Family and Friends Close Ranks Around Civilian Interrogator
By Ellen McCarthy and Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, May 14, 2004; Page A17
TELFORD, Pa., May 13 -- Steven A. Stefanowicz was a towering high school athlete in this Philadelphia suburb; at 6-foot-5, he was the tallest member of the Souderton Area High School class of 1988 and the grandson of a Marine. He graduated from the University of Maryland in 1995 with a bachelor of science degree. Three years later, he joined the Navy Reserve and learned the intelligence craft, a skill he brought to the private sector.
Before Navy postings in Afghanistan and Oman, he sold Jet Skis in the Florida panhandle town of Panama City, befriending a former prison corrections officer with whom he discussed interrogation techniques. He worked as an information technology headhunter in Australia and dated a woman there who recently called him a "gentle giant" in an interview with an Australian newspaper.
The former Navy intelligence specialist -- now a civilian interrogator with Arlington-based CACI International Inc., a defense contractor -- was implicated this month in the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, which came to light with the publication of photographs showing unclothed Iraqi inmates forced to pose in humiliating positions.
In interviews Thursday, Stefanowicz's lawyer, mother and friends said he was wrongly accused in Army Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba's report, which said Stefanowicz lied to military investigators about alleged prison misdeeds and ordered or allowed military police to physically abuse prisoners.
"The only source of any allegation against him are the six lines in the 53-page report. And those six lines are not only vague, but completely unsubstantiated," said Henry E. Hockeimer Jr., in his office at Hangley Aronchick Segal & Pudlin in Philadelphia on Thursday. "He did nothing wrong, nor is he aware of any wrongdoing whatsoever by any CACI employee."
CACI has not acknowledged Stefanowicz's employment but said it has not fired anybody as a result of the Army investigation. Neither CACI, his lawyer nor his mother would say where he is. His mother said she would not discuss his location because she feared for his safety.
Taguba recommended that Stefanowicz's military security clearance be revoked and his job terminated. The report names Stefanowicz and three other men as "either directly or indirectly responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib."
At Stefanowicz's childhood home here, a split-level in front of which was a sign reading "No Trespassing Or Comment," his mother stood up for him.
"My son's not capable of doing anything like that," Jean Campbell said during a 90-minute interview in her back yard.
Campbell, who is divorced from Stefanowicz's father and remarried, said her mailbox has been filled with hate mail in recent days. "The world should apologize to my son for accusing him when they didn't know him . . . didn't know anything about him," she said.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company