By R. Jeffrey Smith and Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, May 22, 2006
As the Iraq insurgency grew rapidly in the spring of 2003, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld complained to Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the commander of U.S. forces in the country, that he was not seeing results from the interrogations of Iraqis held at Abu Ghraib and other detention centers.
"Why can't we figure this enemy out?" Sanchez recalled Rumsfeld asking in frustration, according to a previously unreleased transcript of a July 2005 interview by senior Army investigators. "Was there intense pressure? You bet. You bet there was intense pressure" to extract more from the interrogations, Sanchez said -- some of it self-imposed and some of it emanating from "different levels of the chain of command."
The involvement of senior Pentagon officials in policymaking associated with the abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib later in 2003 will once again be debated in a military court at Fort McNair beginning today, during one of the last two trials involving Army personnel accused of the abuse recorded in photos circulated around the world.
Ten military courts-martial have essentially concluded that the acts -- including forced nakedness, the use of leashes and sexual humiliation -- were perpetrated by rogue personnel, working under poor supervision and in violation of their military orders. But the trial this week of a sergeant who threatened Abu Ghraib detainees with a military dog will for the first time include the testimony of a key military officer who carried out policy instructions issued by senior officials in Washington.
Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, an artilleryman who commanded the U.S. military's prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and also helped set interrogation policy at Abu Ghraib, has agreed to testify in the court-martial of Sgt. Santos A. Cardona at the request of the dog handler's defense team. It will be Miller's first public account of events since he testified briefly at a Senate hearing in April 2004.
In sworn statements to Army investigators, Miller has denied recommending or approving the use of dogs for interrogations at Abu Ghraib and said he was unaware of such use during his tenure at Guantanamo Bay. But the senior intelligence officer at Abu Ghraib and the prison's chief warden have said in court and also told Army investigators that Miller urged military dogs be used in association with Abu Ghraib interrogations.
In addition, an Army report last year said dogs were indeed used in interrogations before and during Miller's tenure at Guantanamo Bay. "Unless the dogs are on patrol, they would always be in an interrogation room," a senior military officer told Defense Department investigators in an interview last year. The statement has not been released by the Pentagon.
In an effort to clarify the dog-handling issue, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.) and Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), the committee's senior Democrat, told Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey in a letter two months ago that Miller's planned retirement from the military this spring should be delayed until the courtroom proceedings are completed and he can be questioned again on Capitol Hill.
The Army complied, and Miller -- who left a job as prison commander at Abu Ghraib last year -- is now a special assistant to the Army chief of staff at the Pentagon.
Cardona's lawyers plan to call as witnesses both officers whose testimony conflicted with Miller's statements: Col. Thomas M. Pappas and Maj. David DiNenna. They will also ask Miller about the use of dogs and the instructions he received from Defense Department policymakers.
Harvey Volzer, the lead civilian lawyer, said he expects evidence at the trial to show that Miller "strongly recommended the use of military working dogs [at Abu Ghraib] based upon their efficacious use" at Guantanamo Bay. "It is a tragic miscarriage of justice for my client to face charges for actions that were ordered and approved," Volzer said he will tell the military panel.
Winning an acquittal will not be easy. In March, a similar military panel rejected the assertions of Cardona's dog-handling colleague, Sgt. Michael Smith, that he was acting on orders from superiors and sentenced him to 179 days in a military brig. Others involved in Abu Ghraib abuse have received sentences ranging from forfeiture of half a month's pay to 10 years' confinement.
On Friday, the U.N. Committee Against Torture -- a group that oversees compliance with an international treaty barring cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment -- said in a report that using dogs to induce fear during interrogations constitutes a violation of U.S. treaty obligations. But no one more senior than Pappas has been found responsible for the use of dogs against prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
In May 2005, Pappas received a letter of reprimand, was relieved of command in his military brigade and had half his pay docked for two months for failing to gain superiors' approval for using dogs. His allegations that the abuse originated in orders, pressure and encouragement by superior officers, including Miller, were rejected.
The Army inspector general is still investigating the matter, however. Pappas reaffirmed in an unreleased interview with Army investigators last month that when Miller and others from the Guantanamo Bay prison visited Abu Ghraib on a Pentagon-arranged inspection tour in August and September 2003, "dogs came up . . . [namely the idea] that they were effective in doing interrogations with Arabs. . . . The tenor of the discussion was that we had to get tougher with the detainees."
An e-mail summarizing Miller's visit, cited during the interview with Pappas but written by intelligence officer Capt. Carolyn Wood, separately noted the advice from Miller's team that "working dogs are highly effective and useful." Pappas said that this meant "setting conditions for interrogations," and "did not mean do illegal things."
According to statements to investigators by officers in Iraq, Miller's visit to Abu Ghraib caught the interest of Rumsfeld and his top intelligence adviser, Stephen A. Cambone. Before he left, it was discussed in a teleconference by Miller; Sanchez's top intelligence adviser, Maj. Gen. Barbara G. Fast; and Cambone's deputy, Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin.
Before departing from Iraq, Miller reported his findings to Rumsfeld via a secure video link, according to Pappas. Other secure video-teleconferences (VTCs) between Rumsfeld and senior defense officials in Iraq about interrogation matters were held in November and December 2003, the period when abuse occurred. According to a recent court filing by Cardona's attorneys, "on 3 May 2006, [the] government sent the defense an e-mail stating that they are attempting to find these VTCs."
In a briefing with top Pentagon officials upon his return, Miller described his plan to have military police soldiers set the conditions for interrogations, according to PowerPoint slides from that briefing. In one slide, Miller explained that "MPs enable increased intelligence production" by providing "focused support" for interrogations.
Other U.S. officers stationed then in Iraq have noted the involvement of Rumsfeld and Cambone in deliberations about interrogations. "There was pressure from higher [echelons] to provide actionable intelligence," Col. Steven J. Boltz, Pappas's senior deputy, told investigators in May 2004, in an unreleased interview. "There were direct questions [to the U.S. military command in Iraq] from Dr. Cambone and SECDEF. They wanted in detail [a] chronology down to the brigade level [of] HUMINT and Interrogation operations."
Portions of Boltz's statement were redacted in the version obtained by The Washington Post.
Sanchez, who also described pressures from Washington, told investigators last year that he had decided to "push our [legal] authorities to the limit without ever violating the Geneva Conventions." Sanchez said that when he signed a memorandum on Sept. 14, 2003, allowing soldiers to "exploit Arab fear of dogs" while maintaining security during interrogations, it was on advice from his legal adviser, Col. Marc Warren, that the instruction was consistent with the Geneva Conventions.
Sanchez's memo was modified a month later, after more senior military officials objected to it. Portions of his statement were redacted in the copy obtained by The Post.
Klaus Stoehr, a Defense Intelligence Agency officer who helped oversee interrogations in Iraq at the time, told a Pentagon investigator in May 2004 that interrogators were encouraged "to go to the outer limits to get information from the detainees by people who wanted the information." Asked whom he meant, Stoehr named Sanchez.