A Dittohead’s Iraq Diary

Joe Ryan May 13, 2004

Joe Ryan is a right-wing radio personality and former Green Beret who left home and family in Minnesota to work as an interrogator at Abu Ghraib prison for CACI, one of the mercenary companies implicated in the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal.Ryan often worked until late at night but still found time to keep an on-line diary for KSTP Radio. He asked the station to take it down on April 26. In his diary, Ryan muses about everything from flush toilets to fast food to satellite television while gun battles rage outside the prison walls. He even keeps us updated on his latest round of golf. Writing at the height of the siege of Fallujah, he grumbles about long hours but exults in his ability to consistently pry information out of prisoners and be of use to his employers. How does he do it? We are left to fill in the blanks.

-John Tarleton

Our LRS guys went on a road clearing mission again today. More than 8,000 rounds of ammunition were expended on their little excursion. Things outside are pretty hot in this area especially since the cease-fire in Fallujah. Since we are only 12 miles away, they are hitting this area since the main supply route passes right in front of our compound. It is somewhat surreal to see the fighting all around and we feel like we are on an island within it all. Every convoy that is coming in and out of here is receiving resistance.

Work has gone really well the last two weeks. Tonight was the first night that I did not actually get reportable information from a source. The nice thing is that means an early night.

I was tasked with a new detainee that we just received from Ar Ramadi, which is a sister city just west of Al Fallujah. This guy has a background in smuggling stuff into Iraq from Syria. It actually did not take long to get him talking, the problem was how much information he had.

I worked the guy from the Ar Ramadi area again tonight. I got home about 3 a.m. after writing reports and putting together the associations with the others in his group. It was great because my guy knows where the forged citizenship papers are made and by whom and the real names and origins of the other detainees captured with him. It is hard for the other guys to lie when I already know all about their backgrounds, but they sure are trying.

Pay attention over the next few days. There will be some changes over here and we may be showing our “big stick.”

Today we had to make a run to BIAP/Camp Victory. The road looked like a scene from a Mad Max movie. There were six fuel tanker trucks along the road that were burned out hulls. While down at BIAP, we stocked up on supplies for everyone here since we are not planning on making another trip down there for at least a month. To look after the guys here, I decided to buy Whoppers at the Burger King for everyone. I came back with 40 Whoppers with cheese. No CACI people ate at the chow hall tonight. It felt good to do that for the guys.

On the trek back through the mud from work tonight (it rained just enough to make the dust into molasses), we watched eight 5-ton trucks roll in with detainees loaded in them. By the look of the vehicles, I think they were from the Marines in Al Fallujah. This will mean that we will probably be pulling long shifts for a while now.

Nine mortars today … while I was in the shower. Five of the mortars landed in Ganci, one of the two detainee camps. Initial reports were 21 dead, 31 critically injured and another 60 plus injured. No Americans were injured or killed. All casualties were detainees. It is disturbing that Al Jazeera had the article typed and on their web site less than thirty minutes after the attack. I am tired of a “news” service being on location every time Americans are attacked. Nobody can tell me that Al Jazeera is not intertwined with these insurgent groups.

Work is fast and furious, but we are more productive right now than we have been since I have been here. Some intelligence things are really coming together and could shift a few things to our advantage, at least west and north of Baghdad. The Al Fallujah situation is being guided by results from the intelligence gleaned from here as well as at their division cage.Christine Chaney is another of our three CACI females here. She was in Afghanistan last year with the 202 and is a fluent Farsi and Pashto linguist in addition to being an experienced interrogator. It is impressive because the three women we have here are all former army and hard chargers. They are more professional and tougher than most of the female soldiers here.

I sure miss normal food. I look forward to going home and cooking whatever I feel like and hitting the grocery store and seeing the stocked shelves and wonderful fresh steaks! When I go home in May for 10 days, I will probably not sleep between spending time with family, eating, showering in a real shower, and using a toilet that actually flushes and does not have flies everywhere.

We can call our being here anything we want, but “liberce” is only a political name. We are an “occupying force in the eyes of the Iraqi people and you cannot tell them otherwise because they are not conditioned to play to spin like Americans are.

Work is continuing to be brutally time consuming. I got home at 6 am on the 24th and went right back to work at 1 pm I made it home tonight at a nice early 1am and have an entire 12 hours off. We have the Iraqi Governing Council showing up here tomorrow because someone told them that we have Syrian detainees here that were caught in Iraq. They are coming up here with news cameras and stuff, but will not get a chance to talk to them because we will be interrogating them while they are here. We are pushing hard to get everything we can out of these guys because the situation in Al Fallujah is going to boil over shortly.

It is becoming more obvious to the troops here as well as the Iraqi people that a lot of the problems here are directly caused by foreigners. This is not deterring the Coalition Forces and is slowly turning the populace against these foreign fighters.

Today was a short day. There were six of us that had to come in early and conduct long interrogations to ensure that certain detainees were only able to be seen, but not talked to. The Iraqi Governing Council came and looked through our mirrors into the booths to see some of the foreign fighters we have detained. They wanted to talk to them and film to show the international media, but we refused, due to not being able to interrupt interrogations. They were much more patient than we thought they would be so they tried to wait us out. Five and a half hours in the booth was a long time, but we finally outlasted them.

I got to take the rest of the day off after our long booth time. This gave us a nice evening after dinner to head to the roof and play a round of golf. Scott Norman, Jeff Mouton, Steve Hattabaugh, Steve Stefanowicz, and I all took turns trying to hit balls over the back wall and onto the highway. Since the club is a left handed 3 iron, I had an unfair advantage and missed a dump truck by only about ten feet. Not bad since the highway is about 220 yards. We do what we can to make it fun here.

It was hot today! We flirted with triple digit heat for the first time this year and without a breeze, you can sure feel it! I was at work until 3:30 in the morning because we got a hold of some intelligence to directly support the Marines out in Al Fallujah. This is the stuff I have been spearheading with three other tiger teams working on it with me. (A tiger team consists of an interrogator and an intelligence analyst.) The Marines wanted to hit one of the houses I had reported on, but wanted more information. I went back in on the guy who gave me the initial information and he pinpointed the spot for me on a map. I am hoping to go into work and find out that they caught the target. Results like that make us feel great.

To see the original cached version of Joe Ryan’s Iraq’s diary, go to

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