Global Policy Forum

General to Testify in New Abu Ghraib Trial


Judge Grants Request from Lawyers for Accused Soldier

Associated Press
April 18, 2006

A military judge Tuesday ordered an Army general who instituted tougher interrogation policies at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq to testify at the court martial of a dog handler in the prison scandal. The judge, Marine Lt. Col. Paul McConnell, agreed to allow attorneys to question Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller during the trial of Sgt. Santos A. Cardona, who is accused of using his dog to abuse inmates at Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

Miller would become the highest-ranking military officer to testify in the Abu Ghraib scandal. Early this year, Miller said he was refusing to answer questions, but he is prepared to testify now, Cardona's lawyer said. McConnell rejected a request from Cardona's lawyers to summon Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to testify.

Cardona's lawyers say that Miller, who was sent to Abu Ghraib by Rumsfeld shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, has valuable testimony about the interrogation techniques that led to prisoner abuse. Miller was commander of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, when he was dispatched to Abu Ghraib in 2003 as the U.S. military sought intelligence from prisoners in an effort to stamp out a growing insurgency.

In August 2004, an independent review panel found that Miller's call at Abu Ghraib for strong, command-wide interrogation policies contributed to a decision authorizing a dozen aggressive interrogation techniques beyond the traditional ones specified in the Army Field Manual. In addition, dog teams were sent to Abu Ghraib in November 2003 on Miller's recommendation. In January, Miller invoked the military's version of the Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself. Cardona, a 31-year-old soldier from Fullerton, Calif., is scheduled to go on trial next month. Cardona faces charges of maltreatment of detainees and dereliction of duty.

Background to the Scandal

A month ago, another Army dog handler at Abu Ghraib, Sgt. Michael Smith, 24, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received six months behind bars for using his snarling dog to torment Iraqi prisoners. Smith and Cardona worked together. The Abu Ghraib prison scandal erupted during the presidential campaign in the spring of 2004 when photographs of the abuse were leaked to the news media. Nine other soldiers have been convicted of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Critics have called for an outside investigation into whether high-ranking military officers and civilian Defense Department officials condoned abuse at the prison.

Former Cpl. Charles Graner Jr. received the longest sentence — 10 years in prison. Lynndie England, a 23-year-old reservist photographed giving a thumbs-up in front of naked prisoners, is serving three years behind bars. Smith's trial saw the highest-ranking officer yet take responsibility for abuse at Abu Ghraib.

Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the former top-ranking intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib, testified under a grant of immunity at Smith's trial that he failed to set appropriate controls for the use of dogs at the Baghdad-area prison. Pappas testified that he approved a one-time use of muzzled dogs inside interrogation booths but he later learned he lacked the authority to give such an order. Pappas was reprimanded, fined and relieved of his command for his role in the scandal.

Miller's account conflicts with that of Pappas. Miller has said he recommended in 2003 that dogs be used for detainee custody and control, but not for interrogations. Pappas, however, told investigators that Miller told him dogs had been useful at Guantanamo Bay in setting the atmosphere for interrogations. The alleged mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib occurred in late 2003 and early 2004, when military interrogators were under tremendous pressure from superiors to gather intelligence in an effort to stamp out the spreading insurgency in Iraq.

In the Smith case, military jurors found that he let his unmuzzled Belgian shepherd threaten three detainees at the prison, conspired with another dog handler to try to frighten prisoners into soiling themselves and directed his dog to lick peanut butter off other soldiers' bodies. Earlier in the Smith case, Maj. Matthew Miller, the prosecutor, said that a prison term of less than three years would undermine the message of disapproval that Smith's conviction should send.

"Every soldier must understand that individual acts of misconduct have strategic implications," he said. "This is a global war on terror. It is a global battle for the hearts and minds of people all over the world." The defense had argued that Smith should serve no jail time and instead be returned to his family and his unit. Capt. Scott Rolle told the jury that although Smith made mistakes at Abu Ghraib, he was also a hero for saving the lives of other U.S. soldiers during a mortar attack.

Smith was found guilty of maltreatment involving three prisoners, conspiring with Cardona in a contest to make detainees soil themselves, dereliction of duty, assault and an indecent act. The assault charge was dismissed. The five charges on which Smith was found guilty carried up to 8½ years behind bars.

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