Sam joined the Army in 1998 and became an intelligence analyst. Assigned to Abu Ghraib in September 2003, he quickly learned of the systematic torture there, and was haunted by the words of a Holocaust survivor: “Thou shalt not be a victim; thou shat not be a perpetrator; above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”
Sam felt a duty to those suffering abuse and also to his fellow soldiers, trapped and degraded into implementing illegal policies on torture ordered by superior officers. When he went through Army channels to object, he was reduced in rank and branded a “traitor.”
Sam Provance stood firm, and tall…and alone, since the Army had successfully intimidated his fellow soldiers into obedient silence. He would not be a bystander—gag order or not.
What Sam did not know at the time is that torture had been approved by the president by memorandum of February 7, 2002, and that then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had ordered specific forms of torture, without demurral from the most senior military officers. Colin Powell, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, warned that excluding prisoners from Geneva protections “could undermine U.S. military culture which emphasizes maintaining the highest standards of conduct,” but there is no evidence he summoned the courage to make his case directly to the president.
It was an unprecedented failure of a senior military leadership ready to degrade U.S. Army intelligence into becoming, in effect, a Gestapo, adopting the very interrogation methods it used before and during WWII.
Writing about his experiences in the thirties in Germany, Sebastian Haffner observed: “What was completely absent was any act of courage or spirit by any of the participants.” Thanks to Sam Provance, this country has at least one example of courage—an Army Sergeant who did his best to prevent the intelligence branch of the U.S. Army from becoming a Gestapo. Thus, the annual award for Integrity in Intelligence is:
Presented to Sam Provance this 20th day of September 2007, at American University, Washington, D.C. by admirers of the Sam Adams tradition.
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