison, known as the Baghdad Confinement Facility, that housed detainees believed to be of high value to interrogators, as well as those isolated because of aggressive behavior or mental illness.
Graner and three of the other accused reservists from the Cresaptown, Md.-based 372d have military pretrial hearings scheduled for Aug. 23-24 in Mannheim, Germany.