General Is Said To Have Urged Use of Dogs
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
A U.S. Army general dispatched by senior Pentagon officials to bolster the collection of intelligence from prisoners in Iraq last fall inspired and promoted the use of guard dogs there to frighten the Iraqis, according to sworn testimony by the top U.S. intelligence officer at the Abu Ghraib prison.
According to the officer, Col. Thomas Pappas, the idea came from Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, who at the time commanded the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and was implemented under a policy approved by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the top U.S. military official in Iraq.
"It was a technique I had personally discussed with General Miller, when he was here" visiting the prison, testified Pappas, head of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade and the officer placed in charge of the cellblocks at Abu Ghraib prison where abuses occurred in the wake of Miller's visit to Baghdad between Aug. 30 and Sept. 9, 2003.
"He said that they used military working dogs at Gitmo [the nickname for Guantanamo Bay], and that they were effective in setting the atmosphere for which, you know, you could get information" from the prisoners, Pappas told the Army investigator, Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba, according to a transcript provided to The Washington Post.
Pappas, who was under pressure from Taguba to justify the legality and appropriateness of using guard dogs to frighten detainees, said at two separate points in the Feb. 9 interview that Miller gave him the idea. He also said Miller had indicated the use of the dogs "with or without a muzzle" was "okay" in booths where prisoners were taken for interrogation.
But Miller, whom the Bush administration appointed as the new head of Abu Ghraib this month, denied through a spokesman that the conversation took place.
"Miller never had a conversation with Colonel Pappas regarding the use of military dogs for interrogation purposes in Iraq. Further, military dogs were never used in interrogations at Guantanamo," said Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq.
Pappas's statements nonetheless provide the fullest public account to date of how he viewed the interrogation mission at Abu Ghraib and Miller's impact on operations there. Pappas said, among other things, that interrogation plans involving the use of dogs, shackling, "making detainees strip down," or similar aggressive measures followed Sanchez's policy, but were often approved by Sanchez's deputy, Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, or by Pappas himself.
The claims and counterclaims between Pappas and Miller concern one of the most notorious aspects of U.S. actions at Abu Ghraib, as revealed by Taguba's March 9 report and by pictures taken by military personnel that became public late last month. The pictures show unmuzzled dogs being used to intimidate Abu Ghraib detainees, sometimes while the prisoners are cowering, naked, against a wall.
Taguba, in a rare classified passage within his generally unclassified report, listed "using military working dogs (without muzzles) to intimidate and frighten detainees" as one of 13 examples of "sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses" inflicted by U.S. military personnel at Abu Ghraib.
Experts on the laws of war have charged that using dogs to coerce prisoners into providing information, as was done at Abu Ghraib, constitutes a violation of the Geneva Conventions that protect civilians under the control of an occupying power, such as the Iraqi detainees.
"Threatening a prisoner with a ferocious guard dog is no different as a matter of law from pointing a gun at a prisoner's head and ordering him to talk," said James Ross, senior legal adviser at Human Rights Watch. "That's a violation of the Geneva Conventions."