Use of Dogs to Scare Prisoners Was Authorized

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By Josh White and Scott Higham
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, June 11, 2004

U.S. intelligence personnel ordered military dog handlers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq to use unmuzzled dogs to frighten and intimidate detainees during interrogations late last year, a plan approved by the highest-ranking military intelligence officer at the facility, according to sworn statements the handlers provided to military investigators.

A military intelligence interrogator also told investigators that two dog handlers at Abu Ghraib were "having a contest" to see how many detainees they could make involuntarily urinate out of fear of the dogs, according to the previously undisclosed statements obtained by The Washington Post.

The statements by the dog handlers provide the clearest indication yet that military intelligence personnel were deeply involved in tactics later deemed by a U.S. Army general to be "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuses."

President Bush and top Pentagon officials have said the criminal abuse at Abu Ghraib was confined to a small group of rogue military police soldiers who stripped detainees naked, beat them and photographed them in humiliating sexual poses. An Army investigation into the abuse condemned the MPs for those practices, but also included the use of unmuzzled dogs to frighten detainees among the "intentional abuse."

So far, the only charges to emerge have been against seven MPs and do not include any dog incidents, even though such use of dogs is an apparent violation of the Geneva Conventions and the Army's field manual. The military intelligence officer in charge of Abu Ghraib later told investigators that the use of unmuzzled dogs in interrogation sessions was recommended by a two-star general and that it was "okay."

The newly obtained documents reinforce the picture that the abuse falls into two categories: sexual humiliation and beatings at the hands of MPs, and intimidation using dogs that is clearly tied to military intelligence. The sexual abuse happened weeks and even months before the dog incidents, some of which appear to be part of an organized strategy by military intelligence to scare detainees into talking, according to the statements.

Sgts. Michael J. Smith and Santos A. Cardona, Army dog handlers assigned to Abu Ghraib, told investigators that military intelligence personnel requested that they bring their dogs to prison interrogation sites multiple times to assist in questioning detainees in December and January. Col. Thomas M. Pappas, who was in charge of military intelligence at the prison, told both soldiers that the use of dogs in interrogations had been approved, according to the statements.

"I have talked to Col. Papus [sic] and he said it was good to go," Smith told an investigator on Jan. 23.

Neither Smith nor Cardona has been charged in connection with the abuse at Abu Ghraib. "It's all under investigation," said Lt. Col. Pamela Hart, an Army spokeswoman.

The men could not be reached yesterday to comment. Two officers at the U.S. Army Trial Defense Service said that a military lawyer has been assigned to Cardona and that a message seeking a comment would be relayed to the attorney. The officers said they did not know whether a lawyer from the Army's defense service had been assigned to represent Smith.

In Army memos regarding interrogation techniques at the prison, the use of military working dogs was specifically allowed -- as long as higher-ranking officers approved the measures. According to one military intelligence memo obtained by The Post, the officer in charge of the military intelligence-run interrogation center at the prison had to approve the use of dogs in interrogations. There is no explanation in the memo of what parameters would have to be in place -- for example, whether the dogs would be muzzled or unmuzzled -- or what the dogs would be allowed to do. The Army previously has said that the commanding general of U.S. troops in Iraq -- Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez -- would have had to approve the use of dogs.

Human rights experts said the use of dogs at Abu Ghraib violates longstanding tenets regulating the treatment of prisoners and civilians under the control of an occupying force, including the Army's field manual, which prohibits "acts of violence or intimidation" by American soldiers.


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