SOLDIER CONVICTED IN THE DEATH OF AN IRAQI GENERAL SAYS THE INTERROGATION "TECHNIQUE" THAT LED TO THE DEATH WAS SANCTIONED -- "60 MINUTES" SUNDAY
Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer says putting a sleeping bag over the head of an Iraqi general who subsequently died was an interrogation technique one superior approved of and another condones. In his first interview Welshofer, explains what he did to the late Maj. Gen. Abid Hamed Mowhoush, and why, for a Scott Pelley report to be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, April 9 (7:00-8:00PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
Welshofer was convicted of negligent homicide in the general's death, caused by "asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression" according to an Army autopsy. Why Welshofer was so motivated to get valuable intelligence was clear in his mind, as the well-organized insurgency raging after the fall of Baghdad and before Saddam was captured was taking its toll. "The ambulance came in and it's got a guy, maybe you know him, maybe you don't, but he's yelling and screaming. He's missing a body part - blood all over the place," he tells Pelley. "And you just tell yourself, 'This has got to stop. You have to protect these guys,'" says Welshofer, who thought the general might know where Saddam was or where insurgents might strike next.
After officers at headquarters ordered interrogators to increase their efforts to glean information from detainees and then Gen. Ricardo Sanchez -- the highest ranking officer in the field -- gave permission to use certain stress positions, Welshofer wanted to try a new technique. "The idea is you are putting him in close confinement. You want to maximize the idea of him not being able to move." The sleeping bag technique was meant to take the questioning of the uncooperative general to the next level. Thus far, Welshofer had gotten no information using methods that included sleep deprivation and slapping; others who had beaten the general had been just as unsuccessful. To be sure using the sleeping bag was okay, he asked his commanding officer, Maj. Jessica Voss, who approved it, according to a statement made at Welshofer's trial. It reads, in part, "I assessed the use of [sleeping bag] technique as an appropriate method."
Welshofer says he used the sleeping bag technique for about 30 minutes, during which time the 56-year-old, overweight general is placed on his stomach and Welshofer is straddling him -- placing his hand over his mouth through the bag periodically. "And [the general] continues to talk underneath my hand. 'Wallah, Wallah, you know, I'm not who you think I am,'" Welshofer says the general was saying.
When Welshofer took the bag off, he was surprised at what he saw. "The general had a smile on his face, an honest-to-God grin on his face. So, I'm thinking he's messing with me," he tells Pelley. So Welshofer sprinkles water on the general's face and becomes even more surprised. "And I saw that the water pooled in his mouth and it was at that point that I realized there was a problem here. The general's dead," he says.
"No, I didn't think I killed him," Welshofer replies to Pelley's question about how he must have felt as the paramedics took the body away. "Would you do all this again?" asks Pelley. "I helped save soldiers' lives. I am 100 percent convinced of that. If I had done anything less than what I did, if one soldier more had died because I had done anything different, I find that even more reprehensible, even more unacceptable," he tells Pelley.
Welshofer was sentenced to two months confinement to his barracks.