Abu Ghraib Officer Gets Reprimand

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By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Army has decided to punish the top military intelligence officer stationed at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2003 with a letter of reprimand and a fine amounting to half of his pay for two months for his role in the notorious abuse of Iraqis, a senior Army official disclosed yesterday.

The officer, Col. Thomas M. Pappas, had operational control of the Abu Ghraib prison wing where military reservists had photographed Iraqis being threatened by police dogs, paraded without clothes, forced to simulate sex acts, and physically struck by their guards in October and November of that year.

A two-star Army commander in Germany, Maj. Gen. Bennie E. Williams, made the decision to punish Pappas nonjudicially, instead of in a court-martial, for two counts of dereliction of duty, according to an Army official here who said he could not be quoted by name because the decision has not been formally announced.

The first count states that Pappas failed to ensure that subordinates were "adequately informed of, trained upon, and supervised in the application of interrogation procedures" allowed under Army rules. The second count states that Pappas "failed to obtain the approval of superior commanders" before allowing the "presence of military working dogs during interrogation of a detainee," according to the Army official.

The charges will be listed in a letter of reprimand in Pappas's personnel file that will have the effect of denying him any possibility of promotion, the official said. For the moment, Pappas remains in the same job he had when the abuses occurred: commander of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade based in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Pappas was one of the last officers to be investigated for wrongdoing at Abu Ghraib; only the fate of his deputy, Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, remains undecided. A lone officer with more senior rank has been punished for the abuse -- Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the head of a military police brigade that supervised other areas in the prison besides the wing that Pappas controlled. She was demoted and reprimanded in a letter.

Army commanders rejected Pappas's repeated claims to investigators that the abuse originated in orders, pressure and encouragement by his superiors.

Pappas alleged last year, for example, that the use of dogs to intimidate Iraqi prisoners was approved by Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, who was dispatched by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in August and September 2003 to improve intelligence-gathering at Abu Ghraib. Miller, who at the time commanded the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, denied ever approving of the use of dogs to intimidate prisoners at either site.

Pappas, according to a transcript of an interview by Army investigators, also accused a military intelligence superior in Iraq, Col. Steven Boltz, of approving the CIA's use of Abu Ghraib prison as a place to store "ghost detainees," a term referring to prisoners whose correct names were not registered in prison rolls.

Keeping ghost detainees violates the Geneva Conventions, which require humane treatment of prisoners during a military occupation, and Pappas said he initially "had concerns" about the arrangement but was talked into accepting it by Boltz. Boltz was never charged by the Army with wrongdoing.

Former defense secretary James R. Schlesinger, who investigated the abuse at the Pentagon's request, concluded in a report that Karpinski and Pappas "knew, or should have known, abuses were taking place and taken measures to prevent them."

The nonjudicial punishments contrast with a 10-year sentence for an Army prison guard who took part in the picture-taking at Abu Ghraib, Pvt. Charles A. Graner Jr. At his trial in January, Graner said a series of officers, including Pappas and Jordan, had ordered the mistreatment of prisoners.

Another witness to the abuse, Capt. Donald J. Reese, testified last June that Pappas was at the prison on the night that a detainee died during questioning. No medics were called, and Reese said he heard Pappas say at one point, "I'm not going down for this alone."


© 2005 The Washington Post Company

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