Schumer: Second Corrections Official With Checkered Record Put In Power Position At Iraqi Prisons
John Armstrong, Forced Out as Head of Connecticut Corrections for Questionable Record Involving Mistreatment of Inmates, Now Serves as Deputy Director of Operations for Iraqi PrisonsArmstrong Joins Lane McCotter as Another Prison
Official in Iraq with Troubling Record of Defending Inmate Abuse
Schumer Demands DOJ Investigation of Crimes by Civilian Contractors
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today revealed that a second prison official in Iraq has a troubling history of defending prisoner abuse and called on Attorney General John Ashcroft to immediately initiate an investigation of all crimes committed by civilian contractors in the Iraqi prison system.
Schumer discovered that John Armstrong, was forced from his post as the head of Connecticuts corrections department for defending abuses of prisoners but now serves in a highranking management position overseeing the Iraqi prison system. While running Connecticuts prison system, Armstrong made a practice of shipping even lowlevel offenders to a supermax facility in Virginia which was notorious for its use of excessive force ranging from unjustified use of stun guns shooting 50,000 volts through prisoners to locking inmates in fivepoint restraints for such lengthy periods that they were routinely forced to defecate on themselves.
Furthermore, Armstrong resigned under a cloud of credible allegations that he tolerated and personally engaged in the sexual harassment of female employees under his command.
Despite this checkered record, Armstrong was tapped to serve as the deputy director of operations for the Iraqi prison system. The new revelations about Armstrong come a week after Schumer reported that Ashcroft appointed another former prison official, Lane McCotter, who had a similarly disturbing history of defending inmate abuses, to be one of four individuals sent by the Department of Justice to redevelop Iraqs prison system. McCotter subsequently served at Abu Ghraib where, among his responsibilities, was designing training programs for guards.
One official with a history of prisoner abuse raises an eyebrow, but two means we have a problem. Why we would send officials with such disturbing records to handle such a sensitive mission is beyond me and it demands explanation, Schumer said.
In a letter to Ashcroft, Schumer called for the Department of Justice to immediately undertake a complete investigation of the role civilian contractors have played in crimes against Iraqi prisoners and prosecute those responsible to the full extent of the law.
If DOJ does not investigate and prosecute the civilians who may have committed crimes, no one will, Schumer wrote, adding, We have an obligation to ensure that all those responsible are brought to justice and we have duty to guarantee that a handful of privates do not take the fall if they were directed by others.
Schumer expressed concern that the Department of Defense is planning to investigate crimes by civilian contractors and pass its findings along to the Department of Justice.
The DOD investigators know how to go after military crimes, but civilian crimes to be prosecuted in civilian courts are a whole different ball of wax. We need professional prosecutors and criminal investigators on the job and we need them now, Schumer said. Schumer noted that Ashcroft has not responded to a series of questions Schumer sent him last week regarding the appointment of McCotter who was ousted from his job as the head of Utah's corrections systems when a schizophrenic inmate died after being strapped naked to a chair for 16 hours and McCotter defended the practice. McCotter also was an executive with a private prison company under investigation for abuses of inmates' civil rights and denying them access to medical care when Ashcroft selected him for the Iraq prison mission.
Were sending abusers of prisoners rights to Iraq and putting them in charge of prisons where we now learn abuses are occurring. We need to know why this is happening and what's being done about it, Schumer said.
Schumers letter to Ashcroft is attached.