It Happened Here First: Exporting America’s Most Notorious Prison Officials to Abu Ghraib

[ The New York Times asks:

Why did Attorney General John Ashcroft pick an executive of Management and Training [riddled with prisoner abuse and negligence accusations], Lane McCotter, to lead a mission to Iraq to restore its prisons only a month after the report was released in the spring of 2003, charging unconstitutional practices in the jail?…. It was Mr. McCotter, by his own account in, an industry online magazine, who selected Abu Ghraib to be the main American prison in Iraq and then directed its reconstruction after the major fighting ended.

But DemocracyNow!’s got the best coverage. –BL ]

June 2nd, 2004 | DemocracyNow!

One man ran a prison system in Utah where a 29-year-old schizophrenic died after he was stripped naked and strapped to a restraining chair for 16 hours.

Another man ran the system in Arizona where 14 women were raped, sodomized or assaulted by prison guards.

Another ran Connecticut’s prison system where at least two people died after being severely beaten.

All of the men who ran these prison systems were forced out by lawsuits or political controversy. But rather than being sent to prison themselves, these men were sent to Iraq by the US government to set up the prisons there. Actually, one prison – Abu Ghraib.

In the weeks since the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib grabbed national headlines here in the US and around the world, the Bush administration and the Pentagon have attempted to put forth a consistent story: that the abuses were the work of individual soldiers, acting on their own and that there was no systematic program of abuse at the prison.

But over the past few weeks, this version of events has been shot down by veteran correspondent Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker. Contrary to the Administration’s claims, Hersh revealed that the torture at Abu Ghraib was part of a Pentagon-approved Black Ops program authorized by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Today, on Democracy Now!, we are going to look extensively at the four-man team of correctional advisers dispatched by the US government to Iraq shortly after the occupation began. Their job was to get the notorious Abu Ghraib prison up and running for the US occupation forces.

For people or governments concerned with human rights, their resumes and records read like warning labels for who not to have running a prison–especially in a country where the US claims to be building democracy.

The four men are:

  • Lane McCotter: A former warden of the U.S. military prison at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, former cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Corrections Department and the former director for the Texas Department of Corrections. He now runs the private prison-company: Management and Training Corporation. – Read 36-page Justice Department report documenting inhumane conditions at Santa Fe County Adult Detention Center in New Mexico under McCotter: [ Download pdf ]
  • John Armstrong: the former director of the Connecticut Department of Corrections.
  • Terrry Stewart, former director of the Arizona Department of Corrections and
  • his top deputy Chuck Ryan.

To listen to or watch the show or read the full transcript, go to

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