THE BLOG

Putting the Pedal to the Medal

05/25/2011 11:55 am ET
  • Jane Harman President & CEO, Wilson Center; Former U.S. Congresswoman

In my capacity as the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, I've been to the Guantanamo Bay prison three times to try to learn what was going on there. On the two most recent visits, a Major General named Geoff Miller was in charge. A no-nonsense, macho kind of guy, Miller seemed totally in control of what appeared to be a well-run program.

Then came the stunning revelations of abuse at Abu Ghraib and allegations of detainee mistreatment at Gitmo. By the time Miller appeared before the Intelligence Committee, presumably to shed light on these shocking reports, he was the Deputy Commander for Detainee Operations for the Multi-National Force in Iraq. Instead of responding directly to my questions, General Miller gave disquieting and evasive answers, which prompted me to send him a letter less than 24 hours after the hearing ended that questioned his candor and accuracy.

Although I knew General Miller was no longer in Iraq, I was astonished yesterday to read in the newspaper that he received the Distinguished Service Medal upon his retirement on Monday.

The Distinguished Service Medal is a military award of the United States Army presented to any person who has "distinguished himself or herself by exceptionally meritorious service to the Government in a duty of great responsibility."

While I agree that commanding detainee operations in Iraq and overseeing detainees at Gitmo constitutes a great responsibility, it isn't at all clear to me that General Miller's performance was anything close to "exceptionally meritorious." Indeed, this member of the House Intelligence Committee would rate the General's performance before Congress as "exceptionally poor," and his receipt of the Distinguished Service Medal as another dreadful indication that Congressional oversight is broken, and there is no accountability.