Top Officer Ordered To Testify on Abuse
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
A military judge in Washington yesterday ordered prosecutors to produce Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller as a defense witness in the trial of a military dog handler accused of abusing detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the first time a general officer will be compelled to testify in court about controversial U.S. interrogation and detention policies.
The order by Marine Lt. Col. Paul H. McConnell will give defense attorneys a chance to question Miller about the use of dogs in security and interrogation operations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Iraq. It also means lawyers could use Miller's testimony to attempt to draw connections between the alleged abuse and the policies developed by top Pentagon officials, who had regular contact with Miller when he was the commander at Guantanamo Bay.
Miller would be the highest-ranking officer to take the stand in any prosecution arising from the notorious abuse at Abu Ghraib. Attorneys for Sgt. Santos A. Cardona, 31, a police-dog handler, are the first to convince a judge that his involvement could shed light on how dogs came to be used to threaten high-value detainees during interrogations in Iraq in late 2003.
Miller originally invoked his military Article 31 rights not to incriminate himself, but in recent weeks he spoke for several hours with Cardona's attorney, Harvey Volzer. At a hearing yesterday in a small courtroom at the Washington Navy Yard, Volzer said Miller has agreed to testify at Cardona's court-martial, which is scheduled to begin May 17.
An attorney for Miller did not return calls and an e-mail requesting comment. Miller has declined numerous requests for comment.
Volzer said he plans to press Miller for information about a trip he made to Iraq to advise U.S. officials on how to get better intelligence, using his Guantanamo Bay experience as a base line. Top Pentagon officials ordered Miller to go to Iraq in September 2003. Shortly thereafter, military working dogs were shipped to Abu Ghraib and approved for use in interrogations.
"He said, 'Get dogs,' " Volzer told the court yesterday.
Col. Thomas M. Pappas, the top military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib, testified last month at the trial of another dog handler that Miller and his team of intelligence experts recommended using dogs to exploit Arab fears of the animals. Pappas said he approved the use of dogs for interrogations of one high-value detainee after Miller's visit. In a memo written shortly after photos of abuse were turned over to Army investigators, Pappas urged an end to the use of dogs and recommended that charges not be brought against the dog handlers.
Maj. Christopher Graveline, who is prosecuting Cardona, said that there have been many attempts to build Miller up "as some sort of boogeyman" and that the general is irrelevant to the charges against Cardona. Cardona could face 16 years in prison if he is convicted of using his dog to frighten detainees. Interrogation records show two of the men Cardona allegedly abused were considered high-value detainees. One was an Iraqi general and the other was believed to be an al-Qaeda operative.
Graveline said that Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib are "two separate things" and that Miller was not actively involved in the operations in Iraq until he was transferred to the country to work full-time in April 2004. He said there is no evidence that Miller ever gave an order to use military working dogs in interrogations.
McConnell said he would limit the questioning of Miller to the use of dogs.
"I think that what he said in September could be relevant to what happened in November," McConnell said. Witnesses have testified that Miller went to Iraq at Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's request and wanted to "Gitmo-ize" Abu Ghraib.
Tactics used on detainees in Iraq -- including dogs, a dog leash and placing women's underwear on their heads -- appeared to mimic tactics used on one detainee at Guantanamo Bay in late 2002.
"I expect Miller to say that the methods that were used in Guantanamo were exported to Iraq," Volzer said after the hearing.
Also yesterday, the judge denied a defense request to produce Rumsfeld at the trial. Sources close to the abuse cases also said a decision about possible charges against Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, a military intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib, could come within the next few weeks. His is one of the last outstanding Abu Ghraib abuse cases.