Last month marked the fifth anniversary of the US military shelling of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad. The attack killed two journalists: Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk and Jose Couso, a cameraman for the Spanish television network Telecinco. The Pentagon has called the killings accidental, but in this broadcast exclusive Army Sgt. Adrienne Kinne (Ret.) reveals she saw secret US military documents that listed the hotel as a possible target. Kinne also discloses that she was personally ordered to eavesdrop on Americans working for news organizations and NGOs in Iraq. [includes rush transcript]
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: There’s been much attention paid to the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. What went almost unnoticed was another anniversary. It happened a few weeks after the invasion. It was April 8th, 2003, when the US military shelled the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, killing two journalists: Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk and Jose Couso, a cameraman for the Spanish television network Telecinco.
Just over a year ago, a Spanish judge indicted three US soldiers in the killings: Sergeant Shawn Gibson, Captain Philip Wolford and Lieutenant Colonel Philip DeCamp. The three men were charged with homicide and committing a crime against the international community.
The Bush administration has refused to hand over the soldiers for trial and has not charged them here in the United States. The Spanish Supreme Court recently affirmed Spain’s jurisdiction over the case.
The Pentagon has defended the attack on the Palestine Hotel, calling the killings accidental. The soldiers involved claim they were targeting insurgents who had fired rocket-propelled grenades.
But several holes have emerged in the US account. The Palestine Hotel was a well-known place for journalists covering the Iraq war. The US tanks were at too far a distance to be hit by rocket-propelled grenades from the hotel. Witnesses reported hearing almost no gunfire from the area around the hotel in the hours leading up to the US attack. And earlier that day, two other media outlets had also been hit by US strikes: the Abu Dhabi television network, and the satellite network Al Jazeera, killing correspondent Tareq Ayoub.
In a few moments, I’ll be joined by an Iraq war veteran who says she has new information that could point to a deliberate US attack on the Palestine Hotel.
But first, I want to turn to the documentary Hotel Palestine: Killing the Witness, produced by Jose Couso’s network, Telecinco. It was broadcast on Spanish television. It includes interviews with numerous journalists who were inside the Palestine Hotel and helped rush Jose Couso to the hospital. This clip begins with scenes taken inside the Palestine Hotel moments after the US attack. A warning to our television audience: some footage contains graphic images.
NARRATOR: The shell explodes before hitting the hotel facade and sprays the upper floors with shrapnel. The Reuters room suffers the dramatic consequences. Near the balcony, the cameraman Taras Protsyuk receives the full blast and collapses, mortally wounded. Paul Pasquale finds himself on the floor, covered with blood.
JON SISTIAGA: [translated] I couldn’t believe that it was the Americans until I reached Couso, who was conscious, who was awake, and he told me it was the tank.
ANTONIO BAQUERO: [translated] Suddenly we saw a damaged balcony. It was the fifteenth floor. I started to count. One, two, three, four, five...fifteen. They hit the Reuters room. The first I thought was, “Damn it, Couso is right below there.”
JON SISTIAGA: [translated] It was a tank, because Couso saw how they shot him. He was looking at the tank when he was hit. He was aware of who killed him.
ANTONIO BAQUERO: [translated] And then I saw the camera on the floor, destroyed, and the pool of blood. That moment is frozen in my mind. I remember I stopped saying, “My god, my god.”
NARRATOR: Several people help prepare Couso for transport to the hospital. They place him on a mattress and tie an emergency tourniquet. If they fail to stop the bleeding, he won’t make it to the hospital.
JON SISTIAGA: [translated] An Iraqi man who I didn’t know at all and who we should be grateful to the rest of our lives offered me his car, an old Soviet Lada, and we managed to put Couso inside with the help of Jorge Pliego, a Mexican cameraman who was extremely close to Couso.
JORGE PLIEGO: [translated] We pulled him into a car, and the whole time I was talking to Couso. I knew him pretty well. I knew his wife’s name was Lola and he had two children. On the way to the hospital, I spoke to him. “Couso, you have to put your strength into this. You have two children. Lola’s waiting for you. You have to fight hard.” I told him it had to be like in the movies. He couldn’t fall asleep or faint. He had to keep talking, so he could reach the hospital strong and determined. And he agreed. He said, “Fine, then,” just like in the movies. At one point he said, “My leg is a mess, isn’t it?” “No! When we get there, we’ll sew it up,” I said. I was especially struck by the fact that Couso complained.
JON SISTIAGA: [translated] Then he said, “Why did the tank fire at us? Where are you taking me? What’s happening? Are they filming me? Are they not filming me? Don’t let my family see it. Don’t let my children see me.”
AMY GOODMAN: Jose Couso died in the hospital. Scenes from the attack on the Palestine Hotel from the documentary Hotel Palestine: Killing the Witness. It was produced by Jose’s network, Telecinco in Spain.
I’m joined now by Adrienne Kinne. She’s a former Army sergeant who worked in military intelligence in Iraq. She served in the military for ten years, from 1994 to 2004. She joins us now from Burlington, Vermont.
We welcome you, Adrienne Kinne, to Democracy Now! Adrienne, can you hear me? We will go to a music break. Adrienne, can you hear me?
ADRIENNE KINNE: Yes, I can.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you very much for joining us.
ADRIENNE KINNE: Thank you for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: Adrienne, can you talk about your work in military intelligence in the lead-up to the invasion and after the invasion? Tell us what you were doing and where you were.
ADRIENNE KINNE: I was stationed at Fort Gordon, Georgia, and I was actually mobilized shortly after 9/11 with a group of reservists who were eventually sent to Fort Gordon to work a mission, that it was actually a brand new mission. It was something not like anything I had done in military intelligence previously. And this new mission involved the intercept of satellite phone communications in Iraq and Afghanistan and basically a huge swath of the region around those two countries. It was really brand new, and basically there were about twenty of us who were put in charge of this new mission, to stand it up.
In the very beginning, basically what we did was that we would have a front end, which intercepted satellite phone communications in that region, and then it would transmit the satellite phone conversations back to the United States, where it would just fill up this queue in our computer, and we would just go through. And all the numbers were unidentified. So, at the beginning, it was just a matter of sifting through thousands upon thousands of unidentified satellite phone communications, as we kind of tried to sort out what phone number belonged to who and kind of go through the process of identifying phone numbers in the search for intelligence that might be related to operations in Afghanistan and, later on, Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: And when were you listening to Iraq?
ADRIENNE KINNE: We started listening to the entire region pretty much immediately. I think this was December of 2001. And I was mobilized from October 2001 through August of 2003. So I was working that mission pretty much from December through August of 2003.
And over the course of my time, as we slowly began to identify phone numbers and who belonged to what, one thing that gave me grave concern was that as we identified phone numbers, we started to find more and more and more numbers that belonged not to any organizations affiliated with terrorism or with military — with militaries of Iraq or Afghanistan or elsewhere, but with humanitarian aid organizations, non-governmental organizations, who include the International Red Cross, Red Crescent, Doctors Without Borders, a whole host of humanitarian aid organizations. And it also included journalists.
AMY GOODMAN: Journalists where?
ADRIENNE KINNE: I remember bits and pieces of what we listened to while I was activated. I’d just like to say that at the time I took my clearance incredibly seriously. I had a very high clearance, military intelligence. And I never took notes. I never brought anything outside of our building. I never talked about my experiences with my friends or family. But there were certain things that happened over the course of our mobilization that struck me as being very wrong, and I remember them very specifically.
One of the instances was the fact that we were listening to journalists who were staying in the Palestine Hotel. And I remember that, specifically because during the buildup to Shock and Awe, which people in my unit were really disturbingly excited about, we were given a list of potential targets in Baghdad, and the Palestine Hotel was listed as a potential target. And I remember this specifically, because, putting one and one together, that there were journalists staying at the Palestine Hotel and this hotel was listed as a potential target, I went to my officer in charge, and I told him that there are journalists staying at this hotel who think they’re safe, and yet we have this hotel listed as a potential target, and somehow the dots are not being connected here, and shouldn’t we make an effort to make sure that the right people know the situation?
And unfortunately, my officer in charge, similarly to any time I raised concerns about things that we were collecting or intelligence that we were reporting, basically told me that it was not my job to analyze. It was my job to collect and pass on information and that someone somewhere higher up the chain knew what they were doing.
AMY GOODMAN: Who was the officer in charge? Who did you tell?
ADRIENNE KINNE: My officer in charge for the duration of my mobilization was Warrant Officer John Berry.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, when you saw this list that you say, a list of targets, and Hotel Palestine was on it, why would you see this? Where were you? How did you pick up this piece of paper?
ADRIENNE KINNE: It was actually an email. And I worked in a secure building, and we were given updates about what was going on. I actually am not sure why we were emailed this list of potential targets, and I’m not even sure in what context it was mailed — emailed to us. I would assume it was just an effort to let people know what was going on in the area, considering our mission. But the only reason now that I really remember that specific email is because I knew, having listened to journalists staying at the Palestine Hotel, talking with their families and loved ones and talking about whether or not they were safe and trying to reassure their family and co-workers and loved ones that they were safe, when I saw that hotel listed, I thought there was something that was going terribly wrong.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Adrienne Kinne, military intelligence, formerly a sergeant. We’re going to go to break, and we’ll come back to this conversation. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guest is a former Army sergeant, worked in military intelligence, served for ten years in the military, from ’94 to 2004. Her name is Adrienne Kinne, joining us from Vermont.
That list that you saw that you got in an email, what else? What were the other targets on the list? Do you remember?
ADRIENNE KINNE: I can’t remember. The only reason why I remember that hotel specifically is because I knew that there were people staying there who thought they were safe. And that’s really the only reason why I remember that specific target.
AMY GOODMAN: And when you say they thought they were safe, can you remember what the conversations you overheard that you were eavesdropping on?
ADRIENNE KINNE: Basically, a lot of them were just kind of, you know, workers there, journalists who were calling their friends, family, loved ones to include phone calls to the United States, and we could hear both sides of the conversation. And basically it would just be, you know, people calling their loved ones in basically the middle of the night and talking to them and just — I mean, people were so concerned, knowing that we were building up to Shock and Awe and that Baghdad was going to get really severely hammered by our military, that everybody worried about their safety. And the journalists staying at the hotel were no different.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, you’re an Arab interpreter, translator. Why were you listening to conversations in other languages?
ADRIENNE KINNE: Basically, when we were given this mission, it was unlike anything I’d ever done before. I had actually worked in the same building previously on active duty. And at that point in time, everything was very structured. People were given specific missions, specific targets in their language, and there was a lot of guidance as to how you were to proceed through collection of intelligence. And things were very closely monitored.
I remember in probably 1997 that I was listening to a military intelligence cut from a Middle Eastern country, and at that point in time, during the situation report, the person relayed the fact that an American was visiting the Middle East on a diplomatic mission. And because an American’s name was referenced in this particular transmission, we felt that it was a violation of our directive, which forbade the collection on American citizens. And as a result, we deleted every evidence that that intercept had ever taken place.
After 9/11, when we were mobilized and given this new mission, it was very — starting something from the bottom up, and it was really striking that in intercepting all these satellite phone communications, the majority of the traffic was not Arabic. It was languages beyond our translation capabilities. We would get Chinese, Japanese, Tagalog, Tadzhik, a lot of Dari, Persian, Pashto, some minimal Arabic, but really not that much. And so, we would just go through this process of going through and identifying who belonged to what. And as we began to identify different phone numbers which belong to these humanitarian aid organizations and journalists, we actually had the capability to block those phone numbers from being intercepted, but due to guidance given to our officer in charge, we did not do that.
AMY GOODMAN: You were listening to NGOs speaking to each other?
ADRIENNE KINNE: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: That isn’t legal. You’re not supposed to be eavesdropping on them.
ADRIENNE KINNE: Right. And actually, over the course of our mobilization, I actually listened to a conversation between an American and a British aid worker. And during the course of the conversation, the British aid worker told the American —
AMY GOODMAN: We just lost that satellite. We will try to get Adrienne on the telephone to continue this conversation right now. Adrienne Kinne, former Army sergeant who worked in military intelligence, served for ten years, from 1994 to 2004.
I want to turn back now to the documentary Hotel Palestine: Killing the Witness, that was produced by Jose Couso’s network, Telecinco. In addition to interviewing numerous journalists who were inside the Palestine Hotel, we also hear from two of the soldiers wanted in Spain: Staff Sergeant Shawn Gibson and Lieutenant Colonel Philip DeCamp.
NARRATOR: Gibson swings his cannon toward the hotel and requests Captain Wolford’s permission to fire, but he still hesitates.
SGT. SHAWN GIBSON: And I still hesitated. Do you hear me? I hesitated.
PASCALE BOURGAUX: I know.
SGT. SHAWN GIBSON: OK? And I took my time, and I called it up to ensure what I seen, and it was clarified with another set of eyes.
NARRATOR: The decision was not taken in the heat of battle. Ten minutes go by until Gibson receives the order to open fire.
SGT. SHAWN GIBSON: We did not know that they had reporters in the Palestine Hotel. If we would have known that, we would not have fired a round over there. I don’t even know if that information was given to the US Army. I do not know that. OK? If it was, it didn’t get down to my level.
CHRIS TOMLINSON: What Colonel Perkins and Colonel DeCamp have told me is that they did not have any information about the Palestine Hotel or the location of Western journalists prior to coming into Baghdad on April 7th.
NARRATOR: When Colin Powell visits Spain on May 2nd, he confirms what everyone had assumed. The military command was perfectly aware that the journalists were based at the Palestine Hotel.
COLIN POWELL: We knew about the hotel. We knew that it was a hotel where journalists were located, and others, and it is for that reason it was not attacked during any phase of the aerial campaign.
NARRATOR: The generals monitoring the fighting from their headquarters in Qatar soon watched the incident broadcast worldwide on television and called Baghdad demanding an explanation.
CHRIS TOMLINSON: That image got out on satellite television, and their senior commanders at the two- and three-star general level, messaged them and said, “What are you doing shooting the Palestine Hotel?”
NARRATOR: Tomlinson overhears radio communications discussing the incident. Lieutenant Colonel DeCamp is informed of the attack by his superiors and shouts over the radio.
LT. COL. PHILIP DeCAMP: Who just shot the Palestinian Hotel?
NARRATOR: Tomlinson hears how DeCamp, clearly upset, asks Wolford:
LT. COL. PHILIP DeCAMP: Did you just shoot the Palestinian Hotel?
CHRIS TOMLINSON: The way he asked the question was a little misleading. When he asked Captain Wolford, did you shoot the Palestine Hotel, he assumed knowledge that Captain Wolford didn’t have.
SGT. SHAWN GIBSON: I wish it would have never happened, but it has happened. And I pray to God and I ask God for His forgiveness, and my sincere apologies and grievances to their families. It was not done intentionally.
CHRIS TOMLINSON: There was the sense throughout the chain of command, from Perkins to DeCamp to Wolford, all the way down to Shawn Gibson, that they had done something very bad, that they — I can tell you that Captain Wolford was visibly upset when I saw him an hour — two hours later. He was very upset about it. Sergeant Gibson is very upset about it. Colonel DeCamp obviously was very angry, he was upset.
NARRATOR: Spanish journalists are not as understanding as Tomlinson about the military officer’s behavior. The three attacks on journalists on April 8th lead them to think that US forces did not want witnesses.
JON SISTIAGA: [translated] What’s my opinion? My opinion is that there was a deliberate intent to fire on the journalists’ hotel.
JOURNALIST: [translated] So, they had to know perfectly well where we were, and there was no mistake. There could be no mistake.
JON SISTIAGA: [translated] First, they get rid of the offices of Al Jazeera TV. Half an hour later, they shoot at the offices of Abu Dhabi TV. And half an hour after that, the same tank — why not? — shoots at the hotel where other international journalists are staying.
JOURNALIST: [translated] I don’t know to what extent the Americans knew that the final stages of the war would be so easy for them.
JON SISTIAGA: [translated] And what they did not want under any circumstances was almost 300 journalists, non-American and not under their control, that is, who would not exercise patriotic self-censorship, ready to cover whatever might happen.
AMY GOODMAN: That, an excerpt of the Telecinco documentary on the killing of the two journalists at the Palestine Hotel April 8th, 2003. Jose Couso worked for Telecinco.
Adrienne Kinne is joining us on the phone right now from Vermont. We lost the satellite signal. The former Army sergeant who worked in military intelligence, served ten years, from ’94 to 2004, was an Arab translator and says that she received an email, a list of targets. She had — what kind of security clearance did you have, Adrienne Kinne?
ADRIENNE KINNE: I actually had a top-secret FBI clearance.
AMY GOODMAN: And as we listen to this, the confusion on the ground supposedly, the soldiers who have now been indicted in a Spanish court say, the question was why they weren’t told from their higher-ups immediately what the Palestine Hotel was, who was in the Palestine hotel. And you contend that the list came — you saw this list before April 8th, 2003, before it was attacked.
ADRIENNE KINNE: Yeah. I can’t be a hundred percent positive as far as the timeline, but to the best of my memory, it was in the buildup and before Shock and Awe. So I believe that if it had been after the attack had already taken place, it would have been very much a moot point.
AMY GOODMAN: And you say you were listening to conversations of journalists in the Palestine Hotel before, saying — explicitly saying they felt they were safe, reassuring loved ones they were having conversations with. And this was on just satellite phone technology?
ADRIENNE KINNE: Yeah, that’s what our mission was post-9/11, was intercepting satellite phone communications, to include any email and faxes that were transmitted over satellite phone connections.
AMY GOODMAN: I also, Adrienne Kinne, wanted to go back to this point of eavesdropping on international aid organizations, on NGOs. Can you explicitly say what you heard and why you were listening to these conversations?
ADRIENNE KINNE: Definitely. During that one conversation between a British aid worker and the American aid worker that I was talking about previously, the British aid worker basically told the American, “Be careful what you say, because the Americans are listening to us.” And they weren’t talking about anything that would have warranted their concern. There was — it was just kind of mundane office goings-on. And so, the American actually responded and said, “They can’t listen to me. I’m an American citizen. I’m protected by USSID 18.” And USSID 18 is basically a directive which is given out to military intelligence which bars the collection on American citizens, to include allies of other countries who we’ve signed binding agreements with. And when I heard that transmission and that conversation, I — kind of it caused me to raise my eyebrow, because here we were, we were listening to Americans, and we were collecting on them.
And so, I brought that particular intercept to the attention of my officer in charge. And actually, rather than be concerned that we were actually spying on Americans and violating the law and the Constitution, he was actually outraged that an American would reference USSID 18 to a non-American, and as if this American was somehow betraying some classified information that Americans have a right not to be spied upon.
And it was shortly thereafter that we were given a verbal waiver that we could listen to Americans and other ally citizens of allied countries for whatever — from whatever organizations, humanitarian aid organizations, journalists, NGOs, because — and then we were given two reasons that we could listen to Americans and these ally citizens. One was that they were eyes on the ground, and they could stumble upon the location of weapons of mass destruction, and if they should pass the location on over the phone to co-workers or what have you, that we would have to be listening in order to find out where the weapons of mass destruction were located, and we could pass that location on to higher-ups. The other rationale that we were given in order to kind of justify spying on Americans was that the organization or the individual could lose their satellite phone, and a terrorist could pick it up and then start using it. And we would have to monitor all these phones in order to make sure that if that took place, we could be there to listen to the terrorists.
And, you know, when this was going on, I had absolutely no idea what was going on in the rest of the military intelligence, the rest of our government. Everything is so compartmentalized that you don’t really know necessarily what the person next to you is doing, let alone in a different room in a different building in a different location. And so, it really wasn’t until the New York Times piece came out about the NSA’s domestic wiretapping that I really began to think about what we were doing and my mission and that we were collecting on Americans. And we were doing so for the flimsiest of reasons.
After watching the documentary recently called No End in Sight, in that documentary, there were actually people on the ground in Iraq who would come across the location of weapons caches, and they would call our military and report their location, thinking that it might be a good idea to secure those weapons caches. And our military just did not have the capability to go out to all of these locations. So there were people on the ground who were trying to tell our military where these weapons were, and we couldn’t really necessarily do anything about it. So why that excuse was used to justify listening to these people in their satellite phone conversations, I just have a hard time understanding anymore.
AMY GOODMAN: Adrienne Kinne, who gave the verbal waiver that you were to listen in?
ADRIENNE KINNE: Pretty much everything that I was ever directed or told came from my warrant officer, John Berry, who was our officer in charge for the duration of our mobilization.
AMY GOODMAN: Did you know it was illegal?
ADRIENNE KINNE: I definitely knew that that was something that military intelligence was not supposed to do, and I had never done that in the previous — by then, I think I had been in the military for about six-and-a-half years, and I was in active duty for four. And that was something we took incredibly seriously.
But people took 9/11 and the fear of terrorism to such extremes. My warrant officer actually said in the buildup to Shock and Awe that this was basically final retribution for 9/11 and that we were going to bomb those barbarians back to Kingdom Come. And this is the kind of guidance that was coming from our highest, highest person in charge. And talk about the racism and dehumanization that is just rampant in our military, it affects everybody everywhere, not just on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan, but even working in an office building in the United States of America. And people took this fear and the fear of the unknown, and believing the administration when they said that Iraq was tied to 9/11, they basically used that to justify doing a lot of things that we should not have been doing.
AMY GOODMAN: Adrienne Kinne, what exactly — if you might go back and talk about what you heard of the NGOs talking to each other, explicitly, that you were listening to, which NGO were you listening to?
ADRIENNE KINNE: I really only remember bits and pieces, different names. I remember seeing — because we would have a queue, where all the — basically on our computer screen, where all of the conversations would pop up, and it would have the number, the time of the cut and the name of the organization, if we had identified who the phone number belonged to. A lot of our conversations were left unidentified, because we just did not have the people, manpower, needed to get through everything. And I think that that’s one of the reasons why it’s just so unfortunate that our government has set the net so wide that it will collect on organizations like Doctors Without Borders, the International Red Cross, Red Crescent. Those were the two that I remember most, but I know there were others.
And because we were listening to those conversations instead of blocking them from our system, which was possible, there were so many unidentified cuts that we never had time to get to. And I think that’s part of the problem with our government casting the net so wide and intercepting such a vast degree and amount of conversations, that there’s so much stuff that just slips through the cracks, and that if we could kind of get back to the basics of trying to collect on the terrorists instead of American citizens, we might actually have the opportunity to collect more intelligence that would be of actual value.
AMY GOODMAN: At what point did you start shifting your eavesdropping from Afghanistan to Iraq?
ADRIENNE KINNE: To the best of my knowledge, our — the satellite phone system picked up basically satellites that covered a huge swath of the region. And so, the way I remember it, basically, our mission was basically the entire area — Iraq, Afghanistan and all surrounding areas — for the entire duration of our mobilization. I do remember it shifting somewhat in focus from Afghanistan to Iraq, and this was definitely previous to our invasion and Shock and Awe. But as far as like an exact moment, I can’t remember that for sure.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about prewar intelligence, what information you were getting, what you were translating as an Arabic translator?
ADRIENNE KINNE: Previous to 9/11, when I was on active duty, everything seemed incredibly legitimate. We were collecting military targets in the Middle East relevant to our language. There was oversight. There were senior linguists, who would go through and quality control our translations. There were specific guidelines. There were — there was a lot of basic guidance and oversight as we worked through military intelligence.
And I don’t know if it was just the lack of having enough people, having enough guidance, if everything was just so chaotic in our military that all the rules basically went out the window after 9/11, but so much of that oversight and guidance — and we didn’t even have senior linguists in our mission who could go through and quality control our translations. It was basically, you know, a couple dozen reservists who were mobilized and basically put in charge of this new mission without really very much to any oversight throughout the duration of our mobilization.
AMY GOODMAN: You translated information for the Iraqi National Congress?
ADRIENNE KINNE: Yes. During the course of our mobilization — I think it might have been right after Shock and Awe — we received a fax. It was a multi-page fax, which, as we began to translate it, we realized that it basically laid out the location of all of the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And due to the nature of the contents of that fax, as soon as we realized what the fax contained, that translation was sent via a critic report directly to the White House. And then we went through and continued to translate the fax and kind of send updates as need be. A critic — basically, if you find something that meets a critic criteria, then you have fifteen minutes to relay the information to the White House. And that’s what we did.
And actually, when I first started translating this fax with my fellow Arabic linguists, for a moment I thought maybe — maybe the administration was right, maybe our military was right, maybe Iraq did have all these weapons and they did have the intent to use them, and maybe the invasion was justified. I was against the invasion of Iraq. I was actually against the invasion of Afghanistan, because I thought we were doing things for the wrong reasons. But when we started to translate that fax, I thought maybe I was wrong.
And then, it took me maybe like ten minutes, and then I started thinking about the source of the fax and realizing that just because something is transmitted on a piece of paper does not mean it’s true. And when I basically shared my concern to our officer in charge, again I was told that “your job is to collect, you are not an analyst,” that other people will analyze the information. “You just collect and pass on, collect and pass on.” And that was always the guidance we were given.
Shortly after I was demobilized, I was reading a news magazine, and I saw a little blurb where it is said that the — we newly discovered that the Iraqi National Congress was actually feeding us misinformation. And I immediately, when I read that, thought to that fax and that critic report and really wondered to what level that intercept had been used to further justify the invasion of Iraq. And doing research about the Iraqi National Congress since then, I found out that senior military advisers and analysts were actually trying to make the case since December of 2002, or previously, that the Iraqi National Congress was not reliable and was not a reliable source of information.
And so, why we would allow information like that to be passed on to justify this invasion? To the best of my knowledge, if you find out that a critic is false, then you cancel the critic. So by the time we ended our mobilization, my officer in charge said that our critic was one of the only critics that had never been canceled. And so, even in August of 2003, people were still passing that intelligence off as valid. And meanwhile, come to find out, people knew for a long time that the Iraqi National Congress was not a reliable source of information.
AMY GOODMAN: Adrienne Kinne, we have to break again, but we’re going to come back to you to finish up this conversation. Adrienne Kinne is a former Army sergeant, worked in military intelligence, served for ten years, from 1994 to 2004. When we come back, I want to ask why you have chosen to speak out. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, the War and Peace Report. We’ll be back with Adrienne Kinne in a moment.
Our guest for this hour is Adrienne Kinne, former Army sergeant who worked in military intelligence. She served for ten years, from 1994 to 2004. She is speaking to us from Vermont.
Adrienne Kinne, why did you decide to speak out? And welcome back to the satellite.
Hi. Thank you.
Why did you decide to speak out?
Oh, OK, sorry. Basically, when I left the military, I saw what was going on, but I kind of decided that I wanted to better serve my fellow soldiers in uniform by working at the VA, and so I put a lot of energy into finishing my degree and getting a job through the VA hospital.
And doing activist work for a long time, I thought that being an activist meant trying to advocate for change in Congress and our government, and so I was really very committed to trying to see change in our Congress, shifting the balance of power from the Republicans to the Democrats. That’s basically what I spent a lot of time doing in 2005 and 2006, building up to the election. When the Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, I really thought that something would change, and I was very hopeful that finally the wars would be ended. And it was about that time that I moved to Vermont, and the beginning of 2007, I had moved up to Vermont, I was kind of looking for something new, something changing in our government and our society. And then the escalation was announced, and Congress went along with it. And that’s when I realized that if you want something to change, you have to be a part of demanding that change.
And I ended up going to my first demonstration against the war in Washington, D.C., on January 27, 2007, and I joined Iraq Veterans Against the War that day. And it was a very life-changing moment for me. And I know I just became a part of something, a struggle, with fellow veterans who had all been affected by the war on terror, fellow veterans and soldiers.
And, you know, we come from such a diverse background, so many different life experiences. We have everything ranging from anarchists to Socialists, Libertarians, Republicans, conservatives, liberals, Democrats, Greens — everything from one spectrum to another. And yet, we’re all committed to achieving IVAW’s three points of unity, which are immediate withdrawal from Iraq, reparations for the Iraqi people and full veterans’ benefits.
And to see so many people coming together in an organization that is just continuing to grow through such amazing grassroots organizing, it’s just something that really makes you feel like you can be a part of something better and be a part of the change that you want to see. And so, I’m very thankful that I found Iraq Veterans Against the War and that they made a space for me to be a part of their organization, considering that I did not serve on the ground in Iraq, but I definitely, through my service, supported the war in Iraq, and I am as committed as every other member of IVAW to seeing that this occupation ends.
Are you concerned, Adrienne Kinne, about speaking out now, having a top security clearance, being in military intelligence to now?
Most definitely. When I first joined IVAW, I really wouldn’t tell anybody what I did in the military. I basically told them that I listened to phone conversations in Iraq, and that was about the extent of it.
It was last year, the summer of last year, I was attending the US Social Forum, and it was just being part of that atmosphere where there are so many organizations and people committed to trying to make a difference and speaking out against torture, speaking out against spying, that I realized that I kind of knew something, and I had experienced something that not everybody else had, and that by sharing my experiences, if I could in any way encourage people that they are doing the right thing in speaking out against what our government is doing today, that I needed to do it.
And I certainly have gone through many phases of being very concerned and worried about what the reaction of our government might be. But I feel very strongly that if our government had upheld the Constitution, instead of violating it, that I never would have been put in this situation, and that by breaking that oath to the American people and by violating the Constitution, our government has created this situation, and not me.
Finally, as we go back to the beginning of this broadcast, saying you saw the target list, that the Palestine Hotel was on it, hearing the documentary that we played that came from Telecinco, Hotel Palestine: Killing the Witness, your thoughts about the deaths on April 8, 2003, of the Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk and Jose Couso of Telecinco?
It’s just so frustrating, I think, in many ways, not knowing whether or not we could have prevented it; never knowing what really was going on on the ground, whether or not people were told that the Palestine Hotel was a potential target, and that’s why it was eventually attacked; not knowing whether or not — who made the decision where. I mean, I was a very low rung on the whole totem pole of the military intelligence, and I can speak to my experiences and what I saw and what I witnessed, but not knowing, I think, what is going on in the higher levels, and I think that’s part of the reason why I did decide to speak out, because I really hope very strongly that other people who know a lot more than what I know will choose to do the same thing for the right reasons. And if by speaking out you can encourage other people to kind of follow suit, I think that’s part of what’s all about, as well.
Adrienne Kinne, I want to thank you very much for being with us. Is this the first time that you have described the seeing of this target list and what you saw about the Hotel Palestine in a national broadcast?
Thank you. Adrienne Kinne, former Army sergeant, worked in military intelligence.