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Violent past of US Army's torturer-in-chief

The US Army soldier featured in the torture pictures that shamed America has a track record of violence, it was claimed last night.

Charles Graner once worked as a guard at a US prison where inmates were humiliated – and is also said to have launched terrifying assaults on his first wife.

Graner, 35, now stands accused of grooming his 21-year-old soldier girlfriend Lynndie England to abuse Iraqi captives.

England was this weekend charged with assaulting detainees at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib jail and conspiring with Graner to mistreat prisoners. She is also charged with committing an indecent act and committing acts prejudicial to good order and discipline and likely to bring discredit upon the armed forces.

Mastermind

The investigation will determine whether she faces a court martial, but it is Graner, the grinning soldier who posed with England before a heap of naked Iraqi prisoners, who is believed to be the mastermind.

The Mail on Sunday can reveal how Graner learned his “psychopathic torture techniques” at Pennsylvania’s Greene state prison where guards employed a policy of “adjusting the attitudes” of inmates with beatings and sadomasochistic sex. Documents obtained by this newspaper show he was a junior guard at the jail in 1998 when a scandal erupted.

New prisoners were stripsearched and clubbed as they stood naked and handcuffed. A torture chamber was set up in a windowless cell block called “the pad”, covered with red cushioning to absorb blood and human tissue. Inmates who resisted were forced into homosexual acts. Guards would then use their blood to scrawl hate symbols from the Ku Klux Klan on the floor.
Accused of violence

Andrew Shubin, a lawyer who investigated the scandal, said the guards would strip newcomers and sodomise them with nightsticks. Two guards were fired and 22 others demoted, suspended or reprimanded.

Graner was never implicated in any of the incidents which resulted in disciplinary action. However, he was accused of separate instances of violence in two writs filed by inmates. He denied both claims and neither was ever pursued in court.

The Mail on Sunday can reveal further details of the Abu Ghraib regime. Witnesses claim Graner punched and kicked detainees and kept them naked for days at a time. Graner is a father of two but he was divorced in 1997 with his then wife Staci citing violence. She took out three restraining orders against him in Fayette County, Pennsylvania.

Staci’s mother, Carol Dean, claimed yesterday that Graner had threatened her daughter with weapons including a sawn-off shotgun-Staci claimed in documents lodged at court that Graner had installed a secret video camera in their house and then demeaned her by showing her the tapes.

Even after the couple split in May 1997, Mrs Dean said Graner returned every night and yanked Staci by the hair and banged her head against a wall when she refused to sleep with him. “Staci is terrified,” her mother said. “She thinks that if she ever tells the whole truth about the things he did to her, he will find her and kill her.”
Warning

Her words should be a warning to Lynndie England, the military clerk who has been having an affair with Graner. She is said to be four months pregnant with his baby.

Mrs Dean said: “I don’t blame this on Lynndie. I’m sure Charles has her under his spell.”

Friends of England’s in Fort Ashby, West Virginia, echoed her comment. Destiny Goin, 21, said: “She’s always been obedient, that’s why she was perfect for the military.”

Graner’s attorney, Guy Womack, claims he was following orders from the army and CIA interrogators.

Meanwhile, in a recent e-mail to a relative, Graner says he constantly replays videos of him grinning in front of the detainees. He said: “The smile I practised my whole life I get to see on TV now.”

Graner has his 15 minutes of fame. And, it seems, no regrets.

By SHARON CHURCHER, Mail on Sunday
Last updated at 11:05 09 May 2004